Plan B

Subtext faces enormous obstacles to becoming an accepted programming language. It is still just a sketch, missing crucial pieces. But even as I slowly fill it out, I am encountering unyielding resistance. There is a great deal of skepticism about the whole idea of non-textual programming, due to the past failures of Visual Programming Languages. Overcoming that bad reputation will require proof that the UI and VM can scale to industrial-strength, and that there are unequivocal productivity benefits. I can’t do that alone, and it seems that I won’t get much help (particularly from the academic community) until I can first overcome the skepticism. Chicken and egg. Modern programming languages have dug a deep rut over the last 50 years, and dislodging them will not be easy. It will require finesse. Continue reading “Plan B”

First Class Copy & Paste

I have posted a draft of my latest OOPSLA submission: First Class Copy & Paste. As always, comments are welcome.

I apologize that this paper is so hard to read. It is very technical and formal, and all about internals, not the user interface. I felt that I needed to precisely define how Subtext works, both for myself, and for others who want to try to do something similar. A secondary goal was to document the idea of hypothetical computation that is in the demo. I also added a cool new idea: transactional concurrency. But few people will wade through the technicalities to get to that part. I probably should write a more accessible paper about hypotheticals and transactional concurrency.

The World Wide Dynabook

David Reed gave a keynote at OOPSLA about Croquet and TeaTime. Croquet is a re-imagining of Alan Kay’s seminal Dynabook vision, a vision which has influenced many aspects of modern computers and software. The Dynabook was a personal computing tool, while Croquet is envisioned to be a collaborative environment on the scale of the Web. I would call it “The World Wide Dynabook”. I applaud the grandness of the vision: reinventing how we interact with the internet, all the way from the end-user interface down to the network protocols and the programming language. I found the hints about their underlying architecture to be tantalizing, but unfortunately I got little more than hints, even after reading their publications. I will review what I have learnt so far. Continue reading “The World Wide Dynabook”