A Eulogy For Objective-C

I missed Aaron Hillegass’s talk at AltConf earlier this year, but was nudged to take a look at the transcript by Caro’s tweet today linking to the talk’s video page on Realm.

Although I’m 100% sure, based on experience, that Aaron’s talk is a pure delight to watch, I also appreciate that I could jump right in and read a transcript of the talk until I get a chance to watch it. Aaron gives a thought-provoking “eulogy” for Objective-C, in which he celebrates its parentage and its life thus far.

When a guy like Aaron Hillegass gives a history of Objective-C, and speaks to its strengths and weaknesses, you should hang on every word. He covers many of the features that distinguish the language, provides a context for when they were added, and gives examples of key technologies that are enabled by them. He is also aware of the tradeoffs some of these features demand:

Loose typing made a lot of things that were difficult in other languages much easier, or possible. It also made bugs that didn’t exist in other languages possible as well. And you embrace that as an Objective-C programmer. You’re like, “This is a language for smart, pedantic, uptight people, I’m going to be very careful and do the right thing when I’m typing in names.

I love his hypothetical quote, and think it condenses the feeling a lot of us long-time Objective-C programmers have about the language. We welcome Swift in many respects, but it’s hard to let go of a language whose idiosyncrasies we’ve grown to love, hate, and ultimately make peace with.