An interview with Bjarne Stroustrup

By Danny Kalev, LinuxWorld.com |  Development

I think the open source community has a major role to play in this, because none of these libraries are going to be accepted into the standard unless we have experience with quality implementations on which to base the standard.



LinuxWorld.com: It seems that C++ has failed in one important frontier: language advocacy. Many people still mistakenly believe that C++ is inherently slower than C, and the media, often failing to acknowledge that C++ is the most widely used general-purpose programming language, focuses on other overhyped languages instead. Where did we go wrong and what can be done to fix this?



Bjarne Stroustrup: C++ succeeded spectacularly in advocacy where it initially mattered most: getting millions of programmers to use it. Amazingly, this was achieved with no organization and essentially no resources. This may have made the C++ community complacent, definitely fragmented, and vulnerable to hostile propaganda. I suspect that the real problem is that good code is invisible -- even to its users. Consider C++ programs such as Netscape and Internet Explorer. Corporations that produce software for real-world tasks -- such as telecommunications management, engine control, and simulations -- don't advertise which languages they use. Unfortunately, that leaves the image-making to software tools vendors and academics.



C++ never had the backing of a major vendor. Every major vendor pushes -- and always pushed -- some proprietary language over C++. C++ never had marketing clout; where marketing was done, it was mostly done by organizations selling something else (such as a software development environment) that happened to include C++. Also, the C++ community suffers from the very success of C++: It is clearly "the one to beat" and in today's heavily commercialized world, a fair fight is a rarity.



The C++ community never had a well-defined center with financing allowing it to engage in popularizing information about C++. Who speaks for C++? And how would the message reach programmers, educators, and managers? Just this week, I heard of a professor insisting to his students that there isn't yet a C++ standard! Sadly, 2 years after the ratification, this is a common misconception.



So what can the C++ community do now? Make successes and successful techniques known. Articles and conference talks are possible venues, but for most busy programmers, a simple description on a Webpage is a more realistic option. Providing high-quality code to open source sites is probably the single most effective way of showing people what C++ can do (current examples are the SGI STL and Boost.org). Somehow, we have to create a widely known "portal" to C++-related information.



Commercial organizations could do a better job of publicizing the successes of their C++ users, especially if they restrain their tendency to focus on the proprietary aspects of their products.

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