openAPL, screen capture

November 17, 1999.

A coworker mentioned today that he used to program in APL in the past.

So did I. My first co-op job from university, was in a marketing department at IBM Canada, hacking APL programs. They were used, as I recall, to massage data downloaded from an online database system into files that could be fed through the SCRIPT text formatter to produce nice looking laser printed output reports.

APL is wild. I don't remember how to program in it much any more, but I know it was possible to write the Sieve of Erastosthenes (the classic prime number finding algorithm) as a simple nonlooping expression of about a dozen characters. I do remember you can search a database by matrix multiplying the key column with the search string, and extract the rows that match and print them with only a few more characters. Large APL programs look like randomly generated characters and routinely employ such techniques as dynamically generating an APL program and then running it. Structured programming is unheard of with the only control flow construct available being a form of GOTO.

So anyway I had a nostalgia attack and typed "apl x" into Google and, as often happens in this wonderful age of the internet and Linux, ten minutes later I had downloaded openAPL and an hour later I had a working APL system in front of me.

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