When did Javascript become a serious language?

Levi Pearson levipearson at gmail.com
Tue Dec 10 10:35:10 MST 2013


On Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 9:30 PM, John D Jones III <unixgeek1972 at gmail.com> wrote:

> To be perfectly honest, Javascript has always been a serious language. Just
> because it was used for stupid effects doesn't negate the fact that it's
> been powerful the entire time. With it's 'prototype' paradigm it's always
> been possible to extend the language to do whatever you saw fit... Now it
> wasn't until the advent of AJAX and the whole Web 2.0 BS that people started
> taking it seriously and using it for what I'm sure it's developers saw as
> it's true calling in life. Sure node and all the cool 'kids' in town are on
> the server side now and I'm kind of shocked it took so long for someone to
> think to make it server side, but I remember messing with Rhino trying to
> make it a stupid little 'cgi' daemon back in 05, back before I even knew
> what I was doing :-P. But Javascript was designed to be as powerful as you
> wanted it to be and after almost 20 years, I'm glad to see it where it's at.

I get what you're saying, but I'm not sure we have the same idea of
what a "serious language" is.  Javascript has always had the advantage
of being designed by a guy who had a reasonable amount of programming
language theory background, but it was designed with a mish-mash of
features borrowed from other languages (Scheme, Self, Perl, C) and
didn't really get a chance to mature gradually in a normal way. It was
more-or-less ignored for a while, and then suddenly became a critical
component of modern web development.  The point where the major
implementations stopped being dog slow and full of memory leaks is
probably where I'd say it started becoming a serious language.

So it's got some nice properties along with some really brain-dead
mis-features; it's not nearly as bad in that regard as PHP, but it's
got a lot more weird bits and sharp edges than a similar but more
gradually-refined language like lua.  Now, with it being deployed
everywhere and relied on by millions upon millions of dollars worth of
web-based services, it's going to be very difficult for javascript to
mature as a language and lose its awkward misfeatures and gotchas.  On
one hand, a lot of people will be working on fixing them!  But the
downside is that getting any changes adopted will be an extremely
steep uphill battle.

> I won't be a bit surprised if someone doesn't reinvent the Terminal and
> Shell using Pure Javascript that can run Javascript in the same way that
> Bash and Zsh scripts are.... With gjs, writing a vte3 compliant Terminal
> would be cake, and what... a year's worth of effort, someone could easily
> put Javascript in dangerously close competition for Bash/Zsh/Tcsh as the
> master of command line. I was messing with a gjs based vte terminal, I even
> have a gist somewhere that almost loads the terminal.... anyways, I'll end
> my zealotrous rant, but yes, Javascript has always been the most
> unappreciated language in existence and it's potential is only now
> surfacing; only the tip of it's iceberg. Just my $22.22 (adjusted for
> inflation).

node.js is more-or-less what you get when you try to make
'sh-the-script-language' as a javascript runtime + base library.  So,
in that sense, it's already there.  The thing about shell is that it's
a job control language as well as a script language, which is part of
why it's got such a terrible syntax for doing real programming.  The
syntax is optimized for small job management operations on the command
line.  Javascript, and most other languages people think about making
into shell-replacements, just isn't good at launching programs and
gluing them together from a command line.  It's far too verbose.

        --Levi


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