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Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

  After reading quite a bit about Forth, my interest is definitely piqued!  I have read that it is possible to hold the entire language in your head at once!  I've read that a Forth system comes with a compiler, the editor, the runtime library, and the very operating system itself!  I've also read that all of this only takes up a few k of memory!

- How much of this is true, and in what way and/or to what extent?
- Is it possible to compile native code, and how would one go about it?
- Is the source code included?
- Which package is worth learning from the ground up? (and where can I get it?)

RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

Most of it is true.

Laxen & Perry's F83 for DOS appeared on a few CD collections, so it should be easy to find, cheap.  It should run like the wind on the slowest x86 computer you've got.  It includes the source, which serves as an example of really good FORTH code; it reads like pidgin English.

The source code for native code generation using CODE words runs about a page for most processors.  The 8086 source is extra weird and runs a couple of pages.  Don't try it right away.

FORTH Inc is still in business and will sell you tools and training.  There may be other vendors surviving as well.


RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

By way of balance, a different perspective, too:

The last time I used FORTH, I had been hired to work on an embedded Motorola processor, with which I was not familiar, running on weird custom hardware, with which I was not familiar, using a compiler with which I was not familiar, in the language C, with which I was not familiar.  You see a trend here?

{  Yeah, I know.  I needed the money.  The former programmer had quit in a huff, so they needed a warm body.  They were having trouble getting C programmers, because the pimp they were using was a professional, and warned prospects that the project manager was a former officer in the Soviet army, and never really got out.  I started anyway.  I needed the money.  )

I beat on that damn processor for weeks, and couldn't make it respond like the assistant PM said it should.  I began to wonder if _anything_ was working.  So I took one of the OTP chips that I had already trashed, and squeezed in a public domain embedded FORTH.. which worked right away.  

I was so elated at my small success that I showed the results to the project manager, who shortly thereafter fired me for, among other things, "using that TOY LANGUAGE".

Hey, I was warned.  No regrets.

I made a living as an embedded programmer for more than ten years, the majority of it using FORTH, and/or special tools that I had written in FORTH, and I've never been more productive in my life, before or since.  FORTH is small, but it's definitely not a toy.

It does, however, have an image problem.  I'm sure that some companies still use it, and I know some products use it at their core, but nobody admits it.

Once upon a time, I thought FORTH would control the universe.  Things change.


Yes, you should learn FORTH, but be warned that once you understand it, you'll also understand how execrable other languages are, and why, and why they are more often chosen.


RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

  Corporate environments seem to favor control, over everything in general, but over the flow of information specifically. If I'm correctly interpreting the things I've read, Forth seems almost viral in how quickly you are able to work with it, and extremely transparent.  No corporation could really lock people in and milk them with something like this.  Maybe this is why it isn't being promoted by anybody.

RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

For a vendor, FORTH is hard to 'monetize'.  One package in the hands of one person can outproduce a team of ten or more programmers in any other language, so they'll only sell one or a few packages per company.

For an IT manager, it doesn't produce enough 'reports'.  The largest FORTH team I've ever heard of numbered 15 people, and took on a _huge_ job.  Most companies wouldn't need more than three people on a FORTH team.  Since managers are ranked by the number of people who report to them, you can see why they wouldn't like it.


RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

I'am learning Forth now - not for production, but as hobby only to understand it better. It's very interesting language. I've tried the following free compilers:
pForth (http://www.softsynth.com/pforth/)
4th (http://www.xs4all.nl/~thebeez/4tH/)
gForth (http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/forth/gforth/Snapshots/)
They all are very good, but pForth is my favorite.
So you don't need only read about Forth, you can try it. There are some tutorials on the web available and here is the classic book 'Starting Forth' by Leo Brodie: http://www.forth.com/starting-forth/


RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

Thanks for the links.

I value my paper copy of "Starting FORTH" so highly that I won't lend it to anyone.  Now I won't have to offend anyone by refusing.


RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

The other book by Leo Brodie 'Thinking Forth' is freely available too.
Here you can download the PDF-version: http://thinking-forth.sourceforge.net/

RE: Forth seems very cool, but a little perspective, please!

Yeah, thanks, mikrom!  I'm trying to get back into the swing of things after the arrival of my baby girl, but once my head migrates back to software, I'm definitely going to have a look!

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