Posted on April 8, 2022 in Technology

The myth of the Rust Programmer

The Rust subreddit is populated by a bunch of people who seem to be the programming equivalent of Sasquatch, in that everyone who goes there as a different programming language’s expert never sees these people in real life. Stack Overflow loves Rust, but 97% of the polltakers who declared that don’t use it as their primary language. What is Rust? Why does finding people who write in it seem so hard?

Finding Training In It

If you go down to your local Barnes and Noble, you should head to the technology section. There, you’ll see a couple of strong trends – Python, Javascript, Java, and C (including C#, C+, and C++) as well as a couple of general hacking books (white hat, obvi) and a small sprinkle of other languages used for specific goals, like WordPress and Linux. At the bottom, at the end of the shelf, you might see a small book about Rust.  

Steve Klabnick, who’s written books on many of the popular programming languages, does have two books on Rust out for the public, but unlike Python or C#, his books were not available in the store. Online resources go deep, but not as deep as other living languages do, or even as deep as other offshoots of C do!

But Rust isn’t some weirdo language with one specific purpose, so why’s it so rare?

Why So Rare?

Firstly, Rust was created by Mozilla Firefox, the software company most famous for making the Firefox browser alongside a handful of other privacy-related projects. The origin of any language changes how it’s received – if C# and Linux had traded parents, we’d be looking at penguins right now. Secondly, Rust is pretty young, released in 2010. For comparison, most people put it next to Python because both are fairly powerful and concise, but Python was born in 1991. Rust is just not as well-established as its older siblings are.

Thirdly, when it comes to the language itself, it’s not alien to other programming languages, but it’s got some quirks to it. It’s format, for example, is sort of like writing a haiku instead of an essay to achieve a desired result. Its conciseness is a major source of power, but it’s much easier to write sentence after sentence to explain your point than it is to shorten that point to a handful of available syllables. Additionally, when people say it’s ‘safe’, they don’t mean safe-safe, they mean programming-safe, as in memory-safe: it’s not going to buffer-overflow your computer into a crash, but that doesn’t mean a determined beginner can’t find some other way to change their machine with it. Rust also does not default to compile inside a Virtual Machine unless you put one in its way, which is a little bit scary.

What Is Rust Used For?  

Rust touches on pain points that other languages can’t. It’s exceedingly powerful, and elegantly simple; it’s suitable for bare-bones programming alongside more complex demands. Rust is a free offshoot of C++, a language commonly used by Windows, so it’s easy to get into if you’ve got some experience in something else. In general, Rust is a good all-rounder application, although you probably wouldn’t want to use it to make games.