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What is the context for a programming language?

What is the context for a programming language? Is it within the history of the language itself? Perhaps, it's actually within the context of all programming languages.

This became obvious to me a couple months ago, over drinks with a bunch of Flash developers. At one point we were talking about changes we liked and didn't like in ActionScript. One change that I wasn't happy with was that I'd heard "1" and "0" may no longer default to "true" and "false". While I was focused on the internal context of the change, Sas Jacobs brought up an excellent point: in many other languages the defaults are different. She uses "true" and "false" to avoid mistakes when switching back and forth between different languages.


I don't think it's possible to talk about 'the context of all programming languages'. It's hard, if not impossible, to compare functional programming languages like Haskell & LISP, imperative programming languages like AS, Java, C++ etc, and declarative programming languages like SQL & Prolog (not to mention languages & types of languages that might not fall into these categories).

Personally I find it a shame that AS is being pushed into a more rigid structure ('strictly' typed variables, no more 0/1 booleans) even if the majority of its 'kindred' follow these rules. Yes, it might be more confusing to switch between languages, but the more we expect constructs to be present in both language A and language B, the more the same they become. It still blows my mind how there are hundreds of programming languages out there that all have their pro's and con's and all deal with problems in their own little way. There are no rights and wrongs, only opinions, even when it comes to programming languages :)

PS. When I say 'programming languages' I'm also including scripting languages etc...

Well said, Edwin!

I can understand the reality that Macromedia is facing, when it comes to the need to appeal to a larger pool of the world's developers. However, I hope they don't kill what's special about Flash in the process.

Oh, I do think it's possible to talk about context of "all programming languages", if at least the existance of one has a trace or third-hand effect on another.

Certain languages come into contact more often than others...like ActionScript and anything server-side. Since ActionScript is the common factor, it makes sense to me that some generalized features make their way into ActionScript. I may not like it, but it makes sense from that point of view.

I'd like to keep 1:0 booleans, that's for sure.