Programming languages and transportation

Last week there was a gag listicle making the rounds entitled If programming languages were vehicles and I lol’d along with the rest of them, but then I kept thinking about it and a bunch of the entries just seemed to miss the mark. And I’m in a silly sort of mood, so here is MY version: slightly different language selection, just as opinionated, 100% more Truth™.

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

Mercedes V6 automobile engine
Mercedes V6 DTM Rennmotor 1996

C is an internal combustion engine: it’s changed only incrementally since it was first invented, and it’s still an essential component of nearly everything else on this list, but if you’re in need of a vehicle you’ve got a shit-ton of additional work ahead of you. And there are those who would say that essential aspects of its design are dangerous to the general public.

Warehouse aisle full of unidentifiable items
Warehouse aisle full of unidentifiable items

C++ is an auto parts warehouse. Dig around in there long enough and you’ll find everything you need to construct whatever sort of vehicle you want, especially if you don’t mind a side trip to the even bigger Boost warehouse next door. You’ll still have to put it all together, though, and be careful which boxes you open: rumor has it this warehouse was once used to store … other things.

1971 Ford Ranchero Squire from front
1971 Ranchero Squire

Java is a fully operational vehicle! Unfortunately, it’s one of those big American clunkers from the 1970s; breaks down a lot, lousy gas mileage, and aggressively styled in a way that just looks tacky nowadays.

1971 Cadillac de Ville from rear
1972 Cadillac de Ville

C is much the same as Java, but from a different manufacturer.

HH-65C Dolphin helicopter
HH-65C Dolphin helicopter

Python has definite opinions about the proper way to travel, but is still versatile enough to be found all over the world, doing all sorts of odd jobs.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the flying amphibious car)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the flying amphibious car)

Perl goes out of its way not to express an opinion about how you should travel. Despite this radically different philosophy (and surface styling), it gets used for almost exactly the same kinds of odd jobs as Python.

Fiat Topolino hotrod
Fiat Topolino hotrod

PHP is even tackier than Java, and it seems to attract the sort of drivers who are a danger to themselves and everyone around them, but it gets you there fast and cheap, and isn’t that what really matters?

Rusty Luck — beat-up old car with fancy engine
Rusty Luck — beat-up old car with fancy engine

JavaScript looks like something that someone built in a cave out of a random sample of boxes from the C++ warehouse, but it’s proven to be just as versatile as Python or Perl, and if it breaks down you can usually repair it with a screwdriver and a big rock.

GM Hy-Wire concept car
GM Hy-Wire concept car

Dart and Go and Rust and Swift embody lots of good ideas, but might not ever make it into production, and of those that do, it’s much too early to tell what they’ll wind up being used for.

Freight train outside Caliente, CA
Freight train outside Caliente, CA

Lots of people think of them as forgotten relics of the past, but COBOL and FORTRAN and SQL and MUMPS and so on are still out there hauling freight.

Renault FT-17 (World War I-era tank)
Renault FT-17 (World War I-era tank)

MATLAB is only good at one thing, but a lot of people seem willing to put up with its bulk, expense, awful gas mileage, and even worse ergonomics because of that one thing.

Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicle
Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicle

R is also only good at one thing (related to, but not the same as, MATLAB’s one thing), and shares many of MATLAB’s ergonomic problems, but it’s cheaper, handles better, and (despite the ergonomic problems) is more pleasant to work with.

TARDIS
TARDIS

Lisp has been around forever, and for that whole time has been more advanced than most anything else you can find, but is difficult for the average driver to wrap their head around. It’s as if it were provided to us by aliens or something.

Responses to “Programming languages and transportation”

  1. mayank

    I like your version better. more accurate, more hands-on.

  2. Anonymous

    I personally prefer to think of C as a bicycle: it’ll get you where you’re going a lot more efficiently than anything else, but it has no protection, so if anything on the road touches it you’re going to die.

  3. Harsh86

    It seems like PHP is a love it hate it kind of language.

    I think its because its so flexible that some people use it like its VBscript and others like its Typeless Java.

    If you use it right then its a very safe and comfortable drive, with a ton of accessories available.