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Dylan reference manual -- Background and Goals

Background and Goals

Dylan is a general-purpose high-level programming language, designed for use both in application and systems programming. Dylan includes garbage collection, run-time type checking, selective dynamism, error recovery, and a module system. These features simplify programming and support attractive debugging and development tools.

The motivation for Dylan is that programs and large software systems have become too complex for traditional static programming languages. To create a new generation of software--and to ensure that this software is maintainable and extensible--requires a new, friendlier set of programming tools. The core of these tools is a simple and expressive language, one that is efficient but which protects the programmer from crashes and machine-level debugging. All programming should take place at an object-oriented level. Improved implementation techniques and increasingly powerful computer hardware make it possible to use fully dynamic object-oriented languages for a wide range of programming tasks.

Dylan is built from the ground up with a thoroughly integrated object model. Like some object-oriented extensions to Lisp, Dylan implements polymorphism through generic functions and class dispatch, rather than through a Smalltalk-style message-passing mechanism.[4] Generic functions provide a very convenient model for a broad range of programming tasks.

The target audience of Dylan is application developers now using languages such as C, C++, and Pascal who are ready to move up to Object Oriented Dynamic Languages. Dylan is not intended primarily for the Lisp or Smalltalk community, thus compatibility with Smalltalk or with Lisp dialects such as Scheme and Common Lisp is not a primary goal. Dylan has been rethought from the ground up, on a fully object-oriented foundation. A primary goal was to make the language as simple as possible, but no simpler. We have tried to avoid multiple ways to do the same thing, to omit features that are difficult for the average application developer to understand and use effectively, to leave out anything that we do not know how to implement efficiently in both space and time, and to provide a clear separation of the language executed at run-time from the development tools. At the same time, we've moved complicated low-level bookkeeping underneath the language and taken it out of the hands of the application programmers, to make them more productive. The overriding goal of Dylan is rapid development and delivery of applications and application components on very small computers.

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