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Every time I check out a web page dedicated to some programming language I always see the word "powerful" in the list of idiosyncrasies / attributes.

If every programming language is powerful why do they put that word in the tutorials / documentations?

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A hammer is powerful. More powerful in the hands of a skilled craftsman. More powerful when used for its intended purpose. As the sole tool to build a skyscraper...not so powerful. Common sense no? –  P.Brian.Mackey May 11 '11 at 13:40
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Do you think anyone would want to market their programming languaeg as "weak", "insipid", or "under-performing"? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 11 '11 at 13:46
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Now that they got your attention, did you read more to find out how powerful? –  JeffO May 11 '11 at 14:03
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@Frustrated, it would be nice if they were at least honest and were willing to point out the weaknesses in their language. Too often then claim to be the only hammer you'll need. –  edA-qa mort-ora-y May 11 '11 at 14:05
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@Steve314 Turing machine 2011 is packed with new features and powerful extensions to last year's model. The infinite tape is now twice as long too! –  Flexo May 12 '11 at 8:12

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I can't think of a language that was ever described as weak. Yes, I see it as marketing blurb, not only that, it places the onus for failure on the programmer rather than on the core capacities of the language. I mean, the language is powerful, so if there are problems with code it clearly cannot lie with the specifications for what is obviously an amazing language.

Thing is, if the next new language comes along does not describe itself as powerful, it will have an immediate disadvantage against previously existing competitors which do describe themselves as powerful. It's like an eternal circle now.

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Ok, I see the point in your second paragraph. "if the next new language comes along does not describe itself as powerful, it will have an immediate disadvantage against previously existing competitors". So if a language misses this "feature" it is a disadvantage. You don't see my point though...I wasn't talking about weakness, I was talking about "powerful". –  Adam Arold May 11 '11 at 14:11
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I do see your point. I think perhaps you don't see mine. The simple fact is attributes perceived as negative are never used. Ever. The opposite attribute is always used. –  temptar May 11 '11 at 14:13
    
How about BASIC? –  Mark Canlas May 12 '11 at 4:48

Power is relative. Every language is more powerful in some way than older languages. Java is more powerful than C++ because it simplifies memory management. C++ is more powerful than Java because it has template classes and functions and operator overloading and deterministic destruction.

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Because it's always true in some sense. One or more of these powerful aspects applies to all programming languages:

  • Requires powerful computer to compile
  • Only powerful brains can comprehend
  • Old code has a powerful, overwhelming smell
  • The license exerts powerful control over your budget
  • Design goal originates from powerful drug visions
  • Creates a powerful drive to adopt a different language

I'm sure I could go on, but I'm not even sure what powerful actually means. Is the language efficient, expressive, succinct, or what. Just another weasle word.

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And I need powerful hands to crunch the installation disks. :) –  Adam Arold May 11 '11 at 22:56

If you're referring to its use in sentences like "The X programming language is a powerful, succinct, elegant tool for doing Y and Z.", well, that's advertisement/propaganda. If you listen to all of them, all languages are powerful, all food is delicious, all cars are either family-friendly or cool/fast, all countries are righteous and heroic in a world of traitors and inhuman dictators, all religions are right, etc.

Like half of the other examples, it's not completely false but not even close to the whole truth - language A works well for tasks like X, language B works better for tasks like Y, both such at what the other is good at. (Sometimes, there are languages that are completely and utterly useless for practical purposes and only created and studied for comedy. These are esoteric languages and nobody writes serious propaganda for them.)

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Well I know that it is propaganda, but I think that even the dumbest ones can spot this, so it may turn out to be reversed-propaganda. :) –  Adam Arold May 11 '11 at 14:00
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I'd say the same about most advertisement, yet people who studied how to make money think it helps them make more money and spend tremedous sums on it. Similarily, people with an affinity for a certain language seem to think they have to shout out blatantly how incredibly great that language is. That includes it being powerful. –  delnan May 11 '11 at 14:06

Rule #207 of programming languages is that they're all good at some things (i.e., are powerful) and really suck at others.

The marketing material falls short in describing where the language it's pushing is powerful. For example, Perl is great at text processing because it has some powerful features that make it easy to handle strings but is a real stinker for high-performance number crunching. FORTRAN is the opposite.

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