Julia, The Language I was waiting for

March 6, 2018 at 6:46 pm | Posted in Data Science, History, Julia | Leave a comment

I have programmed in C for 5 years now. I can say from experience, after first 1.5 years, I began to understand pointers, malloc and arrays of pointers to pointers of structs containing pointers. I really mean begin. In K&R2, authors said that they feel after 10 years in C, they are still learning. I used to struggle to think in C for 3-4 years. 5th years totally changed that. I can solve problems in C after 5 years of experience which I never could never did earlier. Like this Google Interview Question. I am very much confident in C now. Imagine 10+10 more years in C, what it will make me, a Samson of C ? I have, personally, coded in many languages, e.g.:

  • Common Lisp
  • Scheme
  • OCaml
  • Haskell
  • Ruby
  • ATS
  • At least 20 others I forgot.

I could never use them professionally on large scale. Just some toy programs here and there and sometimes bit bigger those of Practical Common Lisp, The Gigamonkeys Book. I loved Common Lisp but could never use it. When every good company started having Python in their job description, I was still loving Common Lisp and thinking that is from where Python got most of ideas. Then last month I came across Julia. It looked like Rubty to me (in syntax) but it was faster, way faster than any language, it is just bit slower than C,C++. It joined Petaflop club recently. Working with so many languages taught me 2 things: along with the tech and features, a Programming Language is lot about its design and whys. It has a mental model behind. I was looking for a language with speed of C, with an Open-Source License and where I could have dynamic typing too. A language where I could use my mind to solve a problem than memory problems and Segfaults. A language which is far simpler than C++ (By all means, C++ is a great language, if I have to create an OS, I would use it. Still, it is a very complex language to work in it). Then I came to realize, I was not the only one thinking along those lines. Few Lispers were thinking same. Then I read Why of Julia. I felt like it was written for me. Out of all those experiences and experiments over half a decade, I can tell you, Julia is really a great language to code in at least for 5 years of your life. I am sure, any person who likes to improve his skills, looking for better ideas, better design in software, will love Julia. I am typing this from my home computer running Arch Linux with LXQt. It is amazing to chat on Julia IRC gitter at 10:15 PM in night

Julia community is quite friendly and helpful. One thing i can’t take off my mind is when I was writing toy programs in Python and Ruby. Python looked much friendlier and Ruby looked alien (think less intuitive) and C hurt the head. I read Why’s Poignant guide to Ruby at that time. After 5 years coding totally in C and C++, I feel quite comfortable with both, they still surprise me though sometimes. I don’t know but whenever I look at Julia code/syntax, it always reminds me of Ruby code/syntax . The syntax feels same, less intuitive. I struggle a bit too. Writing Python code I felt was much easier but that easiness and friendliness and intuitiveness wore-off in a week. At the same time of trying out a 100 different languages and environments, I think this easiness/friendliness or lack of it has not much to do with mastering the language and its design and liking it at heart. It all comes with practice and associating with people who already know the language, you just have to follow their guidance. So, yeah, Julia community is full of helpful people. I am still wondering though how long it will take me to get over this mental obstacle of lack of intuitiveness towards Julia syntax. I only know one way, get totally immersed in the language and community and write good code, read reference docs/manuals, read blogs & articles on Julia.

I like Lisp a lot, you will too if you work with it. Lisp could never break out into the mainstream. The languages it influenced (Python, Ruby, Scala, Perl etc., even Julia) all became mainstream but Lisp could not. I have even read Kent M Pitman‘s really long conversations on Scheme Language Standard on comp.lang.scheme newsgroup (try Aioe and Pan Newsreader ) when I was choosing to learn between Scheme and Common Lisp (one such conversation can be found on Google Groups) . I read all that out of strong interests, now I realize it was all a part of experience towards greater understanding of programming languages. I liked Lisp and I wanted performance. I think Julia will be mainstream in few years and it is the language I was waiting for since the day I wrote my first program. If you like coding/programming even a bit, if it touches your heart even a little bit. You must code in Julia, must read its documentation. It is a breath of fresh air after a long time.

Copyright © 2018 Arnuld Uttre, Hyderabd, Telangana – 500017 (INDIA)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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