Crista Videira Lopes has had a difficult time determining whether academic research in programming languages (PLs) is a worthwhile endeavor.
She notes that in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, language processor development was a major issue, given the limited speed and memory capacity of the computers of the day. However, she says that urgency has waned with the advent of PCs and decent low-level languages. Lopes also sees no apparent correlation between a PL's success and its emergence in doctoral or post-doctoral research, while a significant common element in all modern PLs, particularly the popular ones, is the dearth of actual innovation they offer.
This leads her to speculate whether PL innovation, in the context of doctoral work, has hit a wall. Lopes points to some well-known goals of language design--performance, human productivity, and verifiability improvements--and writes that "someone wanting to do doctoral research work in programming languages ought to have one or more of these goals in mind, and ... ought to be ready to demonstrate how his/her ideas meet those goals."
She also has yet to see any study that persuasively shows that a PL, or certain PL features, increases the productivity of software development.
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