01 March 2013

A PiLe of fun

Len Shustek reacquaints us with APL, which started its life as "A Programming Language," Ken Iverson's algorithmically-inflected conception that somehow found its way to an implementation. Shustek's post links to source code for one of the versions of APL that ran on System/360.

The software/IT core requirement for MBA students at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1970s consisted of a 2/3-semester MIS introduction (systems analysis, drawing pictures, sizing hardware, but no programming) and a 3-week non-credit course in APL. So I learned this occult language (it only worked on interactive terminals where characters could be overstruck) out of Gilman and Rose's APL: An Interactive Approach on a DECSystem-10, or at least learned it well enough to get a job interview with one of the consultancies that specialized in it when I arrived in D.C. (I didn't get the job). Matrix-friendly APL was wicked concise if you needed to sum up a table of sales results by product line and region—exactly the sort of tool a new MBA could use, that is, until VisiCalc came along. I enjoyed the short course well enough that I was induced, in my callowness, to write a short piece about it for the Wharton Journal, the student newspaper.

Only in Shakespeare and the APL reference manual is ravel a word.

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