Monday, October 30, 2006

Ralph Griswold dies

Ralph Griswold died earlier this month of cancer. Griswold was an important, but unsung , pioneer of programming language design. He was the inventor of SNOBOL and Icon (now Unicon), two languages distinguished by unsurpassed string processing capabilities. And I do mean unsurpassed. No language since has had such extensive native support for string operations.

The other outstanding characteristics of SNOBOL and Icon were that they were very high-level languages. This color picker was written in 31 lines of easily readable code. It might be a simple tool, but I doubt many languages could come close to that level of brevity for this same functionality (much less maintain such readability). Languages today could use a bit more of Griswold's vision, I believe.

Useful links:

Icon (which is still actively supported.)

Unicon (Icon with objects, advanced network and file functions, plus ODBC)

Griswold obituary

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