Wired This Day in Tech Blog: 15-Oct-56: Fortran Changes Computing's Fortunes. Fortran the first modern computer language is shared with the coding community for the first time.
My first steps into scientific and technical computing were in the stone age of information technology - and not surprisingly my programming language of choice was Fortran. My geometric modelers, off line machine tool and robot programming systems compiled from my proprietary domain-specific languages to machine control code in Fortran. Kinematics and inverse kinematics .. in Fortran. The first graphics libraries, .. in Fortran. Quite large systems needed to be overlaid and squeezed into small resources. This was quite well supported by Fortran. A lot of efforts went into the plumbing of details. BTW, when I ported my code to the first mini computer available (from General Automation), I needed to add my own scheduler to the operating system - to creating real time capabilities.
With today's computer muscles the highest-level domain-specific languages, if well designed, can be interpreted blazingly fast. With Mathematica's declarative programming style you can express in a few lines what would take pages in other general purpose programming languages. Its unifying approach built on the symbolic language paradigm makes it so easy to develop anything from a little applet to a large industry scale system. And its link technologies allows for linking together special proven solvers in other programming languages and the multi-language IDE Wolfram Workbench supports hybrid programming with Mathematica.
In Idealism vs Realism In Programming I showed that there is a lot of pragmatism in Mathematica 8.
But if I google declarative or literal or hybrid programming it seems the "google-popularity" of Mathematica as programming language is not that high. Why is this so? Mathematica is, IMO, THE reference ....
If I only have had Mathematica, when I had Fortran developing factory automation software. Maybe close to 1% of programmers still program in Fortran?