Is Julia the Next Big Programming Language? MIT Thinks so, as Version 1.0 Lands

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Julia, the MIT-created programming language has just released version 1.0. Hailed as a solution for developers “who want it all”, it has become extremely popular with developers in the six years since creation.

First released in 2012, Julia combines the speed of C with the usability of Python.  It takes the dynamics of Ruby whilst equaling the mathematical genius of MatLab.

Professor Alan Edelman has been quoted as saying that “The release of Julia 1.0 signals that Julia is now ready to change the technical world by combining the high-level productivity and ease of use of Python and R with the lightning-fast speed of C++”.

The nature of Julia’s capabilities and its ability to spread workloads across hundreds of thousands of processing cores has contributed to it being used in anything from machine learning to large-scale supercomputer simulation.

MIT insists that Julia is the only high-level dynamic programming language in what it terms the “petaflop club.” The program has made it possible to simulate over 188 million stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects on Cori, which ranks 10th globally as the most powerful supercomputer.  The entire simulation ran for a total of 14.6 minutes and used 650,000 Intel Knights Landing Xeon Phi cores to control 1.5 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second).

Julia is also used for powering self-driving cars and controlling 3-D printers.

It gets good results when used in augmented reality, genomics, machine learning, and risk management.

MIT researchers utilized Julia when developing the Next-Generation Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS-X), which helped improve school bus routing for Boston Public Schools.

Julia was developed at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and remains a free and open-source language.  It boasts more than 700 active contributors and has 1,900 registered packages.  It has been downloaded over two million times in the past year and this is expected to increase.

However, despite all this Julia has still not made an appearance on the top-10 lists of the most popular programming languages.  This may change as both the developer-focused analyst RedMonk and the TIOBE programming index mentioned the increased usage of Julia by developers.  RedMonk has gone as far as to state that a major tech vendor has just expressed an interest in using the language.

Julia is currently used by many major players including Aviva, Capital One, and Netflix.  Over 700 universities and research institutions use it to date.

The main benefit is its chameleon-like ability to cater to many different requirements.  It is dynamically typed but supports optional type declarations like a scripting language.  However, it is also an efficient native code for multiple platforms via LLVM.

It can show multiple object-oriented and functional programming patterns with its multiple dispatch paradigm.  It uses a syntax that is effective with mathematical operations and contains many numeric datatypes with support for parallelism.