TITLE: Kenneth Iverson, RIP AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 22, 2004 9:45 AM DESC: Another computing great has left us. ----- BODY: Sad news: Kenneth Iverson passed away on October 19. Iverson is best known for creating APL, an extremely powerful and concise programming language. In 1979, Iverson received the Turing Award for his work on programming and notations for describing programs. Concise taken too far turns into cryptic, and APL is often derided for its unreadability. But I have a special place in my heart for APL after a three-week unit studying it in my undergraduate programming languages course in the mid-80s. I've always marveled at just how powerful language can be. In APL, I could write a program to shuffle a deck of cards and deal them to several players in four characters. Within its domain of matrix processing, APL was king. I met Iverson in the late 1980s while studying at Michigan State. He came to speak about his more recent language development work, which ultimately led to the J programming language. J synthesized ideas from APL with the functional programming ideas found in John Backus's FP. (Backus also won the Turing Award for work on programming languages, in 1977.) I don't remember much about the day of Iverson's talk at MSU, except that he graciously and patiently fielded many aggressive questions from the audience. I am on quite a Turing Award ride these days. As I blogged earlier today, I've been thinking of Edsger Dijkstra this week. Iverson and Backus won in the late '70s. And I'm preparing my introduction for Alan Kay, who is giving the keynote address at the OOPSLA 2004 Educators' Symposium on Monday and then giving his 2003 Turing Award lecture the next night. My excitement about Alan Kay's talks is only heightened by Iverson's passing, as it reminds me that great thinkers are mortal, too. We should appreciate them and learn from them while they are with us. -----