There are literally thousands of computer languages, each with a different purpose. Some, such as COBOL are well known as design mistakes amongst programmers, while Pascal, my personal favorite is considered a joke among many. While surfing the Internet last night looking for potential story ideas, I cam across a new programming language calling itself Ruby. The designers claim that it should be familiar to the users of many common programming languages. That may be the case but none of the computer languages it emulates looked familiar to me.
I do not know if its claim of being open source is unique among programming languages is unique or not. I thought Sun’s Java made that claim a long time ago as it needed to be so the language could be implemented on every platform. It seems to me that such an attempt would only be useful if the standards and how they were implemented were open to everyone.
The initial documentation itself is refreshing and actually easy to follow, which you won’t get if you pick up the manuals that come with Microsoft’s Visual Basic or Inprise’s Delphi. I have not yet had much of a chance to play around with it but you can either try it out online or download several compilers for the language.
Although the syntax did not seem very familiar to me as I do most of my programming in Pascal and only an occasional bit in C, Ruby claims to have a syntax similar to many popular languages. Since object oriented programming looks the same regardless of which language you choose to do it in.
Another thing the documentation does not make clear is what exactly they intend the language to be used for. I may have missed it, but it would be nice to know if it’s designed to be use for teaching, scripting, cross-platform programming, education, or just general applications. Despite it being fairly new, versions exist on several operating systems including Windows. It may be that much like Sun Microsystem’s Java language, Ruby will show why you should not let programmers simplify anything. Java remains a complex mess to everyone but the language of the designers, and form what I’ve seen so far Ruby did a better job, but looks like it could use a little more development. At least from a cursory glance it is much easier to learn than Java.