Sunday, March 21, 2010

Java versus Google Go

An interesting new systems programming language was announced by Google at the end of last year - The Go Programming Language ( Is this what Java should have been?

Go is of course new and old. It is a new language that derives a lot from the past work done by its creators at Bell Labs. You can even see copyright notices from Plan 9 etc. all over the place. Therefore although the language is new, it is built upon years of experience.

In general I like the new language. Two features are particularly nice:
  • Any object can be cast to an interface as long as the object implements the signature of the interface (sorry for using Java terminology here).
  • Go routines are cool as it overcomes the problem that equating a thread with a process flow creates. In other languages, if your thread blocks, your program halts. In Go, a routine that is blocked is moved out and some other routine takes it place on the thread. This will be very good for servers that need the ability to multiplex processing over a limited set of threads.
There are a few ugly things too. My dislikes are the built in allocation functions new() and make() and the  pointer type. Why this mess? Java is so neat you either have primitives or references. References are like pointers except that you cannot do any pointer operations with them.

The top feature that is missing is an exception handling mechanism. I have programmed many years in C and now in Java, and I can tell you that it is far easier to create robust error handling in Java. Of course, checked exceptions were a mistake (I have changed my mind about them) and I think Go should avoid them.

I wish I had the luxury of rewriting SimpleDBM in Go. It would be an interesting and fun thing to do. But I have better things to do...  I am hoping that I can at least create a network client in Go, so that it is possible to talk to the SimpleDBM server from Go.

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