Uniconundrum

I really want to get the Unicode support in Smile right. I really do.

The unfortunate thing is that it seems there’s no consensus on what “right” looks like. Some people argue that UTF-8 is the right answer, some argue that UTF-16 is the right answer, some argue that UCS-4 is the right answer, and if you ask a hundred people, you get a hundred different answers as to what’s right.

Y’all are complicatin’ my life ‘cuz ya can’t agree on nothin’, I tells ya what.

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Let there be Unicode

So a few weeks ago, I was reading this essay by Ramsey Nasser. I’ve debated back and forth several times as to whether Smile should keep its strings and identifiers as 8-bit characters, or whether they should be upgraded to full Unicode. It’s a tough question.

On the one hand, I’m trying to build a language that will be able to grow well with the needs of the future, and the future argues for Unicode. There are a lot of people out there, and not all of them speak English. Or read or write English. As Nasser notes, Arabic is poorly supported by, well, everything, and there’s only a few bajillion people out there speaking Arabic. (It so happens that Arabic is possibly a pathologically-bad worst case for programming language support, too, since it’s a proportional cursive writing system and not fixed-with, with concepts like initial, medial, and final forms, instead of a single letterform per phoneme, and for the icing on the cake, it writes in the dead opposite direction of most other languages on planet Earth.) And beyond Arabic there’s Chinese and Russian and Devanagari and Japanese and a thousand others, and a really good future-proof programming language ought to be able to support all that in a very natural, native kind of way.

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Time keeps on slippin’

Well, that was a quick month.

So what’s happened? I’m a married father with a baby, so family eats up a lot of time. And there’s that full-time employment thing I do most of the week. And a secret project I can’t tell you much about but that you’re gonna love (psst, that link’s not a link yet :-P). And yard work, and chores around the house; with spring comes mowing and mulch and weeds. We also had our basement flood when the big rainstorm came through last week, and pumping out that water and cleaning up afterwards was just loads of fun.

But you probably don’t care about all that; what most of you in reader-land care about is Smile, this suddenly-notorious little programming language I’ve spent so much of the last decade-plus thinking about and working on. So let’s talk about that.

I’ve been busily shoring up the implementation of the interpreter, trying to knock out bugs and fix issues, getting it to the point where it at least parses and executes the whole language correctly, and is a full implementation of both the core language and the base-level libraries. I’ve also been writing documentation, lots and lots of documentation, so that when you do get your hands on a copy of it, you won’t just throw your hands up in disgust and confusion, and you’ll be able to learn it and try demos and look up answers when you don’t understand things. This has been a lot of work, to put it mildly, and there’s a lot more to go.

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