[TUHS] Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language - Unearthed!

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Sat Sep 2 23:25:56 AEST 2017

On Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 3:07 PM, Toby Thain <toby at telegraphics.com.au> wrote:

> On 2017-09-01 12:22 PM, Dan Cross wrote:
> [snip]
> > But he wasn't using Pascal. The point was to wonder whether TeX and
> I mean in the mid-80s rewrite, of course.

But by then the major design decisions would have been made.  Was TeX after
that rewrite an appreciably different language?

> METAFONT would be different programs if he were. Clem seemed to imply
> > that he thought that was unlikely, based on his previous use of SAIL.
> >
> >     [snip]
> >
> >     I have not compared the codebases but wouldn't one expect that the
> final
> >     production TeX rewrite is *more* ambitious than the early SAIL
> version?
> >     (By the time I began using/porting TeX in the 1980s, the older
> version
> >     was completely obsolete.)
> >
> >
> > I don't know, but that's besides the point: the question was more about
> > how the initial programming language shaped the design of the program.
> > Specifically, had Knuth *started* in Pascal instead of SAIL, would TeX
> > have been different? To put it another way, to what extent was he
> > constrained, freed, or otherwise influenced by his medium?
> Maybe Professor Knuth himself has written about that, I'm not sure. A
> great question for him, anyhow.
> He's in an excellent position to contrast these 3 languages.

I'll shoot him an email.

I'm well aware of that, which is why I specifically mentioned lexical
> closures as (one of many) ideas with a powerful effect on expressiveness
> and style.

Hmm, it seems there are a number of more fundamental issues with the
language. I listed a number, mostly cribbed from Kernighan's paper and my
own experience.

        - Dan C.
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