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Not invented here! Oh, Canada! | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays

Not invented here! Oh, Canada!

Last week Ian, my video editor, and Barry, my Executive Producer, asked me to write them a couple of pages about what the Array Programming Language meant to me throughout my life. The idea is to tell the APL story from my very personal perspective, so that people can identify with the history and people involved.

My story begins, of course, with my father’s choice to join Ken Iverson at IBM and relocate his young family from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Mount Kisco, New York in 1966.

And guess what?  The forces that drove us so far from home are still in play today.  Lawyer, Suzanne Dingwall Williams writes this week: Is Canada the Worst Consumer of it’s Own Invention?

So, you see, you can look at APL’s sad fate in Canada today as not so much a failure inherent in the language itself, but something deeply part of our Canadian character.  “Go make a mountains of dough on Wall Street!  Not here!”  Brilliant. And yes, that’s sarcasm.

I know most of you reading are from outside of Canada, and when I speak about my story being the quintessential Canadian story, it draws blank looks.  But here it is… the world can thank Canada for driving away it’s brightest and thereby turning us into World Citizens.  And I say this without malice.

P.S. Now Ian and Barry want me to draw a family tree of all the APL related languages.  Come to think of it, Alex Bochannek, APL’s currator at The Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley asked me for the same thing a year and a half ago. Time to get on that! You APLers out there, will help. Yes?

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