Friday, January 20, 2006

Python on the Rails

Rails is interesting.

I remember Visicalc.

I used to be a technical sales support person in an Apple shop when standard kit was an Apple 2 and all the buzz was around something iminent called the "Apple Lisa".

Anyway, folks used to walk in off the street and say "I WANT A VISICALC!".
I would say "You mean you want an Apple 2 and a copy of Visicalc, the spreadsheet".
They would say "No. Just give me a Visicalc.".

Sometimes a concept surfs a wave. Rails is one such concept. Ruby is what is underneath in the same way that Apple 2's were under Visicalc.

People want Rails (it seems). Mostly Java people. Thats fine. Heck, if your current mental model of web computing is statically compiling great lumps of Java then sure Rails looks like total magic.

But so too would Python, and Smalltalk and ... if you had gone there.

But that is not the point. The point is that Rails is the wave.


Ruby is a fine language in may respects. Too close to Python for me to be thinking "wow! lets go there" but a fine language non-the-less.

Especially if you are coming from Java or Perl...

But that is not the point.

My point is this: I hope that Ruby grows to be a more technically elegant and all-round-fantastically intellectually pleasing programming language than Python.

The world needs such things. I'm a big fan of them. I seek perfect tools just as much as the next guy.

But the world has a way of coalescing around the sub-optimal.

If Ruby/Rails creates a penumbra of sub-optimality around Python then what does that mean for Python?

Does it mean that Python is dooooomed?

On the contrary.

It creates some grass.

Some greener grass.

Over there. On the other side.

It makes Python a middle ground. Removes it from the extremities and plonks it in the middle.

The extremities are now elsewhere.

Python is no longer cool if you are into extremeties.

Python is now free to go totally mainstream.

That is fine by me.

My fondness and bias and vested interest in Python causes me to shout:

    Lets hear it for Ruby and Rails! Way to go!

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