state of Erlang?

Discussion in 'Perl Misc' started by cartercc, May 7, 2008.

  1. cartercc

    cartercc Guest

    Please excuse this OT post.

    I have had the experience of attempting to implement some wireless
    routing protocols (GPSR and AODV) in Java in the past two years, and
    the experience hasn't been particularly fulfilling. The ideas are good
    but the technology, Java, leaves something to be desired.

    Having some spare time, I picked up Joe Armstrong's book 'Programming
    Erlang' and have been going through it. When I got to the sections on
    concurrent programming, I felt that the floor just dropped from under
    me. Having done some significant network programming in Java, I was
    rendered breathless at the ease at which the same thing can be done in

    Out of curiosity, I checked the job boards (Dice, etc.) for Erlang
    jobs, and there seemed to be precious few. Erlang dates from the same
    generation as Perl (mid 80s), and has strengths in concurrent,
    distributed, and multi-processor programming. It also had an
    impressive framework in the OTP.

    So ... just wondering ... why isn't Erlang buzzing? Why does it seem
    so dead? Is it because it has a reputation of being extremetly
    difficult? It's not. Does a language need some sort of critical mass
    before it collects a big following? Perl has a large following which
    seems to be keeping it up despite the competition (at least accordting
    to TIOBE).

    Any thoughts on the state of Erlang from the Perl community?

    cartercc, May 7, 2008
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  2. cartercc

    Ronny Guest

    But it had a completely different target audience - Perl was appealing
    for people who want to "process text data in an easy way". I think
    is an area where Perl (and Ruby, which I personally even prefer over

    As for Erlang, my impression is that it tries to appeal people doing
    logic programming (i.e. Prolog) and functional programming (which
    back then meant mostly Scheme or ML). I'm not an Erlang programmer,
    but from what I have read, Erlang did not fully please these audiences
    that much.
    Erlang was used for some time in the telecommunication field, at least
    in Germany, and I think they used it for its logic features and that
    you can easily write pure functions (i.e. without side effects). AFIK,
    Erlang was dropped in favor of other languages in this area, but I
    know the reason. So just my personal guess here:

    When the telecommunication people abandoned Erlang, one source of
    continuing development disappeared. Of course the Functional
    community was still interested in Erlang, and seemingly still is (for
    instance, there will be an Erlang workshop at this years IFCP, see, but in the FP field, Erlang seems to share
    fate with other remarkable programming languages (such as Miranda);
    maybe since the main effort in this field seems to focus on Haskell.
    Any FP people hanging around to comment on this?

    BTW, in same way one might ask why C++ had so much success and
    Eiffel did not, or why nodbody is using the very elegant NIAL language

    Ronny, May 8, 2008
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  3. cartercc

    cartercc Guest

    In this case, how do you measure the critical mass? Compare Pascal,
    which had a good run in the academic community but never escaped the
    ivyed walls, with Ada which should have had a critical mass in the
    military-industrial complex but somehow never made it into the

    On the other hand, you have languages like C, Perl, Python, and Ruby
    that had their starts in backrooms but have generated (at least!) a
    lot more buzz than Pascal or Ada. What's the difference between a
    language that starts off with a large in-built mass that falls by the
    wayside, and a language that starts off with nothing but generates a
    respectfull presence in the market?

    According to TIOBE, the top four or so languages have 70-80 percent of
    the market, depending on how you count it: Java, C/C++, Basic inc. VB,
    and Perl, with PHP and C# coming into the mix.
    cartercc, May 9, 2008
  4. A few ideas:

    * Readily available implementations:
    Open source interpreted languages like Perl, Python, and Ruby are
    available on all platforms. C was (in the beginning) a very simple
    language and was rapidly ported to all sorts of platforms. There was
    no Pascal or Modula or Ada compiler available for the unix systems we
    had when I was a student.

    * An existing code base:
    Unix and all its utilities were written in C. A unix programmer had to
    learn C. Much open source software was developed on unix systems and
    therefore written in C. Obviously a new language can never have an
    existing code base, but can rapidly get one: Look at JavaScript or

    * Portability:
    Perl or C code is reasonably portable. You can write a C or Perl
    program on one platform in such a way that it will require no or only
    little effort to get it to run on another platform. Pascal had a
    gazillion incompatible dialects, and there the target system probably
    didn't have a Pascal compiler at all.

    * Hype:
    Sun and Netscape were hyping Java. Java didn't really deliver what Sun
    promised, but everybody believed it was the future: So lots of
    applications were (re)written in Java, Frameworks were developed,
    Universities switched their introductory programming courses to Java,
    etc. And then Java was the future, or already the present.

    Peter J. Holzer, May 11, 2008
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