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The A-Z of Programming Languages: Tcl

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Stanford University Professor of Computer Science John K. Ousterhout


John Ousterhout is the creator of the Tcl programming language. He says that its creation came about to meet the challenge of producing and deploying a powerful command language as a library package that can be embedded within diverse applications to form the core of the applications' command languages. Ousterhout says that his realization that he could construct a toolkit as an extension to Tcl led to the creation of the Tk framework.

Ousterhout splits the Tcl ecosystem into two camps. "On the one hand are the Tk enthusiasts who believe that the Tcl/Tk's main contribution is its powerful cross-platform [graphical user interface] tools; they think of Tcl/Tk as a standalone programming platform, and are constantly pushing for more Tk features," he says. "On the other hand are the Tcl purists who believe the most unique thing about Tcl is that it can be embedded into applications."

Ousterhout says the scope of activities encompassed by Tcl, rather than any single flagship application, has been the programming language's biggest advantage. He says the use of Tcl to build large programs took him by surprise, as he only anticipated that very short programs would be built with the language because it was originally designed as a command-line tool. Ousterhout thinks the migration of coding to scripting languages makes sense, as "scripting languages make it substantially easier to build and maintain certain classes of applications, such as those that do a lot of string processing and those that must integrate a variety of different components and services."

From Computerworld Australia
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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