[FoRK] Programming languages, operating systems, despair and anger

Benjamin Black b at b3k.us
Fri Nov 13 12:38:04 PST 2009

Tom Higgins wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 6:27 PM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
>> Both languages and operating systems have *obviously* failed to keep pace
>> with the increasingly-rich data, forms of interaction, and diversity and
>> ubiquity of devices we all swim within these days.  I'm not sure old-timer
>> "been there, done that, had that flame war 30 years ago about goto"
>> arguments are going to help jar us out of the cul-de-sac.
> I think the 450 pound elephant in the room is this, why are we even
> doing programming anymore.

That is a perspective shared by many a windmill tilter.  Have a look at
Charles Simonyi's Intentional Programming diversion for one of the
longest struggles to make that work.  It's not even worth doing, in my

> As you say, with multi core nth dimensional
> aspects on the table i think it is safe to say the meatbags have  a
> class issue, as in we do not have the right stuff to do what needs
> doing well enough consistently enough and with a steady ramp up of
> iterative betterment to support the comming Multilarity(tm). 

This is a required view to support the previous assertion, but is also
not a given.  We have grown how many orders of magnitude in devices and
traffic over the past 20 years?  The 'Multiarity' has been here for some
time, it's just not evenly distributed.

Different abstractions are most appropriate for expressing different
concepts.  We see this in art, in natural languages, everywhere.
Programming languages are not exceptions.  We have different ones
because they are better at different jobs, or better at mapping from how
some folks think to what the machines do.  The right abstraction for the
job is often not more abstraction, just a different one.

> What we
> seem to do well is the same stuff over and over in different dialects
> and with different interfaces.  Sure a chimp can work a typewriter,
> and yes the old chestnut about a million monkeys pumping out Halmet
> might be right... or wrong...it does make a good illustration to bring
> to this party.

This is only a good illustration if your point is that programming is
often a very creative activity, like writing prose, and the notion that
we want machines to automatically write all our code is counter to our
enjoyment of it, even assuming you could build such beasts.  I don't
think that is your point, but it would be mine.

> Could it be our best course would be to build the things that build
> the code, or even build the things that will then assemble themselves
> to build the things to build the code?

See above.


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