Friday, December 11, 2009

Learning About Programming Language Design

Did you ever wonder why a programming language did or did not have a specific feature? Have you ever thought about what a first/learning programming language should look like? What features should it have? What should the IDE look like? Are you curious about a language called Small Basic? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this interview on Channel 9 will be of interest to you.

Expert to Expert: The Basics of SmallBasic

SmallBasic is a new programming language aimed at beginners. It was created as a side project of Vijaye Raji, a software developer on the Oslo team. SmallBasic is a very limited language with only a handful of keywords and a small set of concepts that should make building an application on Windows very simple for beginners. However, don't let it's simplicity fool you into thinking that you can't build very compelling applications with it on Windows.

Here, programming language designer (and de facto Expert to Expert host) Erik Meijer, Oslo architect Chris Anderson, Vijaye Raji and I discuss the details behind, in between and in front of SmallBasic. Why was it created in the first place? Why the VB-like syntax? What's the goal of the language and runtime, anyway, given that there are already beginning languages out there that run on the Microsoft stack? Why is the language designed in the way that it is? Why is it so popular? How will it evolve? You know, typical Channel 9 questions. We go pretty deep here, but we don't touch bottom. It was a lot of fun taking part in this conversation and I am impressed with SmallBasic and the folks behind it.

During the conversation they talk about what features are there or are missing and why those decisions were made. They also come up with a couple of suggestions that I think show how important conversations are in developing software today.

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