GHC Nominated for Programming Language Award

ACM SIGPLAN recently announced a new award:

The SIGPLAN Programming Languages Software Award is awarded to an institution or individual(s) to recognize the development a software system that has had a significant impact on programming language research, implementations, and tools. The impact may be reflected in the wide-spread adoption of the system or its underlying concepts by the wider programming language community either in research projects, in the open-source community, or commercially. The award includes a prize of $2,500.

I think that GHC (Glasgow Haskell Compiler) and the two Simons (Peyton Jones and Marlow) are prime candidates for this. So, being careful to stay within the 500 word limit, I submitted a nomination statement for GHC as follows:

For the last decade, Haskell has been at the center of the most exciting innovations within programming languages, with work on software transactional memory, generalized algebraic data types, rank-N polymorphism, monads, multi-parameter type classes, embedded domain-specific languages, property-based testing, data parallelism, thread-profiling, and so on, generating hundreds of research papers from many diverse research groups.GHC, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler, is the vehicle that made this research possible.It is hard to explore radical ideas on real systems, yet the GHC team created a flexible platform that allows other researchers to explore the implications of their ideas and to test whether they really work in the large. From the first beta release in 1991, GHC emphasized collaboration and open “bazaar” style development, as opposed to the “cathedral” development of most of its contemporaries. GHC was open source even before Linux made open source cool. GHC has continued in the same vein, now listing over 60 contributors to the codebase.In those early days, efficient compilation of a higher-order, allocation-rich, lazy functional language seemed to be a pipe dream. Yet GHC has risen to be a top-flight performer in the online language performance shootout (, comparable with Java Server-6, and approaching native C in performance overall. This is a tribute to the incredible amount of profound optimization built into the compiler, with techniques like cross-module code migration, unboxed data types, and automated removal of intermediate data structures, all done through correctness-preserving transformations that exploit the algebraic simplicity of Haskell terms, even in the presence of monadic effects.The impact GHC has had on programming language research would be sufficient to merit an award by itself, but GHC is having a corresponding influence in industry. By showing the feasibility of purely functional, statically-typed programming in the large, GHC Haskell has also had clear influence on many of the newest generation of languages, such as C#, F#, Java Generics, LINQ, Perl 6, Python, and Visual Basic 9.0. As Soma Somasegar, Microsoft Developer Division Chief, said in 2007, “One of the important themes in programming languages over recent years has been a move to embrace ideas from functional programming, [which] are helping us address some of the biggest challenges facing the industry today, from the impedance mismatch between data and objects to the challenges of the multi-core and parallel computing space.”GHC now supports a burgeoning professional Haskell world. The O’Reilly book Real World Haskell, targeted to professional programmers and oriented to GHC, was published in 2008. It went on to win the Jolt Award for best technical book of the year. In 2009 there were 3500+ Haskell package updates, with more than 100,000 package downloads in November alone. GHC is now used across the financial sector in institutions like Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered Bank, and for high assurance software in companies like Amgen, Eaton, and Galois. Some of these companies came together in 2009 to create the Industrial Haskell Group, whose purpose is to ensure the health and longevity of GHC.

499 words. Whew! There is so much that could be said, but let’s hope this is enough. I think the case is very strong, and both Simon’s deserve honor and accolade for their work. Thank you both so much!