Four Languages from Forty Years Ago — Scott Wlaschin

Volodymyr Pavlyshyn
3 min readSep 25


Some YouTube content is pricele to watch I believe this video will make you better as a developer

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, programming languages have been the cornerstone that has enabled us to build everything from operating systems to web applications. But have you ever wondered how these languages came to be? What were the design philosophies that shaped them? In a fascinating video by YouTube Channel, the speaker takes us on a journey through the history of programming languages, exploring the unique features and philosophies that have shaped them.

The Genesis: APL

The Power of Symbols

APL (A Programming Language) was one of the earliest programming languages, developed by Kenneth E. Iverson. It was unique in its use of symbols to represent operations, making it incredibly concise. For example, the expression X + Y × Z could be written as X +.× Y Z.

Lessons from APL

  • Conciseness Matters: APL showed that a language could be both powerful and concise, allowing for more expressive code.
  • Domain-Specificity: APL was initially designed for mathematical notation, demonstrating the importance of domain-specific languages.

The Logical Approach: Prolog

Logic Over Syntax

Prolog, short for “Programming in Logic,” was a language that focused on symbolic reasoning. Unlike traditional languages, Prolog used facts and rules to derive conclusions, making it ideal for AI and expert systems.

Lessons from Prolog

  • Declarative Nature: Prolog taught us the power of declarative programming, where you specify what you want, not how to get it.
  • Backtracking: The language introduced the concept of backtracking, a powerful tool for exploring all possible solutions to a problem.

Functional Purity: ML

The Functional Paradigm

ML (Meta-Language) brought functional programming into the mainstream. It emphasized immutability, first-class functions, and type inference.

Lessons from ML

  • Type Inference: ML introduced the concept of type inference, making the code more readable and less error-prone.
  • Composability: The language emphasized building larger functions from smaller, reusable ones, promoting code reusability.

Object-Oriented Pioneer: Smalltalk

Everything is an Object

Smalltalk was revolutionary in its approach to object-oriented programming. Everything in Smalltalk is an object, and everything is a message.

Lessons from Smalltalk

  • Consistency: Smalltalk taught us the importance of a consistent model. If everything is an object, then the language becomes easier to understand.
  • Interactivity: The language was designed to be interactive, allowing for real-time debugging and coding, emphasizing the importance of a good user experience.

The Spreadsheet Revolution: VisiCalc

More Than Just Cells

VisiCalc was not a programming language in the traditional sense, but it introduced many to the concept of programming. It was a domain-specific language for spreadsheets.

Lessons from VisiCalc

  • Domain-Specific Languages: VisiCalc showed that sometimes a specialized language can be more powerful than a general-purpose one for certain tasks.
  • Interactivity: Like Smalltalk, VisiCalc emphasized the importance of an interactive environment.


Programming languages have evolved significantly over the years, each contributing unique ideas and paradigms. From APL’s symbolic power to Prolog’s logical reasoning, from ML’s functional purity to Smalltalk’s object-oriented consistency, and finally to VisiCalc’s domain-specific revolution, each language has left an indelible mark on how we think about programming today.

So, what’s the takeaway? Learning multiple languages and paradigms can significantly broaden your understanding of programming. It’s not just about curly braces and semicolons; it’s about understanding different ways to solve problems and express ideas in code.



Volodymyr Pavlyshyn

I believe in SSI, web5 web3 and democratized open data.I make all magic happens! dream & make ideas real, read poetry, write code, cook, do mate, and love.