Dead Programming Languages

ComputerWorld recently posted a list of 10 computer skills that are largely irrelevant when compared to other more popular technologies. Among the list are a handful of programming languages. Some of these I have no experience with while others are ones I'm happy to see go away.

Cobol was popular before my time. I was never taught Cobol and had no reason to learn it. I have a cousin whose career was built on Cobol. Lucky for him he's just shy of retirement and won't have to bother picking up one of the newer programming languages. So I guess I'm not sad to see this one go away.

A took a peek at ColdFusion while being closely involved with active-server pages (ASP). I found the language to be quite limited and doing even simple things seemed to be impossible or required too many hoop jumps. I still see new websites being written in ColdFusion so I'm wondering if this language will be hanging around for a while longer. Too bad. There are better options out there such as PHP.

C was used as a teaching tool for some of my computer science degree courses. However, more advanced courses had me shift to C++ so my experience with C is limited. I'm pretty sure that there's no real reason to use it these days as the alternatives are as powerful yet simpler to use.

Back in my Visual Basic days there was a competing language called PowerBuilder. The PowerBuilder folks seemed to be paid more, but otherwise didn't produce applications that were any more impressive than us Visual Basic types. Of course, I'm biased in that assessment. Doesn't much matter these days as both Visual Basic and PowerBuilder are dead languages.

That's it for my journey down memory lane. Are there any programming languages you're happy / sad to see go?

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  1. APL. A neat idea, but you needed a special keyboard.

    SNOBOL had no built-in looping commands. Every statement also included a line number, and if the command failed (or succeeded), then the program went to that line number. You simulated a loop by doing:

    10 n := 10
    20 print n
    30 (n := n - 1)/n : S(20)
    40 print "blast off!"

    Line 30 decreases the value of n (I don't remember the exact syntax), and tries to divide by n. If n is nonzero, then control went back to line 20. This printed a countdown.

    Trivia: The first programming language was Plankalkul, developed by Konrad Zuse. It had some advanced features for the time, as well as a 2-dimensional layout.

  2. Being a programmer who knows multiple languages C and C++ being two of them, in my opinion C++ should just be declared dead and a new object-oriented language descended from C should be created.

    C++ is a horrible language. It has an array of unique "features" most of which are gimmicks and you only use them because you are forced to use them and not because you actually want to use them and to add insult to the injury none of these "features" are fully complete, most have huge wholes which make a mess out of the entire language.

    Take C++'s template feature which I believe is the worst feature of the language. The reason why you would even think of using templates is because the language is strongly-typed (unlike C or Objective C for the matter) and you have no choice. At face-value templates may sound like a good idea however they have a severe limitation in that you cannot enforce any restriction on the type template parameters whatsoever, meaning if you have a generic class which performs numeric operations on a numeric type passed as a template parameter you have no way to mark the type parameter for numeric types only, nothing is stopping the programmer (a different programmer using your code) to pass a string as a template type parameter, what he/she will get instead is cryptic compiler errors or worse nothing and a mess at runtime. Not to mention the ugly and unreadable code that templates create.

    This doesn't even begin to explain all of C++'s holes in its features. Objective C, C# and Java are not great either but at least they are more or less complete, however I considered even the latter three to add too much complexity without giving you any flexibility.

    • C++ is an extension of C, so that you can do object oriented programming. The syntax used for its oop is horrible, and any oop should be designed from scratch.

  3. In my Computer Science degree I spent two years learning OOP with Java and then in my 3rd year there was an abrupt shift to C programming, in my operating systems course. I have to say, learning and using C was a very hard experience, but once you get the semantics and allocs out of the way, it is incredibly powerful. I agree with some of the other posters here that C and C++ are quite valuable as building blocks (re browsers and OS's)

  4. "I'm pretty sure that there's no real reason to use it these days as the alternatives are as powerful yet simpler to use."

    If you had said "no real reason to use it *for high-level application programming*" you would be somewhat less terribly wrong, but still wrong. Making statements such as that one is ruinous to your credibility. If you consider C++ one of the alternatives, allow me to point out that it, at least, is likely the most complex real programming language in the world, and therefore not simpler than C.

  5. C was used as a teaching tool for some of my computer science degree courses. However, more advanced courses had me shift to C++ so my experience with C is limited. I'm pretty sure that there's no real reason to use it these days as the alternatives are as powerful yet simpler to use.

    If it wasn't for C you wouldnt have any operating systems / any real time systems of any kind. Every single router in the Internet runs software written in pure C. Do you still think that C is irrelevant?

  6. PowerBuilder is dead and those that use it will defend it to the bloody end.

  7. Why are PowerBuilder folks so evangical? I don't need convincing. I KNOW PowerBuilder is dead.

    • You KNOW it is dead? Lessee, I've been programming in the language since 1989 and still today make a six digit salary programming as an employee, not a travelling consultant that is working short term contracts.

      I know anecdotal evidence is no evidence at all but hey, it puts food on MY table.

  8. I have seen major companies drop Powerbuilder, also migrate from Visual Basic Classic to, and move to a more webcentric platform. Also outsourcing has dried up the pool of available jobs.

  9. Avatar photo

    Hi SS,

    My statement is based on observation. The solutions that were created using either PowerBuilder or VB were limited by the programmer(s) and not so much the language chosen.

    As for applications still in use, that doesn't make them impressive. There's some scary stuff out there that just refuses to go away because it is so entrenched.

  10. Mr Marios,

    How did you arrive at the decision "PowerBuilder didn't produce applications that were any impressive than Visual Basic". Do you know that PowerBuilder was much more object oriented than VB up until .net arrived ? PB supported inheritance since version 3.0 and even today all major State & Federal applications in US & Canada runs on PowerBuilder. Some of these apps are so huge and loaded with functionality, that it would have been impossible to
    have them written in VB.

  11. C is still very important. Most unix code is C, and there will be legacy unix code around for a loooonng time.

    C++ is pretty windows-centric, just like Obj-C is NeXT/Apple-centric. Many people prefer Obj-C to C++, as Obj-C is a superset of C, so it's easier for people fluent in C to make the transition.

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