Programming Language - History - Consolidation and Growth

Consolidation and Growth

The 1980s were years of relative consolidation. C++ combined object-oriented and systems programming. The United States government standardized Ada, a systems programming language derived from Pascal and intended for use by defense contractors. In Japan and elsewhere, vast sums were spent investigating so-called "fifth generation" languages that incorporated logic programming constructs. The functional languages community moved to standardize ML and Lisp. Rather than inventing new paradigms, all of these movements elaborated upon the ideas invented in the previous decade.

One important trend in language design for programming large-scale systems during the 1980s was an increased focus on the use of modules, or large-scale organizational units of code. Modula-2, Ada, and ML all developed notable module systems in the 1980s, although other languages, such as PL/I, already had extensive support for modular programming. Module systems were often wedded to generic programming constructs.

The rapid growth of the Internet in the mid-1990s created opportunities for new languages. Perl, originally a Unix scripting tool first released in 1987, became common in dynamic websites. Java came to be used for server-side programming, and bytecode virtual machines became popular again in commercial settings with their promise of "Write once, run anywhere" (UCSD Pascal had been popular for a time in the early 1980s). These developments were not fundamentally novel, rather they were refinements to existing languages and paradigms, and largely based on the C family of programming languages.

Programming language evolution continues, in both industry and research. Current directions include security and reliability verification, new kinds of modularity (mixins, delegates, aspects), and database integration such as Microsoft's LINQ.

The 4GLs are examples of languages which are domain-specific, such as SQL, which manipulates and returns sets of data rather than the scalar values which are canonical to most programming languages. Perl, for example, with its 'here document' can hold multiple 4GL programs, as well as multiple JavaScript programs, in part of its own perl code and use variable interpolation in the 'here document' to support multi-language programming.

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