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Discussion on: Programming without a programming language

paddy3118 profile image
Paddy3118 • Edited

It's not a matter of what you can do; it's what most people actualy do with the languages. Read the online articles and blogs and the overwhelming javascript and PHP texts have been, and remain web related. The web is a large domain, and they often used within it, but very few people write about using them in areas unrelated to the web.

If GP is what a language could be used for then you need to work harder to distinguish the domain specific - if they are turing complete then there is nothing stopping them from being used outside of their domain.

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gtanyware profile image
Graham Trott Author

Although I think it's incorrect to state that PHP and JavaScript are limited to the web domain (Qt bindings are available for both, for example) I accept that's where both are most commonly found. Overwhelmingly so, in fact. However, it seems the more I look at the term general purpose the more ephemeral it becomes. "Turing complete" - that is, the language has conditional execution and the ability to read and write data - covers any of the languages listed, including my own, so as you say, something else is needed to make a distinction.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a language (as the authors of JS have discovered) is in ensuring it remains unambiguous as it develops. Human languages are notoriously prone to ambiguity, which limits how close we can get to that "gold standard" when designing machine languages.

Even the term "Turing complete" might be less than exact. For example, how about a language that has no read/write commands of its own but which supports network sockets that allow a local REST server to do I/O jobs for it? JavaScript in its browser sandbox seems to fit in that category.

Perhaps any attempts to classify languages should start by restricting themselves to the core language and ignoring all the associated libraries and frameworks.

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paddy3118 profile image

Nicely put😊