I’m doing research which will eventually lead to a documentary film on the history of APL.  Does this interest you?  Why?


7 Responses to “Contribute”

  • Hi Cathering,

    great plan – I’m interested!
    Why? Because I’m an active user of APL (Dyalog APL, and because I’m middle-aged I got introduced to APL around ’92, so I missed quite a bit of history. (Oh, and BTW, I’m also the webmaster of the german APL-Association…)

    Good luck for your venture – and pls. just get in touch if I can be of help 🙂


  • Why? I find problem solving with APL more satisfying and intellectually stimulating than when using any other software tool. Like so many programmers who began in the late 70’s/early 80’s, FORTRAN, COBOL, Assembler, PL/1 were my standards. I was exposed to APL at the first day of a new job. It was a bit startling for the first few days, but intimidation of the Greek symbols quickly evaporated and I saw the the simple mathematical beauty. A co-worker once refered to APL as “a tool for thought”. It took a while for me to appreciate this, but I do now. I think better when I use APL to break a problem apart and solve it in byte size chunks. When done, just snap the pieces together.

  • Hey Catherine! Long time no see.

    I moved to London 5 years ago and am still working with Sharp APL as the last APL programmer at Reuters. Unfortunately, the products I maintain are being migrated this year and APL will cease to be at Reuters. I’m not sure if that’s of any interest to your documentary but, if it is, feel free to contact me.


  • Hi Catherine –

    The “Tool of Thought” idea, from Ken Iverson’s Turing Award paper – or (PDF) – underlies much of what makes APL special. Whereas most computer languages constitute an obstacle to getting something done, an effective notation like APL (or its younger sister, J) may help us think about a problem in new ways. See also Neville Holmes’s note in “Seven Great Blunders of the Computing World” – – for a notion that programming may be retarded by emphasis on lexical, rather than symbolic, notation.

    Also, the interactive development environment is such a great help to programming that it’s amazing it has not caught on more than it has though this is not intrinsic to APL.

    Finally, how many other languages have their own folk song? Though searches for it are now submerged by “The Apl Song” by the “Black-eyed Peas”, you can find it here: .

    Feel free to get in touch with me as I’ve been working with APL since about 1972 though most of my work these days is in J (also developed by Iverson). If you’re in NYC, the NYCJUG (J-Users Group) meets tomorrow at 6:30 pm at the Heartland in the Empire State Building:>



  • Hi –

    The “tool of thought” idea underlies why many of us favor APL, or its younger sister, J. The phrase comes from Iverson’s Turing Award lecture – or (PDF) Whereas most computer languages constitute obstacles to accomplishing something, a few, like APL, may help think us about the problem creatively and algorithmically.

    Another notion along these lines can be found in Neville Holmes’s “Seven Great Blunders of the Computing World” in which he avers that computer science blundered by embracing lexical rather than symbolic notation.

    The interactive environment of APL was another great innovation which is amazing only in how slow the rest of the world has been to pick up on it but this is not intrinsic to the language.

    Anyway, how many other computer languages have their own folk song? See for a copy.

    I’ve been working with APL, and J, since about 1972, so I’d be happy to talk with you. In fact, if you’re in NYC on the second Tuesday of the month, our NYCJUG (NYC J-Users Group) meets regularly. Tomorrow night it’s in the Heartland Brewery in the Empire State Building, as it often is.

    Good Luck,


  • Catherine – I’m glad to see that you’re connected with the APL developer community – you wouldn’t happen to be left-handed, would you?

    Anyway, as part of my research on putting up a Turing Award page for Ken Iverson as part of an ACM initiative, I’ve been collecting relevant links and studying the history of the language lately.

    I’ve already mentioned the “APL Blossom Time” song and, in following up references to that, I came across an interesting and informative essay by Michael Montalbano called “A Personal History of APL” ( in which he annotates the song.

    I’m afraid his basic thesis is still largely true but it’s interesting to read his thoughts on this from years ago.



  • Ahhh. OK. I was thinking today that I should post a short biography. I’m adding this to my to-do list.

    As for left handed, the saying is of the original 6 – They were all left handed OR Canadian.

Comments are currently closed.

Analytics Plugin created by Jake Ruston's Wordpress Plugins - Powered by Laptop Cases and r4.