Programming languages in the New Scientist

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Donald Ervin Knuth

Donald Ervin Knuth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers will know I am usually unstinting in my praise of the New Scientist. But not this week.

There is a very poor article by Michael Brooks, an admitted non-programmer (would you have someone who could not speak French write on the Académie française?) lamenting the “teetering tower of Binary Babel” of the  “jerry-rigged” programming languages most of which, he claims, are “still thinly veiled versions of Fortran“.

To make it all better, he asserts, “salvation may be at hand in a nascent endeavour in computer science:user-friendly languages that rethink the compiler.”

These languages “allow programmers to see, in real time, exactly what they are constructing as they write their code.”

And he adds: “Bizarrely, the outcome may look rather familiar” – like a spreadsheet he says.

So, actually, we are back with visual programming tools – such as “Subtext“. Donald Knuth can sleep easy then – Brooks is not challenging him as the greatest living writer on programming, that’s for sure.

I am old enough to remember the legend that was Guy Kewney waxing lyrical in the pages of “Personal Computer World” in 1981 about a BASIC generator called “The Last One” which did indeed claim to be the last program you’d need. At least Kewney demonstrated he knew the subject, even if he got that one profoundly wrong.

One thought on “Programming languages in the New Scientist

  1. “You shall know a w_ord’ination by the company it kee_ps’haw.” – with apologies to J.R. Firth, English linguist [1890-1960]

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