A good programming language is a conceptual universe for thinking about programming.
Programming languages provide the abstractions, organizing principles, and control structures that programmers use to write good programs. This book is about the concepts that appear in programming languages, issues that arise in their implementation, and the way that language design affects program development. The text is divided into four parts:
Part 1: Functions and Foundations
Part 2: Procedures, Types, Memory Management, and Control
Part 3: Modularity, Abstraction, and Object-Oriented Programming
Part 4: Concurrency and Logic Programming
Part 1 contains a short study of Lisp as a worked example of programming language analysis and covers compiler structure, parsing, lambda calculus, and denotational semantics. A short Computability chapter provides information about the limits of compile-time program analysis and optimization.
Part 2 uses procedural Algol family languages and ML to study types, memory management, and control structures.
In Part 3 we look at program organization using abstract data types, modules, and objects. Because object-oriented programming is the most prominent paradigm in current practice, several different object-oriented languages are compared. Separate chapters explore and compare Simula, Smalltalk, C++, and Java.
Part 4 contains chapters on language mechanisms for concurrency and on logic programming.
The book is intended for upper-level undergraduate students and beginning graduate students with some knowledge of basic programming.
“The Medium Is the Message”
Programming languages are the medium of expression in the art of computer programming. An ideal programming language will make it easy for programmers to write programs succinctly and clearly. Because programs are meant to be understood, modified, and maintained over their lifetime, a good programming language will help others read programs and understand how they work. Software design and construction are complex tasks. Many software systems consist of interacting parts. These parts, or software components, may interact in complicated ways. To manage complexity, the interfaces and communication between components must be designed carefully. A good language for large-scale programming will help programmers manage the interaction among software components effectively. In evaluating programming languages, we must consider the tasks of designing, implementing, testing, and maintaining software, asking how well each language supports each part of the software life cycle.
There are many difficult trade-offs in programming language design. Some language features make it easy for us to write programs quickly, but may make it harder for us to design testing tools or methods. Some language constructs make it easier for a compiler to optimize programs, but may make programming cumbersome. Because different computing environments and applications require different program characteristics, different programming language designers have chosen different trade-offs. In fact, virtually all successful programming languages were originally designed for one specific use. This is not to say that each language is good for only one purpose.
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