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9/4/2014
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Programming Languages Can't Beat Version 6 Curse

Major programming languages often don't make it to version 6, but if they do, they arrive wounded and badly scarred. Why is that?

We developers are not a superstitious lot. We work in a field where every cause has an effect and where anomalous events cause consternation and force remediation rather than elicit awe. There is no escape hatch by which we can dismiss unexpected developments as "God's will," or in its less-religious articulation, "Who can explain such things?" Part of this refusal to accept the inexplicable derives from the awareness that the software and hardware we work with is created by peers, rather than being natural phenomena that hide their secrets inscrutably.

As such, we don't indulge in the superstitions of other professions. But if we were to start, certainly "the curse of version 6" would be an excellent point of departure. For at least the last 30 years, version 6 of programming languages has often been particularly difficult, problematic, or in the case of a successful release, the point at which products begin a long downhill slide.

Consider Perl 6, PHP 6, VB6 -- each one so delayed as to try the patience of even the most dedicated aficionados. PHP 6 was such a twisted child that despite being under development since 2005, it had to be canceled in favor of an upcoming version 7, whose release date remains unknown.

Perl 6 was first described in 2000. Fourteen years later, a full implementation has not been shipped, although nearly complete versions exist. The problems with Perl 6 were legion, and as the thorny politics spilled over the years, the language began its long, unabated free fall.

Read the rest of this article on Dr. Dobb's.

Prior to joining Dr. Dobb's Journal, Andrew Binstock worked as a technology analyst, as well as a columnist for SD Times, a reviewer for InfoWorld, and the editor of UNIX Review. Before that, he was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse. He began his career in software ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 6:44:26 PM
What it takes to reach a new level of abstraction
Each successive era seems to produce a round of languages that solve a set of problems that earlier ones failed to address. Then, somewhere between versions 5 and 7, they run into the limitations of their own assumptions and it takes a new language, incorporating their advances, to reach a higher level of abstraction. Ah, that's the explanation I offer when I"m pretending to be a computer science professor.
Rich Krajewski
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Rich Krajewski,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 4:39:10 PM
I love the way
I love the way "Version 6 Curse" sounds. It reminds me of Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 4:07:56 PM
I suspect...
...that each version takes a year or two and 5-10 years coincides with major technology changes or with the amount of time it takes to get a 1.0 version of a new language out that addresses the cruft in some other language.
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