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Introducing Guava

I’ve been fascinated by Forth and concatenative programming for a while now. I can’t remember how I initially stumbled in to it, but once I got going I’ve been unable to stop. I’m a wee bit in love with it.

Wanting to play a bit with implementing my own spin on things and having opinions about tooling, I picked up a little scripting language called Ripen, by Felix, and started to extend it. I call the results Guava.


Guava is a stack-based, concatenative language and editor for the browser intended to be used for scripting and as a DSL for small web projects.

It is a toy for exploring concatenative language design, and the DOM. It could also easily be used as a scripting interface for a larger project. It is likely to change a bit over time, and is by no means done — but I think it is in a pretty decent state for a toy to draw to the DOM.

Guava supports arithmetic, control structures, basic DOM manipulation, object parsing and very simple HTTP requests (GET and POST).

Guava is an unusual language inspired by other unusual languages. While not strictly necessary, being loosely familiar with Forth is helpful when playing with Guava. Guava isn’t a Forth, but it is closer to a Forth than it is to something like JavaScript, C, or Lua.

Here is a good place to start with learning Forth. Or here, and for fun, here, too!


A major goal of Guava is keeping the entire language tiny and easily learnable. With this as a goal, the dictionary is kept relatively limited.

The dictionary is broken into 2 categories — words and sigils.

Words are akin to keywords or in-built functions in other languages while sigils are prefixes that guide the interpreter, switching it into different modes (roughly speaking).


#> ( ) * */ + ++ - -- -eq? -if -rot . .s / /* /mod 
2dup ; <# [ ] abs alert and assert assert:false 
assert:true buffer clear confirm cr dec depth drop 
dup el:a el:append el:b el:clear el:h1 el:h2 el:h3 
el:html el:i el:p el:root emit eq? execute false 
gt? gteq? http:get http:post if inc kv:get kv:remove 
kv:set lt? lteq? max min mod negate not obj:parse 
or over pokedex prompt repeat rot sigils space swap 
times true until while words { }


! ' / : ?


Like most stack-based languages, Guava relies on reverse Polish notation and a LIFO — “last in, first out” — memory stack.

Most programming languages use infix notation, e.g. 3 + 3. If you’ve used Lisp or Scheme you may be familiar with prefix notation, e.g. + 3 3. Reverse Polish notation is the opposite of prefix notation — 3 3 +.

The stack is how data flows through a stack-based language where data is added and removed from the top,” sort of like a stack of dishes. At first blush it seems like stack manipulation is all that a programmer using a stack-based language would be doing all day long, while in reality most folks using stack-based languages tend to keep the stack pretty shallow — Guava also offers an escape hatch, allowing for easy use of variables outside of the context of the stack…which some may say is cheating, but we don’t need that kinda gate keeping.

For more info on how to use Guava take a look at the cookbook.


A lot of programming languages are pretty similar to one another — once you learn the core constructs of programming (control flow, data handling and storage, etc.) it becomes relatively easy to pick up new languages…the hiccup, I find, comes from needing to learn new tooling. Tooling can be inscrutable, and it is often assumed that you just sort of know it…but it is rarely really taught. For this reason an editor is provided for Guava.

The editor is comprised for 2 parts, an area to display output and an area to collect input. Full disclosure, the area to display output (e.g. console) has a few quirks to it that I’m still trying to work out. If these are a hindrance, you can open up the console of your browser for a more direct view of what is going down.

Screenshot of the Guava editor in action

Code can be input into the lower textarea, clicking the run” button will interpret the code. Any text entered into the textarea is saved to the browser’s local storage with each keystroke.

The clean” button empties the stack and clears the data from the output area.

The destroy” button completely clears all inputted code and resets the environment.

Clicking export” prompts to save input code to disk.

At the far right is a choose file” button — this allows you to load data from disk. NOTE the data is read in from the disk, but any edits aren’t saved back to the disk unless you click the export” button.

An instance of Guava is currently accessible at https://txt.eli.li/pb/guava.


Ripen was originally released under the ARTISTIC LICENSE 2.0. With permission from Felix, Guava is licensed under the MIT LICENSE.

For more, check out Guava’s git repository.

In reply to: Built to Last

In a field that has elevated boy geniuses and rockstar coders, obscure hacks and complex black-boxed algorithms, it’s perhaps no wonder that a committee-designed language meant to be easier to learn and use—and which was created by a team that included multiple women in positions of authority—would be held in low esteem. But modern computing has started to become undone, and to undo other parts of our societies, through the field’s high opinion of itself, and through the way that it concentrates power into the hands of programmers who mistake social, political, and economic problems for technical ones, often with disastrous results.

Link logging

I haven’t done a link log in ages. Here is a miniature one for you!

In reply to: Interview with Don Woods

Before brainfuck and Befunge, there was INTERCAL. Its revival in 1990 by ESR may mark the beginning of the esolang movement, but the language dates back to 1972, when it was created in a famous late-night session at Princeton by Don Woods and Jim Lyon. The original version INTERCAL (sometimes called INTERCAL 72) is a rich parody with a more chaotic sense of play than its later revivals. Its instructions are deliberately vague and embrace an almost-believable hacker jargon, collected in a straight-faced, well-organized manual. Don Woods not only co-created INTERCAL, but is also noted for Colossal Cave Adventure, and the original version of the Hacker Dictionary: three essential cultural objects of geek culture.