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

Let's try to fill out some of this grid: Who started this? - That would be Andreas Rumpf, or Araq as he is known on IRC

Is it corporately affiliated? - No, it was created by Andreas, and has stayed independent. But it has corporate backing, which helps pay for development, and they do get a certain prioritisation in what gets implemented. But no closed door stuff.

What languages is it similar to? - Depends on what kind of similarities. Syntactically it will remind you of Python or maybe even Ruby. But when you use it the powerful type system might remind you of Ada, the macro system possibly of Lisp, the run-time speed of C/C++ or Rust, and the compilation time of, well, not C++ (it's really fast).

What is the motivation of its creators? - As far as I know the initial motivation was to have something that was as usable as Python and languages like that, but which was actually fast and type-safe. For me as a contributor these features allow me to focus on higher level things so I tend to mostly use the macro and type system to create wonderful abstractions that allow me to create nice readable code quickly.

What is the philosophy driving its design? - Haven't seen any guys with long white beards, pipes, and stacks of book in the community, so I'm not entirely sure there is an official philosophy. The design is mostly based on giving tools to the developer, and making sure they do "the right thing". If the developer then uses these tools to chop their arm of then that is their prerogative, but generally not advised.

Is it intended to be an eventual competitor or replacement for languages XYZ? - Well many people come to Nim from Python, seeking better performance, or from C or JS seeking better usability. While Nim doesn't try to position itself as a direct replacement or competitor for any one language in particular it is a probably candidate for most if not all of them.

Where does it sit on the spectrum between raw assembly and MS Access? - In terms of abstraction somewhere high up above with Lisp and friends (no personal experience with MS Access, so not sure where that actually ranks). The core language is pretty straight forward, but with the macro system the sky is the limit!

Is it intended to be a "systems language" eg can you write a kernel or device driver using it? - Yes, Nim does call itself a systems programming language, and there have been toy kernels written in it (not sure about drivers though, but I wouldn't be surprised). It can also run on micro-controllers and other embedded systems. Pretty much as long as you can run C, you can probably run Nim. That being said it also compiles down to JS, and has a lot of features that allow it to be used for anything from web-sites, through games and applications, to micro-controllers and kernels.

Does it require a VM? - Trick question, but yes and no. The compiler implements a VM to run Nim code on compile-time for the macro system, but this VM is not present at run-time.

Is there corporate support available? - It is possible to get a contract with the core developers to get support yes. Not that I've ever felt the need for any further support than the excellent IRC channel (which is also bridged to Gitter and Discord).

How established is the developer community? - The aforementioned IRC channel is very active, as well of course as the GitHub repository. There is also a yearly meetup at FOSDEM, and talks, articles, and videos about the language and development is coming out all the time.

Are there books and courses? - There is so far only one physical book, Nim in Action, and it's really good! As far as courses go there is no active course with a teacher and course material (as far as I know). But there are tutorials for all levels of programming skills, from never programmed before to picking it up as your n-th language. There are also more interactive things like Excercism where you can solve problems and have people from the community look over your solutions. Other than that people will often happily look over and comment on your project if you post in on Reddit or drop a link in the IRC channel.

Does it have garbage collection? - Yes, by default Nim has a garbage collector, but it is tuneable so you can control when and for how long it runs. And you can disable it completely and use manual memory allocation, for when you're doing kernels and micro-controller work for example. The garbage collector is also per-thread, meaning that running multi-threaded will not stop your entire application when it's collecting garbage. You also have an option regarding which garbage collector you want to use, all with different performance considerations, but in general all really fast.

Is it a compiled language? - Yes. Nim itself compiles down to C/C++/Obj-C or even JS. Then it is passed on to the target compiler to create native binaries, or in the case of JS left to either be run by node or loaded into a web-page.

Is it a strongly typed language? - Yes. Nims type system is strong and flexible. The basics similar to Adas type system. It also has type-inference however, so you might not guess that it is strongly typed by looking at the examples.

What are the three perfect use cases? - Hmm, this one is tough. I use Nim for pretty much everything, from scripting simple things on my own machine, to creating and deploying web-sites, graphical applications and games. But judging from the community I think the top three use cases are: High-performance computations, Web-dev, and games. The primary financial backer of Nim, Status, also uses it to create an Ethereum client focused on mobile devices. But not sure which category to bunch that into.

How stable is the API? - Now with the release of v1 the API of the core language and stdlib will be stable moving forward on the v1 branch. This means bug fixes will be back-ported, and any new features will only be added if they don't break this promise.

What's the package management story? - Nim has its own package manager, Nimble, and over 1000 packages ready to go with everything from bindings to popular C libraries to large pure Nim libraries and applications.

Does it have a reasonable standard library? - Indeed! The standard library is large, and has pretty much everything you need.

Is there editor support for color coding and linting? - Yes, there are plug-ins for various editors (most use the VSCode one, I personally prefer Vim), and also an LSP implementation if you want these features in an editor that doesn't yet support them.

What's the job market look like? - Not huge to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of opportunities around. But I was surprised to find people at my current job using it for some tinkering and internal tools. I'm personally lucky enough that I have fairly large autonomy in how I do my work, and I'm able to use Nim.

Is the documentation well-written? - Personally I find them pretty good, and recently they have been read through and improved, so they are better than ever. Nim also offers document comments directly in the code, so many libraries you find will be nice and documented as well.

And most importantly, if we all got in the same room, would I want to hang out with the people excited about this language? - I've tried this at FOSDEM for two years now and they are a wonderful bunch!

> What is the philosophy driving its design?

I think that the [nim github tagline](https://github.com/nim-lang/Nim) expresses well the philosphy: "Nim is a compiled, garbage-collected systems programming language with a design that focuses on efficiency, expressiveness, and elegance (in that order of priority)."

also Araq's blog post on 1.0 explains well how the guiding principles remained the same over time:

"When I started Nim's development I had a small simple language in mind that compiles to C; its implementation should not be more than 20,000 lines of code. The core guideline has always been that Nim should be a small language with a macro system, which should be capable of extending Nim with all the features that the small core is missing.

The current compiler plus the parts of the standard library it uses has roughly 140,000 lines of code, runs on a plethora of operating systems and CPU architectures, can also compile Nim code to C++ and JavaScript, and Nim's meta programming capabilities are top of the class. While the language is not nearly as small as I would like it to be, it turned out that meta programming cannot replace all the building blocks that a modern language needs to have.

For example, while Nim manages to implement async via its macro system, the macro system needs to be able to compile code into a state machine. And these state machines need some form of goto and a way to capture their environment. So Nim's core needed to grow so called "closure iterators" to enable this.

Furthermore, we don't really know yet how to leverage a macro system in order to give us extensibility on the type system level, so Nim's core needed generics and constraints for generics."

> Yes, by default Nim has a garbage collector,

Does the standard library and all other user libraries work with the garbage collector turned off, or do I have to use a different ecosystem for those applications?

They work only as long as they don't use any garbage collected types (the compiler will warn you of this when you turn the GC off). Unfortunately this means most libraries are out, and you have to do your own thing. Turning the GC off is more meant as a way to use Nim on micro-controllers and for things like kernels and such. In this case many libraries that aren't written for this use-case doesn't really make sense to use anyways, so I'm not sure how big of an issue this is in reality.

> I'm not sure how big of an issue this is in reality

I agree - embedded programming is a sufficiently separate world that you'll always need a different foundation with different assumptions.

Rust which doesn't have a GC at all, but stillhas this problem to some extent. On a microcontroller you generally don't want to use the standard library with all its assumptions about heap allocations always succeeding. This is why 'nostd' and libraries like heapless exist.

> Rust which doesn't have a GC at all, but stillhas this problem to some extent.

I agree, but there is a big difference between not being able to use almost any library, and being able to use most libraries.

There are many many libraries on embedded Rust, and my embedded and not embedded projects do share many libraries.

> so I'm not sure how big of an issue this is in reality.

I have audio programming in mind. Not that you can't do audio programming in GC-enabled languages, it's just that's it's quite frown upon in this circle (for good reasons). I'm sure there are workarounds though.

Audio programming in Nim is completely possible and reasonable.

Here is an example of a super collider plugin written entirely in Nim with the GC turned off: https://forum.nim-lang.org/t/3625

The author seemed to find the experience very pleasant, and the performance was great.

Not (yet) a Nim user, but another post mentioned that GC is thread-specific, so you can remove all traces of GC-types from your real-time thread(s) in order to avoid deallocations at the wrong times.

A related question is whether you can disable GC on a thread by thread basis.

Audio programming? And why is it frowned upon? If it is because of the Java-like GC freezes that is something you can ensure will not happen in Nim by turning on manual control and only running it when its suitable.

Not the person you responded to, but yes. The audio must never be interrupted, everything else first.

This is an AMAZING answer. I'm sad I can't buy you a sandwich.

Well thank you :) Meet up at FOSDEM and you can buy me a sandwich there!

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