REBOL Technologies

REBOL, Not for Everyone?

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
15-Oct-2008 21:55 GMT

Article #0374
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Many years ago, when I first released REBOL, I decided to introduce it as a simple approach to programming.

In order to help convince new users, I posted a great number of examples on our website and in the REBOL.org library to prove my point. I wrote simple scripts of all kinds. My motivation was to attract new users to try our unique approach, and the scripts were just the candy.

Of course, although I knew that REBOL scripts were often quite simple, we should be very careful not to invert that statement. The existence of one or more simple scripts does not mean that REBOL itself is simple. No, quite the opposite.

Early on, many programmers who encountered REBOL looked at our simple scripts, and not diving any deeper, concluded that REBOL was too simple. Little did they know. REBOL is one of the deepest languages ever designed.

Since those days, I've glanced over a lot of REBOL code written by a wide variety of programmers, and quite often I'm floored. Many programmers use REBOL like they're writing in C or BASIC. I can spot it in an instant; they did not bother to learn the fundamental concepts of the REBOL language. When I see that kind of code, I wonder why they bothered to use REBOL at all. C is better written in C. You will never hear me contest that fact.

I think it's time to change our message. REBOL is not for everyone. REBOL is advanced. It promotes the concepts of symbolics, context, and environment as powerful tools, going far beyond the traditional ideas of functions, objects, loops, and if statements.

REBOL is for a different breed of programmer. It is for those with open minds; those who are reflective, observant, and those who do not simply bang out any kind of junky code that works, but consider each detail of their design, and sculpt it perfectly as a lasting work of thought.

In REBOLville, we often like to boast, just a bit, about how we wrote a cool reblet that was only 15K or perhaps 50K. Yes, we all love that result. But, I think our love of it isn't just because we built useful applications in less than the typical size of a single web page. Sure, that's fun. But, for many of us, it's more the fact that we can, in the year 2008, easily manage the entire software process: getting it built, finding and fixing the bugs, distributing it to our organizations or friends, and then, a year later, add some nice enhancements, often in just a few minutes. We needed no huge multi-gigabyte, complicated, trouble-prone development system or run time monstrosity.

I think we REBOLers have different priorities, different values. REBOL is for a different kind of programmer. We are of the old school but of the next generation. We want more from our language. Sure, we can write simple scripts, but even better, we can write powerful programs that are the size of simple scripts.

I think it has come time to update our message and website. I should not pretend that REBOL is for everyone. It is not. REBOL is for those who of us who think differently.

Frankly, I would not want it any other way.

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