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Ruby language developer speaks at SoftwareGR

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Charles Nutter (right) speaks with Drew Colthorp at SoftwareGR

Charles Nutter (right) speaks with Drew Colthorp at SoftwareGR

by Matthew Fletcher

Charles Nutter visited Grand Rapids last week to speak at the March SoftwareGR event. Charles is one of the core developers of the JRuby programming technology. JRuby is an alternative implementation of the popular Ruby programming language; its advantage over the standard Ruby implementation is that it runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). 

Charles discussed some of the challenges in implementing Ruby on the JVM. In particular, the JVM was originally built to support Java, which is a statically-typed language. Ruby is the opposite: it is a dynamically-typed language. Because of this mismatch, language implementors like the JRuby team have come up with a variety of less-than-ideal techniques that allow the two typing systems to work together.

To conclude his talk, Charles talked about two new features that will become available in the next major revision of the JVM. These features, invokedynamic and method combinators, are being added specifically to support dynamically typed language implementations on the JVM. Charles gave a detailed explanation about how these features will not only ease JRuby's (and other language) implementation, but also provide a significant performance improvement. 

As JRuby's popularity has grown, Charles has been speaking primarily at national and international conferences. This made it all the more exciting to listen to him speak on such a deeply technical topic at the local SoftwareGR venue. About 30 people attended the talk.

SoftwareGR is a local, Grand Rapids-based computing interest group. Each month, the group covers different topics that include anything from embedded programming to agile development techniques to user experience design. SoftwareGR is sponsored by over a dozen local technology companies and universities.

The next SoftwareGR will host Bob Walsh. Bob has authored five books on tech startups and the software business. He also co-hosts the Startup Success Podcast which interviews top talent from around the nation, ranging from Grand Rapids locals to nationally renown speakers like Seth Godin. Bob will be joining us on April 27th from 6 - 8pm. SoftwareGR meets at the Atomic Object offices at 941 Wealthy SE.

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