Escape from the Ivory Tower

Reference: Escape from the Ivory Tower

This brief history of Haskell is a nice introduction to how Haskell has developed. Jones tells a nice story punctuated by seminal publications that contributed to the ideas. He is a living example of how well the Cambridge accent was designed for giving lectures.

Some programs work but are not well-typed. That is, they are the programs that you want to write but the compiler rejects them. So this is the "Region of Abysmal Pain". Because that's where you think: "Ugh! The type system is getting in my way! I know! I'll use an untyped language."

It is very refreshing to hear someone straight from the top of the static typing pantheon acknowledge the pain of working with current, statically-typed languages.

Now, of course there's always going to be a small Region of Abysmal Pain. There's rather a sort of sterile debate that happens between the static and the dynamic crowd. But I just want to remark that there's something not just self-indulgent but I think is actually quite important about the process of trying to find ways of making types more expressive so that they maintain the good property of being somewhat comprehensible and while moving closer to writing programs that you really want to write.

Alright, so here's our plan for world domination: make the type system sufficiently expressive to the point where everybody will forget dynamic languages and write statically typed ones. I don't expect that will happen to me in my lifetime. But I regard Haskell as a kind of thought experiment that's trying to go in that direction.

In the end, I think Simon Peyton Jones is the perfect mix of humility and hubris to lead the Haskell movement. He seems to have the patience to work with (and be excited about) an incomplete language (as Haskell was in the early days and still is in a lot of ways) without being dogmatic about the virtue of the current limitations.