Choosing a programming language

There are five platforms in common usage in 2020. On traditional computing platforms, we see Windows, Linux and MacOS. For mobile we have Android and iOS. Other platforms exist, but they have negligible usage (e.g., various BSD variants and quixotic efforts at creating a third OS for mobile). Of these, iOS is the most restricted in its options for a development language. If we were to put aside iOS, I would likely choose a JVM-based language if only because I spend my days writing Java code and I know it well.

But I’m an Apple guy. I have a MacBook Pro on my lap, a Mac Mini on my desk, an iPhone in my pocket and an iPad at my side. I’ll be doing all my development on my Mac and that will be the first target for finl and what I’ll use as my reference implementation. I’m be tempted to write the code in Swift a language with which I’ve dabbled, but I suspect that it retains some of the unusual aspects of Objective C (most notably the method dispatch) which could make it challenging to integrate with applications written in other languages. For example, calling C++ from Java is well-defined, but calling Swift from Java requires creating a C wrapper around the Swift code

Given my desire for finl to be usable as a library by other applications, it looks like C++ is the best way forward (the only other option is to write in C which feels like it would be a hard pill to swallow in 2020 for application development). On the plus side, there are robust libraries for many of the features we want to work with, most notably ICU4C which seems like it will be essential for dealing with unicode text (and also finding candidate line breaks in text that doesn’t use western standards of inter-word spacing such as Amharic or East-Asian Han-based scripts). It does mean I need to bring myself 20 years up to date on the state of C++ (I attempted to write one C++ program in 2005 only to discover that the language had already changed enough to make my skills at the language partially obsolete). This is going to slow things down considerably versus writing code in a JVM-based language, but I’m up for the challenge.

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Category: architecture