"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Friday, July 11, 2003

Maps on the Wire

Yesterday at the Applied XML conference an involved discussion took place about complex types, specifically a Map (aka Dictionary, associative array, property list). I was thinking about the origins of the problem more than the problem itself, because it didn't seem like such a problem in the first place.

Only in languages derived from C could Map be considered a complex type. (I translate "complex" to "unusual"). The major scripting languages (Perl, Python, Ruby) being discussed this week at OSCON have this type as the bread and butter of their existence. There is nothing complex about it, and you couldn't dream of connecting processes with these languages without passing Maps around.

The Great Ancestors of these languages, Lisp and Smalltalk, were created by the Gods themselves (MCarthy, Kay, et al.) fashioned out of the true primal matter, which is not int, but association.

When Dave Winer froze XML-RPC (I don't know much of the details), it's most notable that it consists of two fundamental structuring capabilities: a list of things (called Array) and an association of things (called Struct).

No one argues over this. Every language has an XML-RPC implementation. It's funny that three or four years later the descendent, SOAP, is still wrestling with such a fundamental construct.

I think has more to do with ancestry than technology.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.