J is an array language loosely following the SHARP APL tradition which uses ASCII characters for primitive functionality and builds in leading axis theory and tacit programming as foundational design principles. J discards backwards compatibility with older APLs in order to simplify and regularize its syntax, redesign primitives to work on leading axes, and disentangle reduction from scans and windowed reductions (yielding the prefix and infix operators). However, J concepts such as function trains and the Indices function have been adopted by later APLs such as NARS2000, Dyalog APL, and dzaima/APL. J breaks the APL convention of writing primitives with a single glyph: instead, they are spelled with a single ASCII character possibly followed by one or two periods (
.) or colons (
:). It is also notable for its use of terms from English grammar to describe the language. For example, functions are called "verbs" while arrays are called "nouns".
J was initially designed primarily by Ken Iverson and Roger Hui, with input from Arthur Whitney and Eric Iverson. Ken had been considering a new language based on A Dictionary of APL but without the backwards compatibility constraints of APL and the custom character set (which was a major technical issue at the time). In "A Personal View of APL" he gives the following as the most important goals for a new language:
- Is available as “shareware”, and is inexpensive enough to be acquired by students as well as by schools
- Can be printed on standard printers
- Runs on a wide variety of computers
- Provides the simplicity and the generality of the latest thinking in APL
Iverson's phrase "the latest thinking in APL" refers to two major breakthroughs made that decade: the invention of the Rank operator by Arthur Whitney in 1982 and subsequent development of leading axis theory, and the invention of function trains by Iverson and Eugene McDonnell in 1988.
In the summer of 1989 Whitney visited Iverson, who discussed with Whitney his plans for a new array language. Whitney wrote a one-page prototype for the language in a single afternoon using C. Iverson shared the program with Roger Hui, who began working on J on August 27 and quickly produced a more complete prototype. The name "J", chosen by Hui when saving the first source code file, is meaningless: in An Implementation of J, Hui remarks "Why 'J'? It is easy to type." J was first presented by Hui and Iverson, including a live demo, at a meeting of the Toronto APLSIG in February 1990.
In 1990 Hui and Iverson joined Iverson Software Inc. (now Jsoftware), which had been founded that year by Eric Iverson to sell a SHARP APL product. Eric converted his SHARP session to use with J as Hui continued on the core language's implementation. The J language, including Eric's session environment, was first released at APL90 in Copenhagen August 1990.
J has used two numbering systems. Releases prior to 1994 used a single decimal and the naming scheme "Version X.Y", while those after used two decimals and are called "Release X.YY", or "JXYY" as in "J807".
|2.7||1990-10-22||Rank with a function right operand, Under|
|3.0||1991-03-17||Changes to spellings, Reverse with Variant to specify fill|
|5.0||1992-06-22||Variant to specify comparison tolerance and fill for Take|
|6.0||1992-10-24||Error handling with |
|6.1||1992-11-26||Amend operator |
|6.2||1992-12-20||Derivative operator |
|7.0||1993-11-14||Taylor series operators |
|2.01||1994-09-01||Control structures, many additional system functions|
|2.05||1995-02-26||Additional inverses, primitive array |
|2.06||1995-05-30||More inverses, hypergeometric operator |
|3.01||1996-01-16||Repeatable Roll/Deal |
|3.02||1996-06-24||Pick variant |
|3.03||1996-12-13||Multiple assignment using a string target|
|3.04||1997-05-19||More operators with gerund operands, |
|3.05||1997-09-27||Extended dyad |
|4.02||1998-11-07||Symmetric range monad (|
|4.04||2000-01-02||Sparse array support|
|4.05||2000-09-05||Comparison tolerance for Key|
|5.01||2002-09-10||Non-close Under |
|5.04||2005-03-18||J64 (64-bit version) introduced, boxed right argument for Power operator, scalar extension for left argument of Cut (|
|6.01||2006-07-21||Noun left arguments in trains (|
|6.02||2008-02-29||Index Of (|
|8.02||2014-08-02||Qt IDE improved|
|8.03||2014-12-09||Native read/write of jpeg and png images|
|8.05||2016-12-19||Improved UTF-8 handling, memory allocator rewritten with more in-place argument usage|
|8.06||2017-11-12||Allow array right operands to Atop and Adverse (|
|8.07||2018-10-08||Removed support for dot-style explicit arguments (e.g. |
|9.01||2019-12-15||Iteration primitives |
|9.02||2020-12-13||"Direct definition" syntax for explicit functions, special semidual form |
|9.03||2021-12-17||Modifier trains and other combinations, foreigns to enable nameref caching, Kahan summation with `+/!.0`|
- Iverson, K.E. "A Personal View of APL". IBM Systems Journal, Volume 30, Number 4. 1991-12.
- Hui, Roger. "Incunabulum". From An Implementation of J, Appendix A: Incunabulum, 1992-01-27.
- McIntyre, Donald. "A Tribute to Roger Hui, presented at APL96". 1996.
- Hui, Roger. An Implementation of J (pdf), Preface. 1992-01-27.
- Hui, Roger. "Remembering Ken Iverson". 2004-11.
|APL dialects |
|Maintained||APL+Win ∙ APL2 ∙ APL64 ∙ APL\iv ∙ Aplette ∙ April ∙ Co-dfns ∙ Dyalog APL ∙ dzaima/APL ∙ Extended Dyalog APL ∙ GNU APL ∙ KAP ∙ NARS2000 ∙ Pometo|
|Historical||A Programming Language ∙ A+ (A) ∙ APL# ∙ APL\360 ∙ APL/700 ∙ APL\1130 ∙ APL\3000 ∙ APL.68000 ∙ APL*PLUS ∙ APL.jl ∙ APL.SV ∙ APLX ∙ Iverson notation ∙ IVSYS/7090 ∙ NARS ∙ ngn/apl ∙ openAPL ∙ PAT ∙ Rowan ∙ SAX ∙ SHARP APL ∙ Rationalized APL ∙ VisualAPL (APLNext) ∙ VS APL ∙ York APL|
|Derivatives||AHPL ∙ BQN ∙ CoSy ∙ ELI ∙ Glee ∙ I ∙ Ivy ∙ J ∙ Jelly ∙ Jellyfish ∙ K (Q, KDB+) ∙ Nial ∙ RAD|
|Overviews||Timeline of array languages ∙ Timeline of influential array languages ∙ Family tree of array languages|