Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Workers Movement - Rexx users

Of course I keep my eye on other languages - Java, because its widespread use and excellent VM and Library, Prolog, because it is mighty interesting and lately Ruby, JRuby to be precise. We have seen the enormous inroads Ruby made, and it made me wonder why Object Rexx is not nearly as popular. (Not that I do not know. It is a rethorical wonder).

It is easy to blame IBM, especially because it probably is the guilty party in this. I like some things in Ruby, because they are done in a straightforward, totally consistent way, and I don't mean the Perl-isms that linger. Rexx deserves a clean up with deprecation of old stuff - in the teaching materials at least. Falling through procedures without an exit, 'expose', stem variables. Most of it is done, and we have to take care of a very large installed base. Of which todays vocal programming youth does not know anything.

I failed to see Ruby emerging the way it did, thinking it was a slow, slightly more OO variant of Python, which I sincerely dislike, even coming out of Amsterdam - it must be the indentation levels thing, reminding me of COBOL A-margin and B-Margin, being the last time that I struggled with whitespace, twenty years ago., before Python came around.

Ruby has got a great community and some visible protagonists, like Martin Fowler and Bruce Tate. And Tim Bray. I am afraid the Rexx community does not have this visible array of foremen; we are stronger in the department of system programmers and administrators that were not actually allowed to write applications but did thanks to Rexx. And people of the world, most of your payments go through with some Rexx application, transformation or maintenance program to thank for. We, the Rexx community, are a force of thousands, but thousands that do their work quietly and unnoticed.

The sad thing is that we had most of the things the community opinion leaders of Ruby like in Ruby, in Rexx, NetRexx and ooRexx, years ago.

IBM botched a lot. Moving development, losing some five years in the gestation of Open Object Rexx, charging for it to people. Coupling its name to OS/2 which it hated itself, being bred on very misguided MS cooperative principles - and then letting it drown, ruining its reputation in the process. IBM also saved it by Open Sourcing it in 2004.

We have to publish. Books and Articles. That do not say 'unknown, underrated.' But proud and showing off really advanced working stuff. Unlimited Numeric Precision, Correct handling of decimal numbers, Trace, Parse. Macro support for applications. Metaprogramming, meta classes, builtin Concurrency. At the same time there must be things added to keep up with the times. You would be amazed how many very important systems run on Rexx. Most of which we are not allowed to talk about. Drat.

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