A Positive Outlook for APL

A lot of the content of sites like comp.lang.apl is very depressing, and must surely generate a poor impression of APL is stumbled upon by the curious or new-to-APL.

I personally think that the future for APL can be very positive, but we need to generate a positive attitude in the things we say and write. Here are a few random seeds - please feel free to amend and append as you wish.

The Future is More Valuable than the Past

Let's stop all of the "when I were a lad and remember how I dropped the card deck for APL-1130" reminiscences. Nobody cares unless they were there. Forever falling into this mode helps people who want to think of APL in the past tense. The Wikipedia entry on APL is a particular disgrace (and control of its content seems to lie with people who know nothing of APL).

There's Nothing Wrong with Being Replaced

One of APL's great strengths has to have been that it has allowed people to formulate software solutions without having to concern themselves with computer architecture. If the solutions crystalise into "products" or "business-critical infrastructure", there's no harm in handing them over to other specialists - doing this frees the innovators to move on and address new problem areas.

We are Already Interoperating with Other Software

Not only is APL portable across platforms, we are already handling matters like extracting data from corporate databases. Harangues about how we need to develop bridges to things like SQL are doing APL a disservice, we are already doing it (but not necessarily telling the world).

APL's Original Concept is Still Valid

Too often we take for granted APL's genesis as a tool for communication between people, and the value of all the thought and practice that was put in before any executable APL became a reality. This has given us an intellectual solidity that's absent in much of computing. It's at our peril that we stray from the guiding principles handed down by the likes of Iverson and Falkoff in the interests of "convenience". Not only in the language itself, but in how we use it when we develop our applications.

There's Room for the Professional APLer

There's been a lot of talk about "domain experts" and "domain-specific languages". Which seems in danger of belittling the professional APLer. There's a role there, doing things like creating introductory material; offering consultancy services to make domain-generated software robust, maintainable and speedy.

That's all from me for the nonce, let's see if this essay can mutate into something useful. I'd rather be "doing stuff" than writing about it.


A Positive Outlook on APL (last edited 2010-01-04 14:39:34 by DickBowman)