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Rust Never Sleeps

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There are 2.8 million coders writing in Rust, and companies from Microsoft to Amazon regard it as key to their future.

Credit: Jinhwa Jang

Many software projects emerge because—somewhere out there—a programmer had a personal problem to solve.

That's more or less what happened to Graydon Hoare. In 2006, Hoare was a 29-year-old computer programmer working for Mozilla, the open-source browser company. Returning home to his apartment in Vancouver, he found that the elevator was out of order; its software had crashed. This wasn't the first time it had happened, either.

Hoare lived on the 21st floor, and as he climbed the stairs, he got annoyed. "It's ridiculous," he thought, "that we computer people couldn't even make an elevator that works without crashing!" Many such crashes, Hoare knew, are due to problems with how a program uses memory. The software inside devices like elevators is often written in languages like C++ or C, which are famous for allowing programmers to write code that runs very quickly and is quite compact. The problem is those languages also make it easy to accidentally introduce memory bugs—errors that will cause a crash. Microsoft estimates that 70% of the vulnerabilities in its code are due to memory errors from code written in these languages.

Most of us, if we found ourselves trudging up 21 flights of stairs, would just get pissed off and leave it there. But Hoare decided to do something about it. He opened his laptop and began designing a new computer language, one that he hoped would make it possible to write small, fast code without memory bugs. He named it Rust, after a group of remarkably hardy fungi that are, he says, "over-engineered for survival."

From MIT Technology Review
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