Funny Thing About a Programming Language

I’ve never paid much attention to Python, it just looked like an attempt to combine LISP with Smalltalk, and didn’t succeed at being as good as either.

Recently I’ve had to make some changes to code written in Python, mainly due to Cisco router API changes., and I found a funny thing about it. Not only is it neither LISP nor Smalltalk, largely it’s a slightly higher level version of FORTH that’s completely dependent on C.

FORTH was the first language I ever wrote code in (mind you, I was a little kid playing on an old DEC PDP at the time).  I liked the interactivity of the FORTH console better than the way the other available languages worked.  In some ways it pushed me towards Smalltalk, since languages common at the time (the 1980’s) like Pascal and C were unattractive, BASIC was horrible, and assembler was pure tedium.

After learning Smalltalk I only used FORTH once – to port some controller code for hydraulics written in FORTH to 32 bit, back in 1992.  I’d nearly forgotten about it until I started dealing with Python.  WORDS in FORTH play a similar role to lists in LISP and messages in Smalltalk, so in some ways, that trying to merge LISP and Smalltalk would end up being more like FORTH was almost predictable.

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