Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The pop culture of computing

with one comment

We all thought that the next level of programming language would be much more strategic and even policy-oriented and would have much more knowledge about what it was trying to do. But a variety of different things conspired together, and that next generation actually didn’t show up. One could actually argue—as I sometimes do—that the success of commercial personal computing and operating systems has actually led to a considerable retrogression in many, many respects.

You could think of it as putting a low-pass filter on some of the good ideas from the sixties and seventies, as computing spread out much, much faster than educating unsophisticated people can happen. In the last twenty-five years or so, we actually got something like a pop culture, similar to what happened when television came on the scene and some of its inventors thought it would be a way of getting Shakespeare to the masses. But they forgot that you have to be more sophisticated and have more perspective to understand Shakespeare. What television was able to do was to capture people as they were.

So I think the lack of a real computer science today, and the lack of real software engineering today, is partly due to this pop culture…If you look at software today, through the lens of the history of engineering, it’s certainly engineering of a sort—but it’s the kind of engineering that people without the concept of the arch did. Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

Alan Kay, to ACM Queue

Written by nevalalee

July 13, 2017 at 7:18 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. Great analogy.

    galtz

    July 13, 2017 at 11:57 am


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