Sunday, March 20, 2005

The cult of complexity

Just the other day I noticed that someone posted a review on Download.com which criticized Liberty BASIC for being a beginner's language. Excuse me? We are talking about BASIC aren't we? Beginner's All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code? Did I miss something?

This reminds me of a software developer I met a few years back at a developer's conference. He asked me about my product, and I gave him a demo. His reaction was "Why would anyone want to use that?" He missed the point entirely. Not everyone has spent the last decade or more of their life developing cutting edge software 40 or more hours a week. If you have to compete with other people, you may well be forced to master the latest and greatest bells and whistles. He forgets that there are scores of people who need to get something done quickly and easily.

Anyone who programmed in BASIC 20+ years ago will agree that Liberty BASIC has more bells and whistles than any BASIC did back then. I'm actually dissatisfied about that. We should be trying to make programming simpler, not more complicated. There is a certain level of sophistication which adds value, but then there is a line which get crossed where things get very murky. Does that new feature make programming simpler, or harder? It can be hard to tell. The more stuff you have to remember, the harder it is to see the forest for the trees.

Aside from getting work done (unless you're programming only for enjoyment), programming is more about becoming smarter and not about proving how smart you are.

4 comments:

The Cricket Man said...

I reckon programming is like writing a story. Any addition to liberty basic that makes it easier to explore my imagination is a winner.
The simpler the language the more room my head has to create. Especially if your a slowlearner like me.
Thanks for a great program

Doc Wert said...

Wow its still the same old story. Just because a programming language has basic in the title does not mean that it is limited to small do little programs. It is not the language that determines the quality of the the program. It is the programmer.

Dave B. said...

I agree Carl, the purpose of any computer language is to insulate us (in a sense) from the hardware. The trend should be moving away from languages like C++ and toward langauges like BASIC. The next generation of languages should be more like COBOL, more language based. What is holding us back are programmers themselves. They tend to be people who like complexity for complexity's sake. That's not the future though and that will most likely be how America loses her grip on the software developement market.

Chris Iverson said...

I agree with Dave B. These languages, like C++, are getting so hard to manage, yet there are easier ones, like Liberty BASIC and Visual Basic, that do the EXACT same thing, and is much easier to use! These things are getting crazy... I may be only 13 years old, but I remember the original BASIC. I had an old computer(well, oldish)that had a BASIC tutor and compiler on it. I started searching for BASIC for windows, however it would be a while before I found LB. I was glad when I did.