About me

Tom Van Cutsem

I am a professor of Computer Science at the Software Languages Lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and a post-doc researcher of the Flanders Research Foundation. In 2008, I completed my doctoral dissertation on advanced programming language support for mobile ad hoc networks. I am co-designer of the AmbientTalk programming language. Since 2010 I have contributed to the ECMAScript (aka Javascript) standardization process, in particular, together with Mark S. Miller I designed its Proxy API.

I'm a member of the jury of the annual Vlaamse Programmeerwedstrijd (Flemish Programming Contest), a regional hands-on programming contest for students and professionals, inspired by ACM programming contests.

Programming Languages

Programming languages, their history, their design and their implementation are my favourite part of computer science. I enjoy reading about the genealogy of programming languages, how ideas from one language find their way into other languages, and so on. I am particularly fond of Scheme, Self, Smalltalk, Javascript, Prolog, Ruby, Clojure and Erlang. One of the best talks on the history of computing I came across is a talk by Doug Crockford titled The Early Years where he describes the major influences on Javascript. A more whimsical treatment of the history of programming languages is Guy Steele and Richard Gabriel's anniversary talk 50 in 50.

lambda
Power to the lambda!
In its semantic structure Scheme is as closely akin to Algol 60 as to early Lisps. Algol 60, never to be an active language again, lives on in the genes of Scheme and Pascal. It would be difficult to find two languages that are the communicating coin of two more different cultures than those gathered around these two languages. Pascal is for building pyramids -- imposing, breathtaking, static structures built by armies pushing heavy blocks into place. Lisp is for building organisms -- imposing, breathtaking, dynamic structures built by squads fitting fluctuating myriads of simpler organisms into place. The organizing principles used are the same in both cases, except for one extraordinarily important difference: The discretionary exportable functionality entrusted to the individual Lisp programmer is more than an order of magnitude greater than that to be found within Pascal enterprises. Lisp programs inflate libraries with functions whose utility transcends the application that produced them. The list, Lisp's native data structure, is largely responsible for such growth of utility. The simple structure and natural applicability of lists are reflected in functions that are amazingly nonidiosyncratic. In Pascal the plethora of declarable data structures induces a specialization within functions that inhibits and penalizes casual cooperation. It is better to have 100 functions operate on one data structure than to have 10 functions operate on 10 data structures. As a result the pyramid must stand unchanged for a millennium; the organism must evolve or perish.
- Alan Perlis, from the foreword of the book Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Abelson and Sussman.