Sunday, April 03, 2005

BASIC Overloaded?

One reader posted a comment to my last post on the cult of complexity. He remarked on how the OPEN statement in Liberty BASIC is used to open not only disk files, but windows and DLLs. He expressed his desire for a further extension of OPEN for managing TCP/IP sockets. The thing is, I have been planning to do this for some time, and expect to see it in Liberty BASIC v5.0 when it makes its debut.

Using a command for many different things is called "overloading" by programming language designers. So, the OPEN statement is overloaded in Liberty BASIC. This is one of the techniques I use to try and keep BASIC small. I could have added more commands. Maybe for opening a window I could have added CREATEWIN and for accessing DLLs I could have added MAPDLL or some similar name. This might have been okay, but it doesn't keep the language small. I think is crucially important to minimize growth because of the ever expanding list of things a programming language is expected to handle. If I don't fight growth, pretty soon Liberty BASIC will be unmanagable.

If you have ideas that are very close to each other (like opening a file, a window, a socket, etc.) it makes a lot of sense to overload the commands that access them. This can be taken too far, but usually I believe that it isn't taken far enough. Programming languages need to be more general.