Forgotten Language: Jorf could have been Python (or Ruby)

A long time ago, there was no In­ter­net.

Ok, there was an in­ter­net, but I lived out­side of it. It was 1992 or 1993, and I on­ly saw my first web­page and send my first email in 1995. And I was per­haps the third per­son to have an ac­count on a per­ma­nent­ly in­ter­net-­con­nect­ed box in a 150 km ra­dius.

But that did­n’t mean I had no ac­cess to in­ter­net stuff! What I did was buy CDs con­tain­ing mir­rors of repos­i­to­ries like Sim­tel.net (it was a sin­gle CD, too!) and in there you could find hun­dreds of pro­gram­s.

Most of them share­ware, most of them crap, but ev­ery once in a while, there was some­thing cool, like DJGPP (a whole gcc suite for DOS! A re­al C com­pil­er! For Free!)

At the time, I had a side job writ­ing da­ta en­try soft­ware for sta­tis­tics stu­dents. They were sim­ple pro­grams that showed a for­m, where da­ta was load­ed, then it did some sim­ple ma­nip­u­la­tions of the da­ta.

The nat­u­ral lan­guage for that was some­thing like Clip­per or DBase, but I did­n’t have ac­cess to them (or a way to learn it. Re­mem­ber, no In­ter­net).

On one of those Sim­tel CDs I found Jor­f. (Josephine’s Recipe Fil­er). It was a OO lan­guage, with an in­ter­preter for DOS or Win­dows, and it sup­port­ed stuff that was re­al­ly ad­vanced for the time, and it made my cod­ing a lot sim­pler.

Out of nos­tal­gy, I down­load­ed a copy (yes, it is still there), and ran it in Dos­BOX (yes, it still work­s), to check if it was as good as I re­mem­bered.

You know what? It is.

Note: that is JORF run­ning in your brows­er cour­tesy of red­di­tor SpindleyQ

In fac­t, if it had come out 2 or three years lat­er, and as free soft­ware in­stead of share­ware… I think it would have been big.

Here are some high­lights og the lan­guage:

  • OOP
  • Has in­te­grat­ed win­dow­ing tool­kit (for DOS and Win­dows)
  • It had an in­ter­ac­tive hy­per­tex­t/win­dow­ing tu­to­ri­al writ­ten in it­self. In 1993.
  • It looks like a cousin of Python. A freaky cous­ing, though.
    1. Com­­ments start with |
    2. Strings lim­it­ed with sin­­gle or dou­ble quotes
    3. Au­­to­­mat­ic type con­ver­­sions
    4. In­­ten­­ta­­tion con­trols flow :-)
    5. No de­­clared da­­ta types
    6. In­­te­­grat­ed ed­i­­tor and de­bug­ger

Sam­ple Hel­lo World:

Demo:Start
  Msg:Add ("Quick Demonstration","Ok")
    Sure you can say "Hello World" in one line of
    C code. But how many punctuation characters
    are required to display a dialog box like this?
  Return (Ok)

That piece of code showed a win­dow with the mes­sage in it, and a Ok but­ton.

The funky thing is: in the tu­to­ri­al, you saw the in­te­grat­ed ed­i­tor open, and the text of the ex­am­ple start to ap­pear, and then it ran.

That looked like mag­ic at the time :-)

The tool­kit sup­port­ed ra­dio but­ton­s, check­box­es, text en­tries, all the ba­sic­s, and it was a thou­sand times eas­i­er than what Tur­bo Pas­cal or Tur­bo C guys bat­tled with at the time.

The au­thor was Way­land Brun­s. He lived, in 1993, in Colton, Ore­gon.

He lat­er seems to have be­come CTO of a com­pa­ny that de­signs sync soft­ware for Gold­mine, Lo­tus and oth­er such things.

So, he be­came a suit ;-). How­ev­er, he was once a guy that wrote, in his soft­ware’s man­u­al, things like:

JORF Company is just me, Wayland Bruns. I have been working on JORF for six years, and ran out of money three years ago.

Or:

JORF(R) is a new computer language. JORF was created by a Grunt-programmer frustrated by low level math based computer languages that are inappropiate for business data processing.

And you know what? It was the right idea. If he start­ed Jorf in 1987, that means he start­ed it around the same time Perl 1.0, (and the syn­tax is much nicer ;-). He start­ed it around the same time Gui­do start­ed Python.

Here’s a toast to JOR­F, which could have been Per­l, or Python, or Ru­by. But was not.

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