How a broken elevator led to one of the most loved programming languages available today

How a broken elevator led to one of the most loved programming languages available today

The big picture: It’s not uncommon for programmers to create and reuse unique solutions to meet specific needs or overcome new challenges. However, it is quite rare that this solution remains relevant, evolves and flourishes after 17 years. The Rust programming language has done just that, growing from a one-man side project to one of today’s most prized open-source projects.

seventeen years ago, MozillaComment Developer Graydon Hoare returned from work to find his building’s elevator broken down. Forced to climb 21 flights of stairs, he became increasingly annoyed that a software malfunction had caused his unplanned cardio session.

Hoare then poured those frustrations into a quick and flexible language project aimed at minimizing memory errors and preventing problems like his elevator crashing. THE Rust The programming language has since become a heavily supported open source project for programmers, ranging from small solo projects to massive applications developed by tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon.

Programming languages ​​such as C and C++ come with a compromise. They provide the flexibility to program the functions needed to run an application successfully but, in turn, require developers to carefully manage memory transactions. Ignoring these memory transactions can lead to crashes and instability within the application.

To ease the burden of memory management, languages ​​like Java have introduced the concept of garbage collectors. These collectors are designed to periodically clean up system memory, minimizing the risk of memory errors. However, this comes at the expense of higher overall memory usage and greater resource consumption to keep collectors running.

Hoare attempted to create an effective and efficient programming language to bridge the gap between these old approaches to memory management. Although it forces developers to adhere to somewhat rigid coding rules, the language manages memory on behalf of the developer, ensuring that any code developed is memory-safe.

By 2013, proponents of the language had refined Rust’s memory management system to the point that it no longer required garbage collection. The language continued to mature and gain support from developers around the world, prompting Rust’s first maintainer to stable release in May 2015.

By 2022, the size of the Rust community had effectively tripled to over three million users and was highlighted on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) recommended list of memory-safe languages. This ranking puts Rust in the company of other well-established household names such as Java, C#, and Ruby.

The use of Rust in the automotive and aerospace industries and by IT companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Dropbox continues to increase daily, reducing the overall reliance on legacy C and C++ development.

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