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Ruby is a high-level object oriented programming language. Conceptually it has much in common with Perl, Lisp and Smalltalk as it was developed with heavy influence from these languages. Ruby was created in 1993 by Yukihiro Matsumoto of Japan who is also known as ‘Matz’ in the programming community. Matsumoto has stated in an interview that when creating Ruby, he wanted to focus on how a programmer feels while using the language as opposed to what the language does. Most other languages focus on the machine to increase productivity. However, Matsumoto’s approach to increasing productivity is making the language easier and more fun to use for the programmer. He is quoted saying “By using Ruby, I want to concentrate [on] the things I do, not the magical rules of the language…So I have tried to make Ruby code concise and succinct.”
More About Ruby
Ruby is an entirely object oriented language. Not all object-oriented languages are solely composed of objects. For example, a primitive like a number may not be considered an object in some languages. This is not the case for Ruby. Every value, whether rudimentary like strings or complex like methods, is an object. All objects have classes and all classes have super classes. Ruby also makes use of modules. Both modules and classes utilize methods.
The Advantages of Ruby
There are several advantages to using Ruby over other languages. The first is that it is easy to learn and use, as was the primary goal of the creator. The syntax is simple and can be picked up faster than languages like Python and C++. Ruby is also open source and therefore accessible to all. It runs across most platforms including Windows, Macintosh, DOS and UNIX based platforms. Ruby is a dynamic programming language. There is extensive documentation and pre-written code available for the Ruby developer. Ruby has over 50,000 libraries and many frameworks which are managed by RubyGems. Ruby is the base for the Ruby on Rails framework which is highly popular in developing websites across the world.
Unique Features of Ruby
There are a few features which are unique to Ruby that are either absent or used differently in other programming languages. Some examples include blocks, method indicators and true/false rules. Blocks reduce code complexity by allowing blocks of code to be passed in as a parameter to a method. A block and the function it invokes has the same name. Blocks are invoked using yield statements. Method indicators are a way of reducing syntax. The last character of a method is the method indicator and it gives the user information about the method’s behavior. For example, if a method ends with an exclamation mark, that means that it modifies the object. A method ending in a question mark represents a Boolean return value. True/false also has a different convention in Ruby. With the exception of ‘nil’ and ‘false’, Ruby considers everything to be true. This is not the case in most other languages which allow several values to be considered false. Though already mentioned, it is important to emphasize that everything in Ruby is an object. This feature of Ruby allows it to simplify certain functionalities in a way that some other languages cannot.
Principle of Least Surprise
The principle of least surprise is a concept used in design which minimizes confusion by doing the most obvious thing. Things designed using this principle do what they are expected to do and don’t try to “surprise” users in any way. Many claim that Matsumoto’s design for Ruby follows this principle, however he did not intend for it to be that way. Others, when they find a “surprising” feature accuse him of deviating from the principle of least surprise. To this his response is that he was just trying to make a language that he found easy to use. Regardless, people around the world have credited Matsumoto and Ruby to “reduc[ing] their surprise and enhancing their joy of programming.”
Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails or ‘Rails’ for short is a framework based on Ruby that is widely used in web applications today. Popular sites that are based on this framework include SoundCloud, Hulu, and GitHub. There are thousands of other sites that have been built using Rails. Like the language Ruby, the Rails framework is all about making coding easier. The complexity of web development is reduced significantly as Rails does much of the heavy lifting for you. This makes it great for beginners getting into web development. Rails is an open source framework and consists of a large community of developers, of which many have made their own contributions to the framework. Due to the efficiency and popularity of Rails, it is a highly in demand skill in the web development world. Startups and major corporations alike need Rails developers to create sites and applications for their companies.
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