Views on Microsoft's .NET language symposium

Microsoft has always favored the notion that a variety of languages may be employed to build applications. While C# and VB.NET have gotten the brunt of attention during the .NET era, the Common Language Runtime is intended to support a wider variety of languages.

This article originally appeared here on TheServerSide.NET.

Microsoft has always favored the notion that a variety of languages may be employed to build applications. While C# and VB.NET have gotten the brunt of attention during the .NET era, the Common Language Runtime is intended to support a wider variety of languages.

Over the years, the company convened a number of development labs at its Redmond facilities to bring together academics and Microsoft engineers to discuss language particulars. This summer's get btogether, known as Lang .NET 2006 Symposium, broke the mold a bit, as a wider of variety of participants were involved. Microsoft competitor and courtroom adversary Sun Microsystems was even on hand to discuss its technologists' views on dynamic language support for the Java runtime.

Highlights of the symposium included Anders Hejlsberg on LINQ (Language Integrated Query), John Gough on implementing Ruby on the CLR, Jim Hugunin on IronPython, and much more.

"The CLR, just like the Windows API, is a platform people can build on," said Michael Lehman, Microsoft technical evangelist. "We have worked with third-party vendors creating languages to track general industry trends to create ways of accessing data."

Lehman, together with Microsoft's Eric Meijer and others, worked to put together the event. Lehman indicated similar previous compiler lab events were more oriented to "NDA" information. Lehman said: "This was our first symposium of this kind."

He said internal Microsoft workers, attendees and invited speakers mixed freely with language as the common area of interest.

"It says 'Common Language Runtime.' There is a long history of making sure the CLR is really a multi-language runtime, said Erik Meijer, who is an architect in the SQL Server Division. "This isn't a trend that just started."

Meijer discussed Linq [Language Integrated Query], intended to be part of Microsoft's future Orca tools release and heavily evangelized of late by Microsoft's Anders Hejlsberg. There are precedents for Linq that have been discussed in past symposiums, Meijer indicated. Hejlberg led off this year's conference with a discussion of Linq.

"[The ideas behind] Linq have a long history in the programming and language communities," said Meijers. "It's the idea of having queries integrated in the programming language. People have tried to do that before. Cobol tried to do it for a long time."

"Where Linq comes from is a functional programming background. People have been generalizing ways to query or operate over collections. What we have done here is to take these more or less abstract ideas from functional programming and apply them to mainstream languages for a wider audience -- to make it less geeky in some sense," he said.

RELATED LINKS

  • Lang .NET 2006 Symposium home page
  • Reports from Lang.NET 2006 - Day 1 (dotnetlanguages.net)
  • Reports from Lang.NET 2006 - Day 2 (dotnetlanguages.net)
  • Reports from Lang.NET 2006 - Day 3 (dotnetlanguages.net)
  • Michael Lehman blog home page
  • Dig deeper on .NET Framework 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 development

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