A place to be (re)educated in Newspeak

Saturday, October 28, 2006

And the Winner is ... Self

I just got back from OOPSLA.  Far too much going on to report all of it here. One thing I will mention was the awards session.

I was very pleased to see Dave Ungar recognized twice - once as an ACM Distinguished Engineer, and once more, with Randy Smith, for the original Self paper,(if you have some difficulties with ACM's digital library, here's the journal version), which was chosen as one of the three most influential OOPSLA papers published in the years 1986-1996.

David Bacon got an ACM Distinguished Scientist award as well.

It was also great to see Bill Harrison and Harold Ossher get an award for their paper on Subjectivity.  It’s especially nice when the winners are such nice people.

I don’t personally know Pattie Maes, the author of the other (not the third - there was no ranking among the winning papers) award winning paper, but it is a classic and truly deserving of recognition.

I hope these awards get people to go back and read those papers again. They are all great idea papers. As Dave said when accepting the award, the Self paper had no proofs, no discussion of implementation, and was not an extension of
anything. This is in sharp contrast to most of the work that gets published today, which is largely incremental. It’s almost impossible to get a paper accepted that doesn’t have a fairly complete implementation, or a lot of formalism.  This is perhaps inevitable in a maturing field, but it isn’t nearly as much fun, as interesting, as inspiring or as important.

It would be very good if more people understood the ideas rather than the details of particular manifestations we see today. Comparing Self with some of the languages that are popular right now would be a very good exercise for anyone interested in programming language design.  It helps gauge the quality of the designs and the implementations, and gives a perspective that most people are missing.

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