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Invited Talk

Of Scripts and Programs: Tall Tales, Urban Legends, and Future Prospects
Jan Vitek, Purdue University

Scripting languages are playing an increasing role in today's software landscape due to their support for rapid and exploratory development. They typically have lightweight syntax, weak data privacy, dynamic typing, powerful aggregate data types, and allow execution of the completed parts of incomplete programs. While many of their uses are web-centric, scripting languages also show up in non-traditional domains such as space exploration and administration of the pension benefits entire countries. Considering their importance to the practice of computing, it is surprising to see that, in academic circles, scripting is still often viewed as an undisciplined and unprincipled attempt at programming. In this talk, I will summarize work carried in collaboration with IBM Research on bridging the divide between scripting and programming. I will motivate our investigations with some success stories of scripting languages used in unusual places. Then I will dispel some misconceptions about the nature of scripts with preliminary results from a large corpus analysis of programs written in a popular scripting language.Finally, I will talk about the design of a new language, called Thorn, that aims to ease the journey from scripts to programs (and back).

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