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Re: An open plea to the W3C (was Re: XInclude vs SAX vs

About ten years later, another Turing Award Lecturer (don't have time
to track down the reference) complained about the complexity of Ada.
According to what I recall from reading about it in _Computerworld_ 20
years ago, the complaint was different from Dijkstra's complaint about
PL/I (below).  The complaint was not so much that programmers couldn't
handle Ada's complexity, but that reliably implementing Ada itself was
simply out of reach.  The speaker worried that missile guidance
systems and other weapon systems running real-time Ada programs would
misbehave in various unforeseeable ways.  He was horrified that the
U.S. military was trying to standardize on Ada.

> From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
> Edgser W. Dijkstra/ Turing Award Lecture/
> Communications of the ACM, Vol. 15, Number 10,
> October 1972
> Finally, although the subject is not a pleasant one, I must
> mention  PL/I, a programming language for which the
> defining documentation is of a frightening size and
> complexity. Using PL/I must be like flying a plane with
> 7,000 buttons, switches, and handles to manipulate in the
> cockpit.   I absolutely fail to see how we can keep our
> growing programs firmly within our intellectual grip when
> by its sheer baroqueness the programming language - our
> basic tool, mind you! - already escapes our intellectual
> control. And, if I have to describe the influence PL/I can
> have on its users, the closest metaphor that comes to my
> mind is that of a drug.  I remember from a symposium on
> higher level programming languages a lecture given in
> defense of PL/I by a man who described himself as one of
> its devoted users. But within a one-hour lecture in praise
> of PL/I, he managed to ask for the addition of about 50 new
> "features," little supposing that the main source of his
> problems could very well be that it contained already far
> too many "features." The speaker displayed all the
> depressing symptoms of addiction, reduced as he was to the
> state of mental stagnation in which he could only ask for
> more, more, more.... When FORTRAN has been called an
> infantile disorder, PL/I, with its growth characteristics
> of a dangerous tumor, could turn out to be a fatal disease.


Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant

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