Ruby is a an exciting new, pure, object oriented programming language. While few people in the West have heard of Ruby yet, it has taken off like wildfire in Japan---already overtaking the Python language in popularity.
What makes Ruby so popular? Ruby weaves the best features of the best programming languages into a seamless, concise whole. Ruby is:
Powerful -- Ruby combines the pure object-oriented power of the classic OO language Smalltalk with the expressiveness and convenience of a scripting language such as Perl. Ruby programs are compact, yet very readable and maintainable; you can get a lot done in a few lines, without being cryptic.
Simple -- The syntax and semantics are intuitive and very clean. There aren't any "special cases" you have to remember. For instance, integers, classes, and nil are all objects, just like everything else. Once you learn the basics, it's easy to guess how to do new things---and guess correctly.
Transparent -- Ruby frees you from the drudgery of spoon-feeding the compiler. More than any other language we've worked with, Ruby stays out of your way, so you can concentrate on solving the problem at hand.
Available -- Ruby is open source and freely available for both development and deployment. Unlike some other new languages, Ruby does not restrict you to a single platform or vendor. You can run Ruby under Unix or Linux, Microsoft Windows, or specialized systems such as BeOS and others.
Most of all, Ruby puts the fun back into programming. When was the last time you had fun writing a program---a program that worked the first time; a program that you could read next week, next month, or next year and still understand exactly what it does? We find Ruby to be a breath of fresh air in the dense, often hectic world of programming. In fact, we see nothing but smiles after we present Ruby to programmers.
Ruby is a genuine object-oriented language. Everything you manipulate is an object, and the results of those manipulations are themselves objects
Like Perl, Ruby is good at text processing. Like Smalltalk, everything in Ruby is an object, and Ruby has blocks, iterators, meta-classes and other good stuff.
You can use Ruby to write servers, experiment with prototypes, and for everyday programming tasks. As a fully-integrated object-oriented language, Ruby scales well.
Basic OO features (classes, methods, objects, and so on),
Special OO features (Mix-ins, singleton methods, renaming, ...),
Iterators and closures,
Dynamic loading (depending on the architecture),
High transportability (runs on various Unices, Windows, DOS, OSX, OS/2, Amiga, and so on)
Ruby was created by Yukihiro Matsumoto (who goes by the handle "matz")
Influenced by Perl, Matz wanted to use a jewel name for his new language, so he named Ruby after a colleague's birthstone.
Later, he realized that Ruby comes right after Perl in several situations. In birthstones, pearl is June, ruby is July. When measuring font sizes, pearl is 5pt, ruby is 5.5pt. He thought Ruby was a good name for a programming language newer (and hopefully better) than Perl.
The following are quotes from Matz Post on Ruby Talk:
"Well, Ruby was born on February 24, 1993. I was talking with my colleague about the possibility of an object-oriented scripting language. I knew Perl (Perl4, not Perl5), but I didn't like it really, because it had smell of toy language (it still has). the object-oriented scripting language seemed very promising."
"I knew Python then. But I didn't like it, because I didn't think it was a true object-oriented language---OO features appeared to be add-on to the language. As a language manic and OO fan for 15 years, I really wanted a genuine object-oriented, easy-to-use scripting language. I looked for, but couldn't find one."
"So, I decided to make it. It took several months to make the interpreter run. I put it the features I love to have in my language, such as iterators, exception handling, garbage collection."
"Then, I reorganized the features of Perl into a class library, and implemented them. I posted Ruby 0.95 to the Japanese domestic newsgroups in Dec. 1995."
"Since then, highly active mailing lists have been established and web pages formed."