Last night I attended a talk given by Dr. Damian Conway (of Perl Best Practices fame) titled “Fun With Dead Languages“. Although this is a talk that Damian had given previously, it is the first time that I heard it, and I’m so glad I did!
I was the first to arrive at the Mozilla office building at 366 Adelaide, and so was able to score a sweet parking spot right across the street (no small feat in downtown Toronto).
I arrived and introduced myself to Damian as he was preparing for his delivery shortly before a herd of approximately 70 hackers (according to Mozilla) from all language and computing backgrounds started pouring through the meeting room doors to be seated.
Damian has a very energetic style of presentation, and was able to hold our attention while covering everything from the virtual extinction of the Gros Michel Banana, to the benefits and efficiencies of stack-based programming (using PostScript as an example). He compares many, very different languages including Befunge, Brainfuck, Lisp, and Piet, and suggests that a great place to look for new ideas is what he calls the “Language Morgue”, where he includes languages such as Awk, Prolog, Cobol… and even C++ as examples of dead languages and language paradigms.
Mr. Conway also dived into excruciating detail on how the Latin natural language can be used as an effective computer programming language, and has even gone so far as to write a module called Lingua::Romana::Perligata, which he has made available on the CPAN.
I also had the special treat of sitting right behind Sacha Chua who brilliantly sketched notes of the entire talk in real-time. I haven’t had the pleasure of formally meeting Sacha just yet (didn’t even say “hello”, my bad!) as I didn’t want to distract her. Aside from having my mind blown by Damian’s talk, I was also being mesmerized by Sacha’s artistic skills, and so I do feel somewhat justified in keeping my mouth shut just to absorb everything that was going on right in front of me (front-row seats FTW!).
Sacha has made her “Fun With Dead Languages” sketch notes publicly available on her blog for everyone to review and enjoy, and has placed it under a Creative Commons license, so please share freely (and drop her a note to say “thanks!”).
Overall, I learned a lot from this this talk and appreciate it immensely. The energy of the audience made the discussion that much more enjoyable. If you are interested in programming languages or language theory in general, I suggest you attend this talk the next time Damian decides to deliver it (or find a recording if one happens to be available?). Damian Conway’s insights and humorous delivery are well worth the brainfuck ;)