Programming: REBOL (more of a shout-out than a yell)

Quote from the onsite blurb:

Fighting software complexity…

Software systems have become too complex, layers upon layers of complexity, each more brittle and vulnerable to failure. In the end software becomes the problem, not the solution. We rebel against such complexity, fighting back with the most powerful tool available: language itself.

Apart from the bad pun (don’t ask me what REBOL is an acronym for, I’ve completely forgotten), what that means is: here’s a fast, simple, powerful and, above all, flexible programming language.

REBOL was created in 1997 by the great (and a little bit late, but that was due to problems finding a parking slot) Carl Sassenrath, creator of the kernel for the first ever multitasking personal computer OS with the Commodore Amiga and a really nice guy. He’s still running the project, which has an active developer following.

While the usual reaction to this sort of thing is “Argh! No!!! Not another computer language!!!!!”, here that sort of reaction would be quite inappropriate, as well as costing a fortune in exclamation marks. REBOL represents a break with traditional languages like Java or C:

Firstly, it is extremely light and fast, and the code itself laughably easy to read
Carl Sassenrath writes squeaky clean code, and keeps it lean and mean. Remember AmigaOS, which used to fit onto a single double-density diskette, alright two if you include the Extras? The latest version of the REBOL core weighs less than 1 Mb. Apps are so tiny that if you blink, you’ll miss the download. Check out the complete webserver using only one page of code.

Secondly, it was specifically created to solve the problem of exchanging information on distributed computing systems
Distributed computing is a sort of load-balancing exercise where the work is spread out over different physical computers depending on power and availability. It’s very useful when dealing with large quantities of raw data. Not an easy task, which is why REBOL is designed to simplify things as much as possible for the user.

REBOL runs on a number of systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, AmigaOS, BSD… and executables run on all REBOL-compatible systems without any “porting” required, again a major feat.

There is a slightly more technical description of REBOL here. You can also download it and play around with code. It’s easy to install: just unzip and click on the executable. If you’re into programming and current tools don’t cut it for you, this may just be what you want.

Originally published on 11 July 2006. Have added a few updates to text and added this photo of Carl taken by yours truly. The wine was excellent and I still have the bottle.

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Go on, bother me. You know you want to.

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