When comparing APL vs Clojure, the Slant community recommends Clojure for most people. In the question“What is the best programming language to learn first?” Clojure is ranked 11th while APL is ranked 51st. The most important reason people chose Clojure is:
Clojure programmers are highly encouraged to use immutable data in their code. Therefore, most data will be immutable by default. State change is handled by functions (for transformations) and atoms (an abstraction that encapsulates the idea of some entity having an identity).
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No complicated loop processing to apply a function to a array of arrays. Functions are defined in a way that they will typically operate the same way on any number of array dimensions. This, along with the clear syntax, leads to very compact code that can be comprehended in a single line, rather than spread out over many pages.
Pro Clear syntax
There is no operator precedence to memorize, as everything is evaluated right-to-left. E.g., in APL 3*10+3 = 39. You do have to type in some otherwise unusual characters, such as ↓ and ∊, but those are easy enough to pick up -- and they have the advantage of being easily remembered once understood, as they often have some connection to common mathematical symbols.
You can seriously implement Conway's Game of Life in one line. There's a reason we do algebra with symbols instead of story problems. APL is good as a language of thought, since you can hold entire algorithms in your head at once.
Pro Immutability is the default
Clojure programmers are highly encouraged to use immutable data in their code. Therefore, most data will be immutable by default.
State change is handled by functions (for transformations) and atoms (an abstraction that encapsulates the idea of some entity having an identity).
Pro Minimal syntax
Being a LISP, programs are simple: they're just functions and data. That it doesn't get bogged down with syntax or the loftier FP concepts like monads makes it one of most approachable functional languages for beginners.
Pro Tries to solve problems as simply as possible
Simplicity is one of the pillars on which Clojure is built. Clojure tries to solve many problems in software development as simply as possible. Instead of building complex interfaces, objects or factories, it uses immutability and simple data structures.
Pro Good for writing concurrent programs
Since Clojure is designed for concurrency, it offers things like Software Transaction Memory, functional programming without side-effects and immutable data structures right out of the box. This means that the development team can focus their energies on developing features instead of concurrency details.
Pro Huge ecosystem of libraries to work with
There's a very large ecosystem of high-quality Clojure libraries which developers can use. One example is Incanter. It's a great data analytics library and a very powerful tool for dealing with matrices, datasets and csv files.
Pro Cross platform
Clojure compiles to JVM bytecode and runs inside the JVM. This means that applications written in Clojure are cross-platform out of the box.
Pro Rich Hickey
The creator is so awesome, he's a feature. Just look up his talks and see why.
Clojure has an elegant macro system which enables language additions, Domain-specific languages (DSLs), to be created much easier than most other languages (with the exception of Racket, perhaps).
Pro Dynamic language
A superb data processing language. While rich type and specification systems are available they are optional.
Pro Great tool used in automating, configuring and managing dependencies available
Leiningen is a very useful tool for Clojure developers. It helps wiht automation, configuration and dependency management. It's basically a must for every Clojure project.
Pro Game is available with which you can learn Clojure
Nightmod is a tool used to make "live-moddable" games. It displays the game's code while you are playing and allows you to inject new code using Clojure. This can be a fun and useful experience for people trying to learn Clojure.
Pro No C/Java syntax
APL symbols are only used by APL. You have to learn how to type them and how to read them. It doesn't work well with standard text editors , version control systems, search engines, or web forums. This makes it difficult for a beginner to find help.
Con Does not prepare you for most of the practical programming languages of today
While APL does have a strong use in certain areas (mostly mathematically intensive applications), it is a Domain-Specific language. That along with the fact that its syntax is not similar to C-like or other common syntax forms means that learning APL and expecting it to help you with learning other languages is like learning Calculus and expecting it to make English easier.
Con Write-only language
Maybe you can learn to read it with experience. And an interpreter. Reading APL is like reading a college math book. You might have to study a single line for fifteen minutes to understand what it's doing. And that's if you're an expert at APL. This also applies if you wrote it yourself more than a month ago. hopefully you have comments.
Con Flawless diamond
You can't extend the language itself. (J does this better.) Of course, what's built in is quite powerful.
Con Confusing error messages
Clojure's error messages more often than not are very confusing. They usually involve stack traces that do not thoroughly explain where the error was caused or what caused it.
Con Tied to the JVM and it's limitations.
Some language constructs were obviously created as workarounds for JVM limitations. This makes the language much less elegant than it could have been.
Also, the JVM has a very cumbersome FFI.
Con Syntax can be alien / jarring for those used to other Lisps
Perhaps some may consider this attribute an advantage, but I do not. Clojure does not attempt to maintain significant compatibility with other Lisps. So, if you already know a Lisp or are used to the way Lisp works in general, you'll probably be confused if you take a look at Clojure. See these resources for more details on this subject: