Forth, a tool for cultivating community
I watch most of the recordings of the Forth2020’s Zoom chats. A topic that comes up from time to time is how to get more folks interested in Forth — especially younger folks. In my weird little corner of the internet I can say that there are certainly young folks interested in Forth!
I wonder if the issue at play is less one of interest, and more one of cross communication between these communities? From what I’ve gleaned, what I’d call the “old guard” of Forth meets up pretty regularly over Zoom, and does a lot of organizing on Facebook. The younger folks I know who are interested in Forth aren’t on Facebook, and, at least speaking for myself here, don’t have time to make a Zoom call — I do watch most of the recordings though.
I think another aspect of Forth not being seen as more viable to many folks is a quirk of history — there is no technical reason that Forth couldn’t be used more widely in spaces other than embedded programming, but, because of its long history and its ease of use in embedded systems, most of the old guard seem to be focused on embedded programming.
In both my career as a programmer, and in my free time, I’ve had very little exposure to embedded programming; I’m interested in it, but struggle to even conceptualize what sort of stuff I’d do in that setting. My background is in web and app development. When I dream-up hobby projects they’re always informed by what I already know how to do — games, web development, and mobile apps…I always want to reach for Forth for these sorts of projects, but, so far, I’ve struggled to find a Forth system that is particularly well suited for these spaces.
Now, I know that I could probably make my own Forth system (part of the beauty of Forth is how approachable it is to implement) that is a bit more suited for these other scenarios…but…I don’t know…so far I haven’t cracked that nut (but I’ve tried).
With this post I’m not looking to necessarily “solve” anything, but I’d love to start to explore ways to bridge the gap between Forth’s old guard and the younger enthusiasts like me, looking to do more with Forth. I think the tools to bridge this gap are of two flavors: social, as well as technical. On the technical side I am curious to explore Forth’s “Clojure moment” — a way of leveraging packages and tooling from a more widely used language, but taking advantage of Forth’s expressiveness. On the social-side of things I … am a broken record … and always want to return to something like mentorship or apprenticeship, but, as a stepping stone towards that sort of model I wonder about a space that is equally as accessible to both Forth’s old guard as well as younger folks, maybe a forum? A mailing list? A planet, a la Planet Lisp? All of these things may well exist, I just haven’t found ’em yet. If you have thoughts about any of this, I’d love to chat!