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New Languages, and Why We Need Them

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Rob Pike

Rob Pike, an engineer at Google and inventor of the language Go.

James Duncan Davidson

Creators of two dozen new programming languages—some designed to enable powerful new Web applications and mobile devices—presented their work last week in Portland, OR. The reason for the gathering was the first Emerging Languages Camp at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention.

The designers included hobbyists eager to flex their development muscles, academics hoping to influence the next generation of computing, and researchers from corporations like Microsoft and Google who want new tools to address evolving applications and infrastructure.

In dense 20-minute presentations, designers shared details of their embryonic languages. What all the designers had in common was a desire to shed decades-old programming conventions that seem increasingly ill-suited to modern computing—a desire shared by the tech industry at large. "There's a renaissance in language design at the moment," says Rob Pike, an engineer at Google and codesigner of Go, a programming language being developed at the company. "And the biggest reason for it is that the existing mainstream languages just aren't solving the problems people want solved."

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