ENTRIES TAGGED "golang"
20 years of efficiently computing Bacon numbers
The Oracle at Delphi spoke just one language, a cryptic one that priests “compiled” into ancient Greek. The Oracle of Bacon—the website that plays the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game for you—has, in its 20-year existence, been written in six languages. Read on for the history and the reasons why.
The original version of the Oracle of Bacon, written by Brett Tjaden in 1995, was all C. The current version, my stewardship of it, and my revision control history only go back to 1999, so that’s where I’ll start. In 1999, I rewrote the Oracle… still entirely in C. Expensive shortest-path and spell-check algorithms? Definitely in C. String processing to build the database? Also C! Presentation layer to parse CGI parameters and generate HTML? C here, too!
Why C? The rationale for the algorithmic component was straightforward: the Oracle of Bacon ran on a slow, shared Unix machine that other people were using to get actual work done. Minimizing CPU and memory resource requirements was the polite thing to do. I needed a compiled language that let me optimize time and space extensively. The loops all counted down, not up, because comparing against zero was fractionally faster on SPARC. It had to be C.
But why were the offline string processing and the CGIs in C? Mostly, I think, to reuse code from the other parts of the code base and from previous projects I’d written when C was the only language I knew.
As the site added features, I got tired of writing code to generate HTML in C. I wrote new CGIs, then rewrote existing CGIs, in Perl. Simply put, writing the CGIs in an interpreted language made me more productive. I had hash tables and vectors built into the language and CGI support a simple “use” statement away. I didn’t have to compile on one server and then deploy to another—I could edit the CGIs right there on the web server. Good deployment practices it wasn’t, but it made me more productive as a programmer, and the performance of the CGIs didn’t matter all that much.
OSCON 2013 Speaker Series
Go is the first major systems language to emerge in over a decade, even though computing continues to change at a rapid pace—computers are smaller, faster, and can execute operations in parallel via multi core processors. Even languages like Python and Ruby have grown in popularity in recent years among system administrators, operations, and DevOps personnel. Yet, as a relatively new kid on the block, Go is a versatile and robust language that has plenty to offer.
Let’s go through the list:
Open: It’s Open Source—Go has been open source software since November 2009, reaching Version 1 in March of 2012. It includes a language specification, standard libraries, and custom tools. Being open, Go has long-term stability.
Concurrency: Go provides support for concurrent execution and communication. There is no need to learn multiple ways of dealing with threads. Go greatly simplifies threading by providing goroutines and channels.
Fast compilation: Go compiles at a break-neck speed. It has robust dependency analysis and a rigid dependency specification to avoid wasting time with unused dependencies.
One binary to rule them all: Have you ever had to distribute your script or binary to multiple systems, then worry about libraries and dependencies in general? With Go, you simply don’t have to worry about dependencies. Gc, Go’s default compiler statically links its binaries. You can use
go build to compile your code and then distribute it to multiple machines with minimal effort.
Readability: Go ceases the debate about the best style of programming by providing a code formatter tool (
gofmt) and enforcing it in its standard library. The code you write today will be much easier to read and maintain in a few months or even years by simply sticking to
And, Go is a language that grows with you. Take the tour…
Rob Pike on how Go fits into today's computing environment
The Go programming language was created by Rob Pike, Ken Thompson, and Robert Griesemer. Pike (@rob_pike) recently told me that Go was born while they were waiting a long while for some code to compile — too long.
C++ and Java have long been the go-to languages for big server or system programs, but they were created almost 30 and 20 years ago, respectively. They don’t address very well the issues programmers see today like use of concurrency and incorporating big data and they’re not optimal for the current programming environment.
One main reason that Go will succeed is how it deals with concurrency. It outpaces Java and C++ as well as Python, Ruby, and all the other scripting languages. It simply provides a better model, with Java a close second, that is able to work within the computing environment into which it was born.