Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The Eiffel schism

Over the last couple of years, the Eiffel world has been torn in two by the schism that has developed between ISE Eiffel and SmartEiffel. Bertrand Meyer and Dominique Colnet found themselves unable to agree on the future direction of the language. Bertrand has codified his vision as ECMA-367, and Dominique has taken SmartEiffel in its own direction. Both are moving away from the closest we have ever come to an Eiffel common ground - the language described by ETL2.

Thomas Beale has contributed an insightful post to the ISE Eiffel mailing list. Here's an excerpt:
I think it would be reasonable to say that Bertrand and the Eiffel Software group want to go in a more semantically powerful direction, and to do this they have to forsake some of the simplicity of Eiffel; the SmartEiffel people are pretty wedded to the "RISC" ideal of Eiffel (which was certainly a stated ideal at the outset). When I initially read their critique of where official Eiffel was going, I thought that they were right - that Bertrand and Eiffel Software must indeed be mad (just reading a news item you understand;-); but when I took the time to read the theoretical underpinnings of the changes proposed, I found them very cogent and powerful indeed. I don't know whether they are "right" in a biblical sense, but I am convinced that languages of the future have to tackle the kinds of problems that Bertrand and others are tackling in their (possibly quite revolutionary) ideas. In the end, I felt that the SmartEiffel people were overly disturbed by syntax changes (as was I prior to reading about what was beneath them). Any language of the future has to be a "living language"; just as you can't forbid young kids to say/write "l8r" when the rest of us are still saying "see you later" (or in Shakespeare's time, "on the morrow, good friend"), you can't prevent semantic and expressive innovation in a programming language. Practically speaking, it is unfortunate that there will be no gnu compiler for the official Eiffel.

There's much more in Thomas's post.

Daniel Moisset has a very perceptive post on this subject in his slashdot journal (read the followups too).
I also note that SmartEiffel does no longer compile old code. While ISE Eiffel does. So whatever this "RISC" had to do with the schism, there's less risk in following Bertrand's lead here.
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