programming (and other) musings
10 Jul 2007

erlang now!

I don't know whether Monty Python ever wrote a gag on programming languages, but if they did, this Erlang video must be it. The funniest thing is that it is pretty serious, and does a great job showing one of my most cherished abilities when using dynamic languages, namely, adding new functionality to a running system on the fly. As for the Monty Python bit, well, you have to see the to know what i mean: i kept laughing out loud during most of its twelve minutes (those Ericsson engineers seem to be taken from The Larch, but then maybe it's just my sense of humor).

Update: Mike, one of the engineers in the film, has been kind enough to post a comment about the experience, which I'm reproducing here for your convenience:

We gave a well received "demo" in 1990, conjunction with ISS90, a big telecoms conference in Stockholm. We made this movie to record the demo. We actually used a professional company to do the filming, but I won't mention their names as they would probably sue me for libel.

The worse of it all, is that we were deadly serious at the time. The Monty Python aspect must be due to our backgrounds. Of the people involved, Joe is English, Robert is Swedish - but brought up in Australia, Bjarne is also Swedish but spend some formative years in Scotland and I'm half Welsh half Scottish with some Irish thrown in somewhere.

In 1990, when we made the movie, the very idea of using anything other than C, Plex, assembly language etc to design embedded concurrent systems was heresy, we expected to take the world by storm. It seems that the cheap communication and multi core processors are giving Erlang a boost 16 years later. Well at least in the intervening time we have tested the hell out of Erlang and its implementations!


PS. If you look carefully at the film, you can see that Erlang at that time had a Prolog like syntax.

PPS. I can't watch the movie without laughing (at) myself

While we're at it, let me mention that i like many a thing of Erlang. It's a curious mix of good stuff: a simple syntax and kind of minimalist flavor that reminds of Scheme, pattern matching and functional variables like Haskell's, and what amounts to a programming paradigm of its own based on mailboxes and processes (which, as you surely know, are amazingly cheap). Also worth mentioning is Erlang's error handling philosophy, which is, at first sight, a bit startling (i'm not still sure if it makes perfect sense, but after playing with the language a bit, it looks like it does--this is an interesting post on those matters). Definitely worth a look: see for instance Joe Armstrong's thesis, or, if you have some bucks to spare, the forthcoming Programming Erlang.

Tags: programming auld
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