[R] Proposed changes to the R Language

J C Nash profjcn@@h @ending from gm@il@com
Sun Dec 30 15:15:24 CET 2018

My friend Morven Gentleman who died recently was for some time chair of the computer
faculty at Waterloo and (Fortune nomination!) once said "The response of many computer
scientists to any problem is to invent a new programming language."

Looking at Ross Ihaka's video, I got the impression he wants to preserve R syntax as
much as possible while improving speed and predictability. His example

   if (runif(1) > .5) x=20

where the local/global status of x is unclear underlines just one issue.

The temptation with programming languages is to allow them to expand. That makes
it very much more expensive and difficult to preserve the package ecosystem in a
healthy and verifiable state. A robust dialog between users and language
developers is, I believe, the best way to move to a streamlining of R. If -- and
that is the big question -- Ross' ideas are workable to provide a simplified
R (whatever we call it) that allows a high proportion of existing codes to run
satisfactorily or with minimal/automated changes, the R community would benefit.

John Nash

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