Wednesday Jun 26, 2013

Diving into Scala with Cay Horstmann

A new interview with Java Champion Cay Horstmann, now up on otn/java, titled  "Diving into Scala: A Conversation with Java Champion Cay Horstmann," explores Horstmann's ideas about Scala as reflected in his much lauded new book,  Scala for the Impatient.  None other than Martin Odersky, the inventor of Scala, called it "a joy to read" and the "best introduction to Scala". Odersky was so enthused by the book that he asked Horstmann if the first section could be made available as a free download on the Typesafe Website, something Horstmann graciously assented to.

Horstmann acknowledges that some aspects of Scala are very complex, but he encourages developers to simply stay away from those parts of the language. He points to several ways Java developers can benefit from Scala:

"For example," he says, " you can write classes with less boilerplate, file and XML handling is more concise, and you can replace tedious loops over collections with more elegant constructs. Typically, programmers at this level report that they write about half the number of lines of code in Scala that they would in Java, and that's nothing to sneeze at. Another entry point can be if you want to use a Scala-based framework such as Akka or Play; you can use these with Java, but the Scala API is more enjoyable. "

Horstmann observes that developers can do fine with Scala without grasping the theory behind it. He argues that most of us learn best through examples and not through trying to comprehend abstract theories. He also believes that Scala is the most attractive choice for developers who want to move beyond Java and C++.  When asked about other choices, he comments:

"Clojure is pretty nice, but I found its Lisp syntax a bit off-putting, and it seems very focused on software transactional memory, which isn't all that useful to me. And it's not statically typed. I wanted to like Groovy, but it really bothers me that the semantics seems under-defined and in flux. And it's not statically typed. Yes, there is Groovy++, but that's in even sketchier shape.

There are a couple of contenders such as Kotlin and Ceylon, but so far they aren't real.

So, if you want to do work with a statically typed language on the JVM that exists today, Scala is simply the pragmatic choice. It's a good thing that it's such a nice choice."

Learn more about Scala by going to the interview here.

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