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Forth Programmer

February 27th, 2015 by Derrick

I am feeling quite nostalgic as I write this article. My first job as a professional programmer was with an organisation that used the Forth computer language. I was part of a team that could do anything computer related. This team had some super-human programmers (I was not one of them) who could do super-human things. The whole team shared in the glory and everyone was super confident. This confidence has stayed with me.

Something else that stayed with me was the philosophy – get the work done (the problem solved) quickly and efficiently; use minimal resources.

Currently my only Forth use is maintenance work on existing Forth systems, controlling existing hardware. A few years ago there was a project that needed an interactive environment for hardware development. Decided on Python, as I felt that Forth would have too steep a learning curve for the maintenance programmers.

This post was inspired by a comment by Vlad Patryshev to the article:
“My success story with Forth was that there was a year to develop a drilling station simulator (that’s deep drilling, and it was in Russia). The Engineer assigned to that had wasted 11 months trying to write something smart in c. Then we were out of time. I took over, spent, sorry, 3 weeks writing a Forth interpreter for that specific chip, with all the blackjacks regarding the inputs etc. The remaining week (before New Year) I wrote the simulator; as you guess, it was in Forth, and it was just several pages of code that drilling technology engineers could read (and fix) – that including a formula interpreter. Since then, Forth was feeding me and my friends for several years.”

Something like the above would be a dream. I am still a Forth programmer at heart and would love to use Forth for everything. The Internet of Things is looking very interesting. However, the Web is the current dominant paradigm but I cannot see how to use Forth there.

So, I strive to find the most efficient Web technologies for the task at hand. WordPress is not the most efficient per se but for client systems there is currently nothing to beat it. It would take me many months to write a custom system that comes close.

Stay strong.

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