Programmers are crucial to the advancement of any new computing metaphor


In the 80s when graphical user interfaces were starting be common, there was a saying among a certain class of programmers: “Real men don’t use mice”. This represented the feeling of superiority of the command line, and that in turn came not necessarily from something intrinsically inferior in GUIs, but from the objective fact that they had fewer and lower quality development environments and tools than those that hard core programmers could use on older systems and paradigms.

Nowadays there is no programmer probably who doesn’t feel at home using mice and windows, and who is not glad that high level tools help in the development of rich client or web applications.

Online worlds have been attracting content creators, especially Second Life, which is famous for having started out as an empty desert, and was filled with millions of objects by its inhabitants. This however is a little different than the attitude of hackers. These have a natural tendency for self-reflection, whereas whatever they place their hands on is turned into a further tool for making new tools, to program better. An example could be the passive attitude of many users of Second Life, who lament the low quality of the debugging tools that can be used in-world. This would be never accepted by a true hacker spirit, where the quality of a debugger is especially important for the creation of highly evolved code.

We have to watch, consequently, very alertly, any attempt at luring programmers, developers, hackers, to any online world, as the one which wins their hearts will leapfrog the others.

Today IBM announced their Project Bluegrass, a virtual world in which they will immerse the Rational CASE toolset, and the Jazz collaboration platform. For the moment Bluegrass is not apparently open, so I can’t comment on it further, but the move in itself, if followed by something that people can try out and use, could be a good one.

Image copyright Scientific American

Not a lot of people remember VPL Research these days, even if many know Jaron Lanier, the inventor of the term ‘virtual reality’. VPL Research produced and marketed at the end of the ’80s and the very beginning of the ’90s the original DataGlove, and other groundbreaking virtual reality tools. Jaron Lanier was convinced that virtual realities were necessary for making sure that the computing metaphor could advance.

And VPL in the name of the company stood for ‘Visual Programming Languages’.

Thanks to Michele for the original article!