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Interactive Data Language (IDL) is a programming language used for data analysis, particularly in the fields of astronomy, atmospheric physics, and medical imaging.

Commonly used for interactive processing of large amounts of data, IDL is vectorized, numerical, and interactive. Its syntax is similar to Fortran and includes some of the constructs of C. It shares a common syntax with PV-Wave, as it originated from the same codebase, although the languages have since diverged considerably.

The languages that led up to IDL were developed at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the 1970s. The chief designer, David Stern, first developed Rufus, which was a vector-oriented calculator that ran on the PDP-12. A version of Rufus for the PDP-8 was the Mars Mariner Spectrum Editors (MMED), which was used to interpret data from the Mariner 7 and Mariner 9 space probes. Stern then wrote SOL, which was a true programming language with a syntax similar to Fortran.

In 1977, Stern left LASP to found Research Systems, which developed IDL for the PDP-11. The first licenses were sold to the Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA) and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation. Soon, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Universities of Colorado and Michigan bought licenses.

In 1987, a version of IDL was developed for the Unix environment, which was ported to several variants of Unix, VMS, Linux, Windows, and Mac.

Limited object-oriented capabilities were added to the language in 1997.

In 2004, Research Systems became a subsidiary of ITT Industries, and began doing business as ITT Visual Information Solutions in 2006. In 2015, Visual Information Solutions became Harris Geospatial Solutions, which now owns and maintains the language.

There are two free implementations of IDL: GNU Data Language and Fawlty Language.

IDL may also refer to an interface description language, which is a specification language that is used to describe a software component's application programming interface (API). In that context, an IDL describes an interface in a language-independent manner, enabling communication between software components that do not share a common language.

The focus of this category is on the Interactive Data Language (IDL), any of its implementations or dialects, or any IDEs, editors, or other tools designed to facilitate programming in IDL. User groups, forums, tutorials, or guides to the use of IDL are also appropriate for this category.

 

 

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