Review Of The Programming Year 2013
Written by I Programmer   
Tuesday, 31 December 2013
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Review Of The Programming Year 2013
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The Universal Assembler

JavaScript Becomes The Universal Assembler

JavaScript was still the language everyone loved to hate in 2013, but in its new role it might be easier to love. As every browser runs JavaScript it makes a good target for a compiler - or it would if it ran fast. Early in the year Mozilla had a great idea. It invented a subset of JavaScript that could be typed so that the JavaScript engine could run it faster. 

The idea was called asm.js and over the year the improvements have made it faster and faster until at the end of the year it is more than 1.5 times slower than native code. This makes Google's alternative approach of supporting real native code in a sandbox look far less attractive. 

Next year could well be the year when we see "compiled" JavaScript coupled with serverside JavaScript in the form of Node.js make a big difference.



Google Takes Over AI And Robotics 


Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the year was the way Google dived into all things AI and robotic. With hind sight it seems like a perfectly obvious move. 

First off Google acquired Geoffrey Hinton and his team to work on deep neural networks. The first practical outcome was photo search for Google+,  but you can count on more next year. 

You can say that the biggest event in AI was the DARPA Robotics Challenge which some, not us, have likened to robotics' Woodstock. At the start the star of the show was Atlas - a robot that looked the part built by Boston Dynamics. The connection is that Boston Dynamics was one of the robotics companies that Google acquired towards the end of the year. The question is why? Ai is directly applicable to search but robots? Perhaps after their headline news with a self driving car Google aims to give us our first domestic or general purpose robot - who knows. 

The Darpa Robotics Challenge was interesting but the main thing it revealed was that robots were nowhere near ready for the task of saving us from difficult situations. Many of the robots hardly managed to complete a task and none of them did the job in a convincing way. The winner was a robot built by Schaft and guess what - it was another one of those companies that Google picked up earlier in the year. 

So Google won even if Atlas wasn't as good as we all hoped.  

Google wasn't the only company that thinks AI is the way to go forward. Facebook recruited Yann LeCun, an expert in applying neural networks to vision, to head its new AI Group.





Perhaps the two news items in I Programmer that sparked most discussion was a novel user interface in the form of a bath of water and the assertion that you could code faster by voice than by typing. You simply need to watch the videos to see what they were all about. 





This year saw the loss of Douglas Engelbart, so often summed up as the inventor of the mouse - but he did so much more. This is the man who not only imagined the future, but also made it work well enough to demo it. You simply need to watch the video to see what he was worth and yet the strange thing is that he was mostly ignored by the big companies until it became more than obvious that he had some good when they just took it. You have to wonder what might have transpired if more of his demos had turned into real products and services.



Many things happened in 2013 but overall this was the Year Of Code.



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