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Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala

6 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Jan 29, 2008 12:57 PM by qinxian xiang

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Frank Sommers

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Nickname: fsommers
Registered: Jan, 2002

Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Dec 13, 2007 4:30 PM
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Summary
In a JavaWorld podcast, Daniel Steinberg interviews Bill Venners about Scala. Venners is co-author, along with Martin Odersky and Lex Spoon, of Programming in Scala, a PrePrint edition of which was recently published by Artima. In the interview, Venners explains how he discovered Scala, and how Scala helps developers raise their programming game.
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Daniel Steinberg interviews Bill Venners about the Scala language in the podcast, Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala. Bill Venners is co-author, along with Martin Odersky and Lex Spoon, of the book Programming in Scala, a PrePrint edition of which was recently published by Artima.

In the interview, Venners explains how he discovered Scala:

I've been using Java since 1996, and have been very happy with it. But I think there is a natural law of languages that [says] that [a language] over time becomes harder and harder to enhance while still maintaining backwards compatibility. If a language is as successful as Java, it's really expensive to break source compatibility with Java in subsequent releases of the language. It becomes harder and harder to improve things... And it comes a time when it may make sense to jump to a language that is not source compatible, but is binary compatible.

One of things I had been looking around for was a more light-weight way to write some of our code. I was looking at Groovy, and JRuby and Jython—things that would run on the JVM, and would still allow us to leverage all of our [Java] code that we've written, all the great libraries that are in the Java ecosystem..., but allow me to get some of the speed and conciseness... Programmer productivity is what I was trying to get at looking at other languages for the Java platform.

But the trouble was that I really like static type-checking, and I could never make the leap to one of these languages... That's when I learned about Scala. I realized that it was more of a fit for us. It gives you all the conciseness that you get with Ruby, or Groovy, or Jython. When you're programming in [Scala], you feel like you're programming in a scripting language, but Scala actually gives you more static type checking than Java.

I felt so jealous at people who were using Ruby or Python because they are so happy and so productive... But I didn't want to give up static type checking...

The name Scala comes from SCAlable LAnguage. One way it's scalable is that it scales to different-size tasks and different domains... Scala has a small kernel of features that you can build on. For example, if you want to use it to interact with databases, then it allows you to build a very natural API and library to talk to databases. Scala is very malleable. It scales all the way down to scripts—you can actually use it as a scripting language. That's how I started using it.

There are a lot of people out there who have investment in Java: They have code and knowledge, so [Scala] running on the JVM means they can leverage all their code, all the libraries they wrote, all the libraries they've been using from vendors or open-source projects, things they're familiar with.

The Java ecosystem is innovative—there are all these things coming out of it. And Scala is part of that ecosystem—it's an innovative language piece. You don't have to stop using Java.

Venners also talks in the interview about Programming in Scala:

It's a Scala tutorial, so it's there to teach people to learn to program in Scala. But it's more than that. We want to make it into a book about how to program well. Every language leads you in certain directions, [and] we want to help people improve their programming skills, improve their game. By learning [Scala], even if you're not using it, it will change how you approach programming.

What do you think of Bill Venners' comments about Scala?


Frank Silbermann

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Registered: Mar, 2006

Re: Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Dec 14, 2007 10:38 AM
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Before I invest in buying and reading a tutorial, I'd like to hear about the design of the language.

Instead of a cookbook, "Here's how you do this, and here's how you do that" -- I'd like to see a summary of the kinds of things that are easy to do in Scala (e.g. novel means of abstracting from various pieces of code the aspects they have in common) which are not easy to do in other languages, and the restrictions the designer had to impose on its features in order to achieve this power.

As an analogy, about a purely functional language I could say that the implementation can evaluate the arguments to a function in any order without changing the final result. That's the power. The cost is that you cannot change the value of a "variable" (the meaning associated with an identifier). That trade-off is what distinguishes purely functional languages from imperative languages.

What sort of trade-offs of that nature make the Scala language what it is? I don't what to have to first become a master of all of Scala's features so I can figure all that out on my own.

Daniel Jimenez

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Registered: Dec, 2004

Re: Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Dec 14, 2007 12:17 PM
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Frank, in case you didn't see it, Martin did post a bit on how he came to design Scala here: http://www.artima.com/weblogs/viewpost.jsp?thread=163733.

I purchased the book as soon as I saw it on the front page; I've been reading everything on Scala I can get my hands on and a book straight from the source is too good to pass up. But I do hope it has some of what Frank's asking for, it's definitely interesting territory.

Isaac Gouy

Posts: 527
Nickname: igouy
Registered: Jul, 2003

Scala - design of the language Posted: Dec 14, 2007 12:48 PM
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Frank Silbermann wrote

> Before I invest in buying and reading a tutorial, I'd like
> to hear about the design of the language.

I think you the papers and talks on the Scala website provide the kind of information you are asking for:

http://www.scala-lang.org/docu/papers.html

John Zabroski

Posts: 272
Nickname: zbo
Registered: Jan, 2007

Re: Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Dec 15, 2007 6:06 AM
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Bill/Martin,

What kind of binding will the printed version of the book have? Does "PDF/paper" mean PDF + Paperback?

(Maybe Frank can answer this.)

Bill Venners

Posts: 2242
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Dec 15, 2007 9:49 AM
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> Bill/Martin,
>
> What kind of binding will the printed version of the book
> have? Does "PDF/paper" mean PDF + Paperback?
>
> (Maybe Frank can answer this.)

It's not hardcover. It will be paperback like most other computer books.

Bill

qinxian xiang

Posts: 5
Nickname: moonlight
Registered: Dec, 2006

Re: Bill Venners on the Rise of Scala Posted: Jan 29, 2008 12:57 PM
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I tried groovy swtbuilder, and then want to try scala swt builder, find a trac http://virtual-void.net/projects/behaviours/browser/scala?rev=34, but cannot svn it.
Someone could give a sunshine? Thanks.
Then checkout pdf guide, focus on Int: x;
then list svn list scala, from scala-experimental/, found pascal word,
Oh, In deed, people port and change/enhance delphi language:)

Why not deep into it?
Thanks.

Regards

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