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.

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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