Experimenting with Apple's new language Swift

Originally published June 3, 2014

To be honest, I have always considered developing for Apple's platforms to be less than a joyful experience. When the Mac first came out in 1984 I developed the AI application ExperOPS5, which did well financially but at a cost of a steep learning curve (there were many "telephone book like" Inside Mac manuals to be read, and the tooling was not great.) I also developed a commercial Go playing program for the Apple II which was a lot of fun but painful because the UCSD Pascal development environment was so slow.

Anyway, enough of my complaining about the distant past! I was pleased to see Apple's announcement yesterday of a new programming language Swift that seems to have copied nice features from Rust and functional languages like Haskell. I did a quick skim of the free Swift book and downloaded the XCode 6 beta IDE that supports Swift.

Swift seems like a practical language. I like that there are no pointers except for the inout keyword in function arguments that allow changing values of passed in variables - I am sure that none of us would want to do that! I do wish that the language was even more compact, but really, it seems pretty good.

The XCode 6 beta IDE supports "playgrounds" that are like the worksheets provided by the Scala IDE and by Lightable for Clojure and JavaScript. I have less than one hour of hacking experience with the XCode 6 beta IDE but I like it a lot so far. In fact I like Swift and the new XCode enough that I am sure to do a project in Swift in the near future.


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