Taking Advantage of a New Modern Language

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-11-13 Print this article Print

3. Will Go be the next big thing in programming?

Asked whether he thought Go might be the next big thing, Pike replied, "I'd be thrilled if that happened, but I don't expect it."

He added that he hopes the language will grow on its own merits. Then Pike noted a significant difference between Go and Java.

"It's not a Google official language the way that, say, Java was a Sun [Microsystems] official language," Pike said. "We're really launching this as an open-source experimental toy for people to play with. It needs time ... to become something that people would want to build companies around or anything like that. It may never get there. But, so far, the response has been really positive."

4. Google's Go owes some debt to Bell Labs' Plan 9

Plan 9 is a distributed operating system developed as the research successor to Unix at Bell Labs. Pike and Thompson were part of the original Plan 9 team at Bell Labs. And Go team member Russ Cox also was a Plan 9 developer.

Although there was not a lot of direct use of Plan 9 technology in creating Go, the link between team members is not the only connection.

The Plan 9 team produced some programming languages of its own, such as Alef and Limbo, which had a slight impact on the direction of Go. "We didn't pull out those languages and look at them again," Pike said. "But I think a better way to express it is that, particularly on the concurrency side of things-the parallel programming side of things-those languages are kind of in the same family tree and inspired by the same approach."

Pike added, "Ken's compiler is entirely new ... it uses the Plan 9 compiler suite, linker and assembler, but the Go compiler is all new. So we borrowed a little technology, but that's just the compiler, that's not the vision. And naturally some of the people working on the project were around from the Plan 9 days, so there's got to be some intellectual cross-breeding there. But this wasn't an attempt to do a Plan 9. This is a language, not an operating system, and they address different things. Go doesn't even have a Plan 9 port at this point, although it would be nice to have one." 

5. Seven engineers join Google's Go team

Pike and Griesemer were officemates who groused about the problems with programming. Once they decided to try to create a language they invited Thompson to join, because "Ken really understands how to make things go fast and has really good ideas about things ... and besides he was in the next office. And in about 5 minutes we decided the three of us could really make something happen."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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