What Languages Fix: Graphically

Paul Graham’s article What languages fix is about Kevin Kelleher’s description of each programming language in terms of the problems with other languages that it fixes. I decided to make this into a graph where each node is a language, and the edge represents the relation “x fixes y”.

Here is the list:

  • Algol: Assembly language is too low-level.
  • Pascal: Algol doesn’t have enough data types.
  • Modula: Pascal is too wimpy for systems programming.
  • Simula: Algol isn’t good enough at simulations.
  • Smalltalk: Not everything in Simula is an object.
  • Fortran: Assembly language is too low-level.
  • Cobol: Fortran is scary.
  • PL/1: Fortran doesn’t have enough data types.
  • Ada: Every existing language is missing something.
  • Basic: Fortran is scary.
  • APL: Fortran isn’t good enough at manipulating arrays.
  • J: APL requires its own character set.
  • C: Assemby language is too low-level.
  • C++: C is too low-level.
  • Java: C++ is a kludge. And Microsoft is going to crush us.
  • C#: Java is controlled by Sun.
  • Lisp: Turing Machines are an awkward way to describe computation.
  • Scheme: MacLisp is a kludge.
  • T: Scheme has no libraries.
  • Common Lisp: There are too many dialects of Lisp.
  • Dylan: Scheme has no libraries, and Lisp syntax is scary.
  • Perl: Shell scripts/awk/sed are not enough like programming languages.
  • Python: Perl is a kludge.
  • Ruby: Perl is a kludge, and Lisp syntax is scary.
  • Prolog: Programming is not enough like logic.

I put the above text into a file called ‘fix.txt’ and then wrote the following ruby code to convert it into a directed graph in the DOT language:

# make a graph of language solutions (inspired by: http://www.paulgraham.com/fix.html)

fixes = File.open('fix.txt').read.split("\n")

fixes.each do |fix|
  language = fix.split(":").first
  /\:(?<fixed>.*)\b(is(n't)?|are|doesn't)\b/ =~ fix
  puts "#{language} -> #{fixed} [label=\"fixes\"]"

I had to tweak the output a bit, but the final result is a very nice summation of Kelleher’s list: