Busy Developer's Guide to Next-Generation Languages

Remember when TypeScript, or C#, or even C++ was new, and you wished you'd known they were going to "be big" so you could be the person ahead of the curve instead of struggling to catch up to where everybody else seemed to be already?

To help stay ahead of that curve, longtime software development expert Ted Neward takes the time to continually scour the coding landscape -- he actually pores through GitHub repos, for example -- to look for new languages that might not be what you end up using in your day job in 2025, but which could expose and refine the concepts that define the language that will.

One thing that he's looking for is a language that ups the abstraction game, providing a means, for one example, to automatically handle memory management, an onerous, time-consuming (and often blatantly unsafe) task that had to be done manually in C++ but is taken care of natively by languages such as Rust.

Neward shares his expertise in major developer conferences, and his next stop is at Visual Studio Live! Chicago, where he'll present "Busy Developer's Guide to Next-Generation Languages."

Attendees are promised to:

  • Learn different approaches to coding
  • Take away a different way of thinking about building apps
  • Get a glimpse into the potential future

We caught up with Neward to get a sneak peek into his session and to learn more about the next-generation languages he's been tracking.

VisualStudioLive! What inspired you to present a session on next-generation languages?
Neward: For the last decade I've been awaiting the next round of languages that elevate our abstraction level another notch, and I've been somewhat disappointed that they haven't seemed to take root. There's a lot of interesting ideas out there, and I'm pretty sure that if developers (and their management) can get a sense of what we gain by taking this next step up, we'll gain as an industry -- in productivity, in reduction in cognitive complexity, and in security and quality, among other things.

Can you briefly explain what a next-generation language is?
Basically, a language that takes a significant step away from the dominant paradigm (object-oriented or object/functional hybrid) and introduces something "new" into the mix.

A next-generation language "takes a significant step away from the dominant paradigm (object-oriented or object/functional hybrid) and introduces something 'new' into the mix."

Ted Neward, Principal, Neward and Associates

Could you provide one example of a next-generation programming language that you believe is poised to make a significant impact in the future?
Sure: One language to have a look at is Ballerina, a service-oriented programming language that runs on top of the JVM. Because it puts services (that is to say, the same things we talk about when we speak of HTTP APIs, but it goes beyond HTTP in a big, and quite natural, way) front-and-center in the language, we find that writing a new service from scratch turns into one, maybe two files, and a dozen lines of code at most, to get a Docker image fully ready-to-deploy in any cloud service you care to name. Most OO languages have a really hard time keeping up with that, because they're built to solve a different problem.

Inside the Session

What: Busy Developer's Guide to Next-Generation Languages

When: May 2, 2024, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Who: Ted Neward, Principal, Neward and Associates

Why: Learn different approaches to coding and a different way of thinking about building apps while glimpsing into the potential future.

Find out more about Visual Studio Live! taking place April 29-May 3 in Chicago

What are a couple of examples of the different approaches to coding that these next-generation languages encourage? How do they differ from traditional programming paradigms?
The first, already mentioned, is that of service-oriented: What happens when we make services a first-class construct? Or let's think about UI: so much of what we do is write a bunch of objects that have to work together -- what if we took a look at abstracting one level up, and treated the web (HTML/CSS/JS) as an implementation detail rather than something the developers have to stare in the face all the time? What if we elevated user interface to a set of language constructs?

How might these emerging languages influence the way we think about and approach app development? Can you give an example of how they could change our current development practices?
Typically, when we elevate a level of abstraction, we gain a significant reduction in visible complexity -- developers don't have to worry so much about physical details, so we're able to spend less lines of code on dealing with physical restrictions. Other object-oriented or object-functional language/framework combinations try to accomplish this (React, Angular and so on), but we still get tripped up on all these niggling details.

Consider this: when we wrote code in C++, we had to spend half the code dealing with memory management. When we elevated the abstraction level to memory-managed languages like Java and C#, suddenly a whole lot of worries about physical details (memory management) went away, and we were able to free up brain space for other things.

Drawing from your experience, how do you predict which programming languages or concepts will become more prominent in the future? What indicators do you look for?
Oh, if I were any good at that, I'd have made a lot more money as a fortune teller! A large part of the process is to examine the problems we currently deal with as developers.

For developers who want to stay ahead of the curve, what strategies would you recommend for learning and adapting to these next-generation languages? How can they prepare themselves for the shifts in programming trends?
Frankly, one way I stay ahead of the curve is to do some aggressive browsing -- for example, I'll go up to GitHub, and do a repository search for "programming language" just to see what comes up. Most of the first five pages are recognizable, like Python or Ruby, but once you get past the mainstream open-source languages, you find some really interesting candidates.

How can developers evaluate the long-term viability and industry adoption potential of a new programming language? What factors should they consider when deciding whether to invest time in learning one of these languages?
Does it solve an actual problem? Does it let you not worry about something, or let you build a thing in fewer lines of code than with your traditional language of choice? Does it allow you to do some things at a design level that would be really tricky or expensive to do now?

Take a reasonably small problem (something larger than a TODO list, for example) and try building it using the new language, and see how well or how fast it goes. Don't expect that you'll convince anybody at work to use it right away, but you never know -- if it solves a problem the company is staring down, and the company is committed to using technology as a competitive advantage, you could very well be the person that brought the company the advantage they needed over their competitors!

Note: Those wishing to attend the conference can save hundreds of dollars by registering early, according to the event's pricing page. "Register for VSLive! Chicago by the March 1 Super Early Bird deadline to save up to $400 and secure your seat for intensive developer training in Chicago!" said the organizer of the developer conference.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/27/2024

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