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Apple's Swift programming language has been in the works for 4 years


Of the many surprises Apple had in store for us this past Monday, the introduction of an entirely new programming language called Swift was particularly well received by developers.

John Gruber's tweet in the wake of the announcement sums things up rather well:

Huge news indeed. Swift is a high level programming language that promises to be more approachable than Objective-C, making it easier for developers to get their hands dirty and churn out incredible apps. Just as important, Swift can coexist peacefully alongside Objective-C code from within the same app. All in all, developers appear to be exceedingly excited about Swift.

Now it's fair to say that absolutely no one was predicting that Apple would introduce an entirely new programming language this week, which tends to make the story behind Swift all the more intriguing.

To that end, Apple's Chris Lattner -- who was the original mind behind Swift's development -- provides us with a few details regarding the timeframe surrounding Swift's development.

I started work on the Swift Programming Language in July of 2010. I implemented much of the basic language structure, with only a few people knowing of its existence. A few other (amazing) people started contributing in earnest late in 2011, and it became a major focus for the Apple Developer Tools group in July 2013.

The Swift language is the product of tireless effort from a team of language experts, documentation gurus, compiler optimization ninjas, and an incredibly important internal dogfooding group who provided feedback to help refine and battle-test ideas. Of course, it also greatly benefited from the experiences hard-won by many other languages in the field, drawing ideas from Objective-C, Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C#, CLU, and far too many others to list.

The Xcode Playgrounds feature and REPL were a personal passion of mine, to make programming more interactive and approachable. The Xcode and LLDB teams have done a phenomenal job turning crazy ideas into something truly great. Playgrounds were heavily influenced by Bret Victor's ideas, by Light Table and by many other interactive systems. I hope that by making programming more approachable and fun, we'll appeal to the next generation of programmers and to help redefine how Computer Science is taught.

Remember, you can check out Apple's book on the Swift programming language for free from the iBookstore.

Video of the the Swift announcement from WWDC can be seen below courtesy of The Verge. The audience applause really speaks volumes.

And as a final point of interest, Lattner initially began working at Apple in 2005 when he joined the Developer Tools Group.

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