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Jolt Awards

Jolt Awards: Excellence in Books



For any programmers out there who have ever asked the question, "What were they thinking when they designed this language?" this book is for you. Masterminds of Programming: Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages , by Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden, takes you back to the early days of many programming languages to find out why the designers did what they did. Authors Biancuzzi and Warden do an outstanding job of asking pertinent questions of the designers. In fact, the questions and answers are more in the form of a conversation than a questionnaire. The chapters of the book are dedicated to a single language and can be read in any order.


Jolt Product Excellence Award

Masterminds of Programming: Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages


Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden

Publisher: O'Reilly Media


While discussing the language "APL" the issue of complexity was raised. Having spent some time with APL I was very eager to know what Adin Falkoff, co-designer, had to say about this, which was: "I do not agree with the statement that it is "complex."" Indeed.

The languages covered in this book are not limited to programming. I was pleasantly surprised to read what Grady Booch himself had to say about the origin and evolution of UML. In this particular case, I found a strong correlation between the applied use of UML and its drive toward simplicity.

Sometimes it takes a book like this to gain an appreciation for the decisions that were made way back when. From the chapter on SQL, I learned how the language was intentionally made to be declarative rather than procedural for the reason that it facilitates optimization. Had the decision been made to make it procedural, SQL may not have become the ubiquitous and accepted database language that it is today.

What makes Masterminds of Programming particularly interesting and useful is that these conversations did not take place at the beginning of the languages, but rather in present-day. Having the benefit of time to reflect on strengths and weaknesses of the languages, their merits, and the context of why certain design decisions were made, gives readers a unique insight and perspective of these languages and their creators in a very enjoyable and thorough book.


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