Grid Watch

Monday, December 19, 2005

How can one be so wrong about the direction of Computing

In April 2001,
Paul Graham wrote:

"So far, Java seems like a stinker to me. I've never written a Java program,
never more than glanced over reference books about it, but I have a hunch that it won't be a very successful language. "

In April 2003,

"When I say Java won't turn out to be a successful language, I mean something
more specific: that Java will turn out to be an evolutionary dead-end, like Cobol."

Is Java a successfull language now in 2005? It surely looks like it! Java is the leading development platform for large enterprise applications to small scale applications for embedded devices and cellphone. None of this can be said about the language Paul says is the most productive: LISP. This article is not about bashing Paul Graham, whos essays I LOVE to read, and I really like his insight however this article is about a broader question: How could so many people in the past be so wrong about the direction of computing!

Their have been numerous wrong predictions about computers:

"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."
Ken Olsen (1926 - ), President, Digital Equipment, 1977

"640K memory ought to be enough for everybody"
Allegedly attributed to Bill Gates

Predicting future is difficult anyway, however it is rare that the exact opposite prediction comes true.


  • First, read this, by Bruce Eckel.

    One way to look at it is the spread of ideas. How many ideas can you find in recent languages that originated in Lisp (or Smalltalk)? How many originated in Cobol? If a person sits down to write a language five years from now, what features will he/she copy from Java? In that sense, even if people don't use Lisp directly, they still mine the language and related literature for useful features.

    on a day-to-day basis, i use more Lisp code than Java, but that's primarily because I use Emacs as an editor. Rarely do I fire up a Java application. I'm probably the exception to the rule because of emacs, but in general, I very much doubt that most people use Java on a daily basis.

    By Blogger self, at 3:18 AM  

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