[linux-elitists] Nobody's favorite language? C++ and free software

Alan DuBoff aland@SoftOrchestra.com
Tue Mar 25 22:56:21 PST 2003

On Tuesday 25 March 2003 22:24, Martin Pool wrote:
> It was not intended to be quite as hostile as you think.  I admit it's
> not my favourite language, but I think you can still look for
> social/political/market reasons why people use something, in addition
> to technical qualities.  For example C succeeded largely on the back
> of Unix and Perl because of CGIs.

I think I misunderstood your implication. I do like C++, but I wouldn't 
classify any language as my favorite.

> Who gave you the buzzer?  You don't even have your facts straight: 3.1
> came out in 1991-92.
>   http://www.computerhope.com/history/windows.htm
>   http://www.microsoft.com/windows/WinHistoryDesktop.mspx

Obviously my bad...I didn't think it was that long for Win3.1 to come along, 
I vaguely remembered it comeing out before the Gulf War, but it obviously 

> The native C APIs were very low-level and hard to use correctly.  It
> was vaguely comparable in Unix terms to doing X without a client
> toolkit.

ms had a toolkit for developers, which was pretty complete and had fairly 
good documentation and examples done by Charles Petzold with a book he wrote. 
X is different in the relation to the server and client, so hard to compare.

> > AFAIK, msc 6.0 never supported C++.
> That's correct, but it also shipped before Windows 3.1, and before
> many people were serious about Windows development.  This is exactly
> my point: Microsoft and Borland selected C++ as the standard
> application language just at the time that Windows started to become
> usable.  I think it's hard to deny that this gave C++ an enormous
> boost.

Oh, I agree it gave C++ an enormous boost, however, the industry was being 
driven to C++ before Borland created OWL or ms created MFC. Glockenspeil, 
RogueWave and other C++ toolkits existed before we had massive class 
libraries. IBM's OpenClass library might predate MFC, that I can't remember.

> Microsoft wanted to provide an easier API both to encourage 3rd-party
> apps, and also as a way to sell compiler upgrades.  "Making it easy to
> do Windows" was a credible story about why people needed to upgrade
> their compilers and personal skills to C++.

Yes, ms was always looking for a reason people needed to upgrade, and this 
was one. However, they were pushed into that decision by the industry, IMO.

> I'm not quite sure what part of this you disagree with.  Do you think
> people would have written applications in C++ even if all the
> Microsoft APIs were in C?

Yes, they were writing them already on other platforms and using other 
products like Zortech or Borland on the PC. IBM had a C++ compiler on AIX. 
Taligent was founded in '92 and used AIX as it's build platform.

I just don't think that ms was the push behind C++, they were more of a 
follower. C++ was a natural progression from C, because it was able to 
utilize C libraries and link with them. ms was able to leverage C++ into 
their model just like other pieces. I just don't believe that ms was a big 
player in molding the C++ as you imply, but they were responsible for moving 
many developers to it. These of course were developers that had ms-dos shoved 
down their throats with the ms tools as dessert.

For anyone that likes C, there is no reason not to like C++. It doesn't force 
anyone into using the new features and the C code doesn't run any slower.


Alan DuBoff
Software Orchestration, Inc.
GPG: 1024D/B7A9EBEE 5E00 57CD 5336 5E0B 288B 4126 0D49 0D99 B7A9 EBEE

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