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Volume 15, No.1

Vector Editorial 15.1

by Stefano Lanzavecchia

APL conferences don’t simply stay on your skin, they go deeply inside you and should leave you with strong, confused, irrational, exciting emotions. They are a way to look at the past, at the present and at the future with the aid of many different eyes and glasses. Let’s disregard for a second the importance of social events or of the mighty banquet and let’s concentrate instead on the contents. I don’t believe we need to be reminded all the time that we APLers are doing great, and especially not with a pep-talk or a bloating show, but it’s nice to feel that it is actually happening by looking at what we’ve achieved, at the way in which we relate to the changing technologies and at what’s lined up to make our lives even more interesting.

Maybe a few concrete examples will help understand what I mean. Forget for a moment that I’m currently working for the company (namely Adaytum Software) which opened the show in Roma with a demonstration of what can be done when some competent programmers meet some other skilful marketing people. If you forget it will be easy for you to recognise that my pride is the pride of an APLer who enjoys the success of the language and of the philosophy behind the language. Even though Adaytum Software has still a long way to go, you can see its importance cannot be underestimated. First of all the exposure of its main product to a larger audience than is usually reached by ordinary APL applications is changing the rules of the game. Such an audience requires more and more the product to be compliant with the recognised standards in the look-and-feel of Windows applications. This means the end to the time when typical APL applications could be spotted from far away for their original look. Despite the fact that the word APL is no longer heard with fear or diffidence by the IT departments of large firms (mostly because the young managers have never heard it and they simply think it’s something new, another buzzword), the real power of APL will be embodied in shells which no longer betray the origin of the brain.

Second, the success of the company is already causing an internal growth which demands for new recruits to be found at regular intervals. Since the number of APLers is larger than we tend to think, APL-skilled professionals are not so difficult to find. The problem is more that they’re all already busy or reluctant to relocate. Plus there is a large number of them who are so old-fashioned and consider Windows and company an unnecessary evil that they would not fit in APL’s new suit. I won’t go any deeper into the problem for the moment.

Another example I would like to point our attention to is the development of APL interpreters. Never before, the interpreter’s vendors have produced upgrades of their products at such a quick rate: new tools for better interoperability (GUI, intra- and inter-machine communication) and more fundamental changes. A truly brilliant display of innovation was shown by Dyadic Systems who presented their new-born release of the interpreter with multithreading capabilities. The implementation is still in its infancy and it will take a while before it becomes a mature feature but even in its current state it’s a major leap forward. It would be difficult to clearly identify the importance that in this process of innovation has the drive of the companies which are successfully basing their development on Dyadic’s intepreter. Nevertheless it is quite evident that the aforementioned success is quite beneficial.

My final example will relink me to my last editorial. Even a quick scan through the proceedings of the conference will reveal that quite an impressive number of programming languages is referenced in addition to APL and J: some are still array-oriented languages such as K, Mathematica, Mathlab, but there are also C, C++ and dialects, Forth, Java, even Tcl/Tk, and finally the bizarre hybrids such as HTML augmented with the scripting languages VBScript and ECMAScript. It seems that I’m not the only one believing in the use of many different knives and it is with pleasure that I register this fact.

Adaytum Software:
Dyadic Software:
Kx Systems:
Scriptics Corporation:

© 1998 British APL Association & Stefano Lanzavecchia

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