the Measure of a Language

By Xah Lee. Date:

Computer languages have a solid mathematical foundation. As such tools, the more solid their technical properties, the better they are. Because they are not 100% mathematics, their validity or usefulness is partially dependent on their users. C gurus may beat Lisper wannabes but that does not mean C is a superior language. The fact that there are lots more C code in the world does not mean C is superior. The basis of computer languages' merit lie in their mathematical properties. It is this metric, that we should use as a guide for direction.

As a analogy, we measure the quality of a hammer by scientific principles: ergonomics, material, weight, hardness, construction, statistical analysis of accidents and productivity …, not by vogue or lore. If we go by feelings and preferences, hammer's future will deviate and perhaps become dildos or maces.

If rubes don't recognize a computer, the problem ain't faulty technology but ignorance. If SGML hasn't made a splash but HTML did, that's a problem of social immaturity. SGML remains a superior tool. If C droids don't appreciate lisp, that's trauma of the droids, not lisp.

Aim to have superior tools and knowledgeable people, not downgrading tools or stagnate to fit ordinary people. Education is the key. (education is always good in general.)