Why Programming Languages?

When I present my research work on programming languages, people often ask me "why do you need a new programming language to solve this problem? Why not just implement it as a library?" Or, I get asked "why didn't you implement it as an extension to {some existing language}?" In this essay I try to make explicit some of the goals and motivations behind language design.

AmbientTalk at Emerging Languages Camp

Last July, I presented AmbientTalk at the first Emerging Languages Camp at O'Reilly's OSCON in Portland. The talk was well received and AmbientTalk got some media coverage, among others an article in Technology Review Magazine and an article in Data News (in Dutch). Dean Wampler posted a good summary of all discussed languages (including AmbientTalk) on his blog. After the conference, I was interviewed for Microsoft's Channel 9 together with Mark S. Miller, Jonathan Shapiro and Gilad Bracha. It's a very impromptu interview, covering topics like static typing, mirror-based reflection and AmbientTalk's interoperability with the JVM.

Harmony Proxies in Firefox

Andreas Gal from Mozilla is implementing the Proxy API that I developed at Google in collaboration with Mark S. Miller. This API enables the creation of dynamic proxies that can intercept a variety of operations applied to Javascript objects. Proxies are currently available in the Firefox 3.7a pre-release and are scheduled to be included in the next Ecmascript standard. I am in the process of writing up a small tutorial to introduce this new feature.

A draft specification of the feature for inclusion into ECMAScript harmony is available, and a Google Tech Talk that explains the rationale of our design. Javascript proxies were in part inspired by my earlier work on mirages in AmbientTalk.

To Proxy Tutorial

DCDP and DO21 Workshops

I am organizer of the first Workshop on Decentralized Coordination of Distributed Processes (DCDP), to be held June 10th in conjunction with DisCoTec 2010 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Javascript at Google

I am currently a Visiting Faculty member at Google in Mountain View, USA. Together with Mark Miller I am experimenting with proposed extensions to the Javascript programming language. Concretely:

  • We proposed proxies for inclusion in a future ECMAScript standard. This proposal is based on the reflective architecture of AmbientTalk.
  • We created an OMeta-based parser for the latest ECMAScript standard (edition 5). This parser is used in a meta-circular experimental interpreter and a verifier for SES, a secure subset of ECMAScript.
  • We have implemented a traits library for Javascript, enabling the robust composition of objects via reusable traits.

OOPSLA Tutorial

In october 2009, I presented a tutorial on event-driven concurrency at OOPSLA 2009 in Orlando, Florida.