TweetFollow Us on Twitter

May 93 - Editor's Column - AppleScript and Dylan

Editor's Column - AppleScript and Dylan

Mary Elaine Califf

Since not everyone in MADA read the Dylan newsgroup or mailing list, I thought that I would devote this space to selections from a recent thread that I think will be of interest to many.

The question

Tom Gordon wrote:

The AppleScript programming language, for those of you who might not have heard of it yet, is a new "shell" or "extension" language for Macs from Apple. Users will be able to write programs which send applications messages, also across networks.

Yes, AppleScript is a dynamic object-oriented language.

My question: why isn't AppleScript Dylan? Apple had the opportunity to recreate a Lisp machine like environment, with a single, elegant object-oriented language for both developers and users. Instead it looks like Mac users will have to live with the usual Tower of Babel: HyperTalk, AppleScript, and Dylan (not to mention C++, etc.)

Are there engineering reasons for this decision, or is this just the result of different organizational pressures and interests?

The Response

Larry Tesler replied:

Since it was I who started both projects (around four years ago), I can assure you that the outcome was not politically motivated.

Note that:

  1. AppleScript is an end-user language, in the vein of spreadsheet macros.
  2. Dylan is a language for professional software development, in the vein of C.
  3. Their audiences will be almost as different as MacDraw's is from QuickDraw's.

    Nevertheless:

  4. Chunk expressions and other powerful features of AppleScript, though not implemented in the standard Dylan library, can be supplied by a non-standard library.
  5. The designers of each language kept the other language in mind.
  6. Therefore:
  7. AppleScript can be implemented by translating it to Dylan.

So why did Apple not implement Macintosh AppleScript 1.0 using Dylan?

Because it is risky to plan a future product that can't be completed until after a more complex future product has been completed and its performance and memory footprint understood. I hope that helps.

Larry

P.S.: HyperTalk is approximately a subset of AppleScript. In this case, we worked to maintain similarity, because the users and uses of both are expected to be similar. There are some differences, but they are not gratuitous.

excerpts from discussion

Tom Gordon:

This is all very encouraging. Thank you for the inside information.

As we all know from the Dylan FAQ, an "Algol" syntax is being designed for Dylan, as an alternative to the Lisp/Scheme syntax. Wouldn't it be nice if this syntax would be "compatible" with the syntax used in both AppleScript and HyperTalk? I put "compatible" in quotes, because I'm not at all sure to what extent this can be achieved. AppleScript's model of object-oriented programming appears not to be based on generic functions, but on "sending" messages to objects.

Brian Harvey:

[Accusing Apple of elitism in distinguishing between Dylan as a tool for programmers and AppleScript as a tool for users]

One reason things have changed is the commercial reason that companies fear they can't make money on software if they provide source code. (It's not clear to me that this fear is well-grounded; the Unix source code is widely distributed and that doesn't stop AT&T making money.) But another reason is plain elitism as Apple corporate policy. Remember how on the original Macs if you wanted to be able to reboot your Mac without power cycling it you had to go down on your knees and convince Apple that you were *worthy* of being allowed to buy a "programmer's switch"?

Remember how in Hypercard there are five levels of intelligence built into the program's model of the user, and you have to type magic passwords to prove you're intelligent enough to be allowed to use HyperTalk? There is no commercial reason for this, just elitism. I'm sorry if this comes off as an irrelevant flame, but I think this question of whether you think your users can think or not is crucially important to the kind of world we technologists are going to build for the next generation. Apple puts a lot of effort into education, and I hate seeing that effort poisoned by this elitism that's at the heart of every technical decision they make.

I was really really pleased when HyperCard came out, because it was Apple's first grudging step toward tearing down the wall *they* had erected between programmers and users. But, in designing HyperTalk, why couldn't they have reinvented Logo, instead of reinventing Cobol?

Chris Espinosa:

I have to correct some of Brian Harvey's misunderstandings and misstatements about Apple's products and history. Unfortunately he uses these misunderstandings to make a point that Apple is elitist, when in fact our whole corporate history has been fighting elitism--the elitism of the belief that people SHOULD learn to program in order to use computers.

I have read recently that AT&T has sold USL to Novell, who does not distribute the source code to its products. I think the proprietary vs. "open" debate, while a good discussion in its own right, is not pertinent here. Proof of that is the extremely substantial amount of Apple II software that was written because that machine had AppleSoft BASIC in ROM, even though Microsoft's source code for it was not published. Good platforms attract programmers, open or not.

As a member of the team that developed the original Mac, what I remember is how we shipped a programmer's switch in every box. The reason that we didn't bring the reset and IRQ buttons out to the front is our experience with the Apple II, where people were accidentially resetting the machine, losing data and corrupting disks. By making it an option (available to everyone) to install the switch, we put the risk-versus-benefit choice in the hands of each individual user. At its worst you could call that paternalistic, but I think "elitist" is just plain wrong.

As the product manager who shipped HyperCard, I remember our decision to ship HyperCard to literally millions of people pre-set to allow them to browse and edit the stacks we supplied. By going to the Preferences card in the Home stack, they could turn on scripting ability. (No "magic password" was required for three years, when Claris divided the product into two versions, a "development" edition and a "browsing" edition. The "browsing" edition that was still given away free still had the full programming power. Now there's a separate HyperCard player that does not have the programming features--still given away free.) Brian's half-empty glass is that we "dumbed down" a programming environment. My half-full glass is that we gave millions of people who never considered programming the chance to get into it. Tens of thousands did. And those who didn't still had a useful tool.

I'm afraid that the issue is that Apple fundamentally believes in using technology to create products to sell to non-technologists. Brian equates the ability to program and read source code with being "able to think". That's the most elitist thing I've ever heard. I respect my customers because they have the ability to think about their jobs, their desires, and their inspirations without having to learn arcane computer languages to do so.

Making technology accessable to millions of not-technologists is the hardest thing we know how to do. I think Larry's analogy is excellent: Dylan is QuickDraw to AppleScript's MacDraw. They are not a class division; they are two points on a continuum, two different ways of satisfying different kind of people. I agree with you that the best thing would be to make a product that could grow smoothly from technologists to non-technologists, and that's also a hard thing to do (but very valuable). Meanwhile, I don't see anything elitist about delivering technology-oriented tools (like Dylan) to technologists, and productivity-oriented tools (like AppleScript) to non-technologists.

Bob Kerns:

[responding to Brian Harvey]

I will add that that in HyperTalk, we have a language which is "easy to learn", but can only be used effectivly by expert programmers! Only us elite programmers know the various tricks by which you can do such things as arrays, lookup tables, or objects representing domain abstractions. Not to mention the knowledge you need to make your code run acceptably fast!

Hypercard's strength lay in its interactivity and the fact that it's relatively easy to learn to do trivial things in HyperTalk when you want just a little more than what you can get with the interactive interface.

One of the Mac's strengths has been that you don't HAVEto program it to use it. However, one of its biggest failings has always been that if you want it to do a bit more than it does now, you have a huge barrier to cross, higher than almost any other system I can think of.

I have the impression that many in Apple think these two facts are somehow logical consequences of each other, but I strongly disagree.

 
AAPL
$102.50
Apple Inc.
+0.25
MSFT
$45.43
Microsoft Corpora
+0.55
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
+2.40

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
VueScan 9.4.41 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
SlingPlayer Plugin 3.3.20.505 - Browser...
SlingPlayer is the screen interface software that works hand-in-hand with the hardware inside the Slingbox to make your TV viewing experience just like that at home. It features an array of... Read more
Get Lyrical 3.8 - Auto-magically adds ly...
Get Lyrical auto-magically add lyrics to songs in iTunes. You can choose either a selection of tracks, or the current track. Or turn on "Active Tagging" to get lyrics for songs as you play them.... Read more
Viber 4.2.2 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device,... Read more
Cocktail 7.6 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwi...
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwide Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dodo Master Review
Dodo Master Review By Jordan Minor on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEST EGGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Dodo Master is tough but fair, and that’s what makes it a joy to play.   | Read more »
Motorsport Manager Review
Motorsport Manager Review By Lee Hamlet on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MARVELOUS MANAGEMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite its depth and sense of tactical freedom, Motorsport Manager is one of the most... | Read more »
Motorsport Manager – Beginner Tips, Tric...
The world of Motorsport management can be an unforgiving and merciless one, so to help with some of the stress that comes with running a successful race team, here are a few hints and tips to leave your opponents in the dust. | Read more »
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Add...
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Adds Lots of New Stuff Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Are We Now In The Post-Post-PC Era?
A longtime and thoroughgoing laptop aficionado, I was more than a little dismayed by Steve Jobs’s declaration back in 2010 when he sprang the iPad on an unsuspecting world. that we’d entered a “post-... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more
A&D Medical Launches Its WellnessConnecte...
For consumers and the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for them, A&D Medical, a leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices and services, has launched its... Read more
Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech
Anand Lal Shimpi, whose AnandTech Website is famous for its meticulously detailed and thoroughgoing reviews and analysis, is packing it in. Lal Shimpi, who founded the tech site at age 14 in 1997,... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini, Apple refurbished, in stock...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2.5GHz Mac minis available for $509, $90 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.