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September 18, 1999
Programming has always been the exclusive domain of the geek and the technologically inclined. In many organisations developers are often looked upon as a special lot and the staff has to run around to get simple applications done.
Yet, learning a programming language, or for that matter even a scripting language, can be daunting for most ordinary computer users.
Some of these languages have Unix roots and have a significant learning curve for ordinary users. All this is, however, a thing of the past...
Enter REBOL, the Relative Expression Based Object Language.
And if you are already hyperventilating at the prospect of yet another scripting language stay with me just a while.
REBOL is certainly different. For one, it uses syntactic and semantic structure very similar to ordinary everyday English. The ploy obviously is to hook the non-programming majority of computer users. To quote from the REBOL site:
'In the future, all of our machines will talk to each other, not just in bits and bytes, but in a common language, a standard English that spans all systems and is easily readable not just by machines but by humans.'
REBOL has been developed by REBOL Technologies. The company is approaching distribution in two ways.
(1) REBOL/core is being distributed free of charge for a wide range of hardware platforms and operating systems (2) REBOL/command is a commercial version that provides numerous extensions for professional and corporate use. This is to be released in the late summer of 1999.
The language is the result of over a decade of effort by Carl Sassenrath, the man behind the hugely successful Amiga operating system.
How is REBOL different
Most importantly REBOL is remarkably simple to learn. One can become productive within a few minutes of reading the documentation available online.
REBOL is a messaging language. That is, it combines connectivity (networking) along with context sensitivity (dialecting).
More simply put, though REBOL is formal language like any other programming language, its 'commands' or 'words' can take on different meanings in different context just like in the case of an informal language like English.
These features make REBOL inherently useful for Internet applications. Besides, with its English-like syntax, anybody can start programming almost immediately.
Yet another cool feature is that the REBOL code is cross-platform. REBOL is today available on more than 30 platforms. So, Java is not the only one that allows you to write once and run anywhere. Again, Java is not as easy to learn and code in.
Another pleasant surprise is the small size of the REBOL interpreter.
It is just under 150K for most platforms and quite a breeze to download. About 4-5 minutes on a 28.8 KBPS connection.
But what can I do with it?
Developing Internet applications is a snap with REBOL. Here are some sample scripts that will demonstrate the power and simplicity of the language.
Some of these scripts are from the REBOL site. For more examples and documentation visit the REBOL site.
Perhaps REBOL's greatest strength is that it empowers non-programmers, the bulk of computer users today, to actually develop applications on their own.
Only if it were open source too!
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