Erlang the Movie: just the calls

Erlang is a programming language developed in 1986 to improve telephone switching networks. For the non-programmer it's horribly dry stuff, but for those in the know it has some really interesting features. In order to show off some of those features, the creators at Ericsson made and starred in a short video entitled Erlang the Movie.

I cut out everything but the telephone calls, just to see what it'd be like. I like the weirdness of them calling each other endlessly just to say hello. It reminded David of this video by William S. Burroughs.


[Video Link]


  1. Also, if you Google for “Thinking in Erlang”, you’ll find a little document I wrote about getting started in Erlang. In case you’re curious.

    Hello, Robert.

  2. We use Erlang at work – great stuff once you get the hang of it. And that’s the rub – if you are used to working with an Object Language, moving to an Actor language is a big shift.
    Robert Baruch’s is, indeed, helpful as a starting point…

  3. Sorry… got distracted…
    “Robert Brach’s PDF: “Thinking in Erlang”…. is, indeed, helpful….

  4. The original movie is uproariously funny, in a British sort of way. It’s funnier than this edit, because it’s funny at many levels. The silly phone calls are funny, the notion that showing people making silly phone calls is a good advertisement for a language is funny, the example of patching a trivial design omission by trivial edits to the software running on a phone switch is funny, and the notion that one (odd) language is better for these things than other (perhaps less odd) languages is utterly silly.

    A film showing the same action but with the phone switch programmed in BASIC would suggest all the same points about BASIC that this one does about Erlang. (This is not meant to identify BASIC as a less-odd language.)

    It would not be prudent to insist that no actor language can be interesting, but Erlang is not that language. Runtime types, bah.

  5. I once made a similar video experiment with Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho”. I cut all the landscape moments with trees, barns, wheat, fields, the road and fish out and glued them together in chronological order.

    Then I put River Phoenix’ monologue over it and it was perfect.

  6. @ncm – “the notion that one (odd) language is better for these things than other (perhaps less odd) languages is utterly silly” is really untrue. I can’t think of another language that allows real-time code upgrades with zero downtime, without even affecting the running processes in the system. Java can’t do it, Scala can’t do it, .NET can’t do it. The Java framework “akka” is trying to replicate what Erlang does with actors 25 years later and does so in a limited fashion. Erlang isn’t great for a lot of applications but it does this type of application in less code than any other platform out there.

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