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6. AWK > Legacy Culture

Legacy Culture

Suppose I write a new little language that has to run in two megabytes of memory, for a cell phone or embedded device. To what degree do issues of implementation like that affect the interface level? When a user uses my program, is he or she going to understand some of my design choices, or have we moved away from those types of limitations now?

Brian: I think we’re a lot more away from it than we used to be. If you look at the history of early Unix programs, and certainly AWK among them, you can see lots of places where the fact that memory was extremely tight showed up in the language or various pieces of the operating system.

For example, for many years AWK had internal limits: you could only have this many files open, only have this many elements in an associative array, and so on. They were all coping with the fact that memory was really tight and processes weren’t all that fast. Those constraints have gradually gone away. In my implementation, there are no fixed limits anymore. Fixed limits are a place where resource limitations bubble up and become visible to the ultimate user.


  

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