Not so Swift: Apple’s new programing language was 4 years in the making

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Apple’s new programming language Swift might be a hit with coders, but bringing it to developers wasn’t quite as speedy a process as its name implies.

Chris Lattner, director of Apple’s Developer Tools department, has updated his personal website with information relating to Swift — including some details of its development. According to Lattner, work on the language began back in July 2010. Lattner implemented much of the basic language structure himself, with only a few other people at Apple knowing of its existence. It was only when several other individuals began contributing to the project in 2011 that it started to gain momentum, leading to it becoming a major focus for the Apple Developer Tools group in July 2013.

As anyone who has used Swift or exampled its endearingly geeky documentation will know, the language draws heavily from the more complex Objective-C language for inspiration, along with “Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C#, CLU, and far too many others to list.”

Lattner notes that features like the interactive “Playgrounds” function were designed to “to make programming more interactive and approachable.” It was also heavily influenced by Bret Victor’s concepts, alongside the interactive LightTable programming environment which landed on Kickstarter in 2012.

Lattner writes that, “I hope that by making programming more approachable and fun, we’ll appeal to the next generation of programmers and to help redefine how Computer Science is taught.”

Those wanting to find out more about Swift can do so by checking out the free programming guide which Apple dropped immediately after announcing the language at Monday’s WWDC.

  • swein

    The name of the language implies nothing about how long it took to develop. What a ridiculous bit of click bait.

    • http://weblogit.net/ Tom

      Indeed. What a terrible headline.

    • San Diego Dave

      Oh come on. It’s just a pun. Good god, the commenters on CoM seriously have a ridiculous amount of pent up rage that they apparently feel compelled to vent here. I don’t get it.

      • swein

        The headline pun was fine. It was this sentence that made it nonsensical:

        “Apple’s new programming language Swift might be a hit with coders, but bringing it to developers wasn’t quite as speedy a process as its name implies.”

      • San Diego Dave

        Yeah I’ll give you that.

  • dandymac

    Seems more like the ‘author’ is not too Swift.

  • Scott Landis

    Maybe it’s just me, but 4 years seems pretty quick to build a new language, especially if it can do what’s advertised.

  • brandon grendel

    Well DUH! You think they could just create a new language over night?
    Congrats on your link bait. I hope my click of the article made you $.20

    • San Diego Dave

      I don’t understand how this is “click bait.” I knew exactly what the article was about just by the title. “Not so swift” is just a pun (maybe a lame one). There’s no false advertising here. What profound secrets were you expecting from an article titled “Apple’s new programing language was 4 years in the making” that you didn’t get?

      • brandon grendel

        Actually, on their facebook post it was titled something different.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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