When did Javascript become a serious language?

Dave Smith dave at thesmithfam.org
Sun Dec 8 21:06:56 MST 2013


Yes indeed. The evolution of JavaScript from red-headed stepchild to its present state has been a surprising journey.

I predict a day in the not-too-distant future where JavaScript will become the assembly language (or byte code) of the web, both client side and server side. We’re already seeing languages that compile to JavaScript, like CoffeeScript and TypeScript. Browsers have some really impressive interpreters and JITs. I predict that developers of the future will say, “You actually *wrote* JavaScript? You’re hard core”.

—Dave

On Dec 7, 2013, at 5:37 PM, S. Dale Morrey <sdalemorrey at gmail.com> wrote:

> I've been working on a sparetime project for a few weeks and had something
> mostly coded up in Java, then realized that perhaps I was trying to
> re-invent the wheel so I googled for a library to do the heavy lifting for
> me.
> 
> Imagine my surprise when many of my queries for xyz java library started
> returning xyz javascript library.
> 
> Just for fun I decided to look at the effort involved in remaking my
> prototype in Javascript using node.js and some helper libraries.
> 
> When I found that 90+ % of my prototype was available as library functions
> and it was more or less a matter of gluing them together.  I decided to go
> ahead and just give it a try in js.
> 
> Now don't get me wrong.  I'm hardly a javascript noob.  I was writing
> Ajax-like website helpers scripts before we ever coined the terms Comet or
> Ajax.  Nevertheless I've always viewed it as a tool for making shiny bits
> and/or using it as a scripting language for controlling other programs.  In
> other words I've always seen it as being firmly as part of the view
> component.  I never really viewed it as something for serious computational
> workloads.  Until now.
> 
> I finished both prototypes to the same level.  With my curiosity piqued I
> decided to let them both rip on separate instances in the same AWS
> availability zone, same EC2 machine types (t1.micro).
> 
> The job is just to hash words from a dictionary list (I'm making a personal
> rainbow table) using a few different hashing algorithms after which I will
> be doing an analysis with map reduce but neither the the map reduce nor
> analysis steps are included in this part.  This is just a feed generation
> step.
> 
> I just wanted to test raw hashing power in this case.
> I added a loop counter to the main loop and put in stopwatch function to
> ensure identical runtimes.
> 
> Here are my results after 2 minutes of runtime...
> Java 7 J2SE           :  1,000,079
> Node.js Javascript   :  1,548,103
> 
> The numbers represent how many times it made it through the final loop
> where it would normally have written out a csv. Thus there were several
> steps.  Read a fixed list, them run SHA256, Scrypt and Ripe-MD160 on each
> unit. There was no output step so as to rule out filesystem access times.
> 
> This isn't meant to be a head to head comparison.
> 
> The Node.js version is (to the best of my knowledge) single threaded and
> the Java version is running on a thread per core model (even though the
> test box is 1.5 cores).  Looking back, going with thread per core may have
> gimped the Java version because of list contention, and/or context
> switching penalties so I do doubt the numbers here are anything resembling
> final.  In fact I ran it for 5 - 10 - 15 and 30 mins as well and once JIT
> kicked in and moved some stuff to metal, Java slightly matched (at 15 mins)
> and slightly exceeded (at 30 mins) Javascript.
> 
> Javascript just trucked along at the same rate during similar intervals.
> 
> The point is, When the heck did Javascript become suitable for something
> that's so computationally heavy?  A 50% performance improvement over Java
> in a short interval, especially when I have not done anything to
> intentionally gimp the Java version, tells me this is not the Javascript I
> used to know.
> 
> It also showed me something about my own internal biases.
> I find it odd how my thinking has evolved over time.
> 
> I used to be a computer programmer who had a good/decent familiarity with a
> broad range of languages and I would always try to select the best tool for
> the job taking into account the cost of developer time vs cpu time.
> 
> Over the past 4 or 5 years I've been so heavy into Java (because that's
> what employers want), that I think I may have evolved into a Java
> programmer.
> 
> This experience has shown me that it might be time to broaden my horizons
> and again embrace the "right tool for the right job" approach I used to
> have, rather than the Swiss Army Chainsaw habits I've picked up from
> programming in Java.
> 
> So what do you think?  Have you looked at any languages for purposes you
> had previously disregarded?  What were your thoughts?
> 
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