Rich kids are into COBOL

Rich Alderson RichA at
Tue Mar 3 14:43:54 CST 2015

From: Peter Corlett
Sent: Saturday, February 28, 2015 11:47 AM

> APL fails as a programming language because it is quite unlike more familiar
> programming languages, and doesn't offer anything new. It may have been novel
> in 1979 but I doubt it was even then. It requires special support from the
> environment due to its non-ASCII character set, adding further friction.

In 1979, Iverson was doing a retrospective on APL for his Turing Award.  The
language was ~15 years old at the time; his book _A Mathematical Notation_ was
nearly 20.  The language was hardly novel, being used for real world work by

I was first exposed to APL at the Computer Assisted Instruction Laboratory at
the University of Texas in the autumn of 1969, on a System/360 Model 50 and an
IBM 1500 (an 1800 running Coursewriter II as its OS).  APL\360 and APL\1500
were similar but not identical.  I thought it an interesting toy.

I encountered APLSF on the DEC-20 at UChicago while in grad school, c. 1978.

In 1983, I shared an office at UChicago with a gent who made a good living at
an investment bank programming in APL.  It was he to told me about geek
challenges of the form "I bet you can't tell me what this APL one-liner does!"
I told him that my response would always be "You're right!"

If you're going to offer a critique of an historical paper, be sure of your
history first.


Rich Alderson
Vintage Computing Sr. Systems Engineer
Living Computer Museum
2245 1st Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98134

mailto:RichA at

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