[SIGCIS-Members] The "type" concept in programming languages

Kevin Driscoll kdriscoll at alum.mit.edu
Sat Oct 17 12:37:29 PDT 2015

This is a neat paper that traces the emergence of "type" as a technical
term in programming languages by turning back to the documentation of
FORTRAN, Algol 58, etc.



Martini, Simone. “Several Types of Types in Programming Languages.”
arXiv:1510.03726 [cs], October 13, 2015. http://arxiv.org/abs/1510.03726.

Types are an important part of any modern programming language, but we
often forget that the concept of type we understand nowadays is not the
same it was perceived in the sixties. Moreover, we conflate the concept of
"type" in programming languages with the concept of the same name in
mathematical logic, an identification that is only the result of the
convergence of two different paths, which started apart with different
aims. The paper will present several remarks (some historical, some of more
conceptual character) on the subject, as a basis for a further
investigation. The thesis we will argue is that there are three different
characters at play in programming languages, all of them now called types:
the technical concept used in language design to guide implementation; the
general abstraction mechanism used as a modelling tool; the classifying
tool inherited from mathematical logic. We will suggest three possible
dates ad quem for their presence in the programming language literature,
suggesting that the emergence of the concept of type in computer science is
relatively independent from the logical tradition, until the Curry-Howard
isomorphism will make an explicit bridge between them.
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