22 June 2010

Is the Future the Past?

One thing that struck me about John Siracusa’s interesting article on Apple’s language and API future: Apple did a high-level language once before. NewtonScript.

Whenever I see Python or Lua code, I think back to when I was coding in NewtonScript, which had a similar syntax and similar concepts. Here’s a bit of code from the original implementation of Jigami:

regTile := {_proto: pt_Tile, _parent: self, viewBounds: RelBounds(11, 112, 34, 34)};
regTile.edges := pt_Tile.possibleEdges[tileNum];
regTile.symbols := NIL;

There was also a visual design tool, Newton ToolKit (NTK). The combination of a dynamic language, no pointers, and a graphical editor was quite productive. And NewtonScript was good enough to use for all of the system apps. Yes, there was a little C++ code in parts, but a lot of it was probably premature optimization (there was nothing like Shark or Instruments for Newton).

I don’t know what direction Apple is moving, but at the very least it’s an interesting proof of concept for something that works well in a mobile device.

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