Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

This isn't that good of a metric for code utility. Sure, very-long-lived code probably solved the problem well (though it can also just be a first-mover kind of thing), but a lot of code is written to solve specific problems in a way that's not worth generalizing.

I write a lot of python for astrophysics. It has plenty of shortcomings, and much of what's written will not be useful 10 years from now due to changing APIs, architectures, etc., but that's partly by design: most of the problems I work on really are not suited to a hyper-optimized domain-specific languages like FORTRAN. We're actively figuring out what works best in the space, and shortcomings of python be damned, it's reasonably expressive while being adequately stable.

C/FORTRAN stability sounds fine and good until you want to solve a non-mathematical problem with your code or extend the old code in some non-trivial way. Humans haven't changed mathematical notations in centuries (since they've mostly proven efficient for their problem space), but even those don't always work well in adjacent math topics. The bra-ket notation of quantum mechanics, <a|b>, was a nice shorthand for representing quantum states and their linear products; Feynman diagrams are laughably simple pictograms of horrid integrals. I would say that those changes in notation reflected exciting developments that turned out to persist; so it is with programming languages, where notations/syntaxes that capture the problem space well become persistent features of future languages. Now, that doesn't mean you need to code in an "experimental" language, but if a new-ish problem hasn't been addressed well in more stable languages, you're probably better off going where the language/library devs are trying to address it. If you want your code to run in 40 years, use C/FORTRAN and write incremental improvements to fundamental algorithm implementations. If you want to solve problems right now that those langs are ill-suited to, though, then who cares how long the language specs (or your own code) last as long as they're stable enough to minimize breaking changes/maintenance? This applies to every non-ossified language: the hyper-long-term survival of the code is not the metric you should use (in most cases) when deciding how to write your code.

My point is just that short code lifetimes can be perfectly fine; they can even be markers of extreme innovation. This applies to fast-changing stuff like Julia and Rust (which I don't use for work because they're changing too quickly, and maintenance burdens are hence too high). But some of their innovative features will stand the test of time, and I'll either end up using them in future versions of older languages, or I'll end up using the exciting new languages when they've matured a bit.




by the way, three-decades has gone since FORTRAN became Fortran.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: