Ted Leung on the air
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Sat, 23 Aug 2003
Syntax Matters
Like many of us Kim is dreaming of a new language. Here are the last three paragraphs, which kind of summarize the thinking of the rest of the post:
What's the big deal about using isomorphisms as opposed to transforms? I think they help you avoid indirection. And I think indirection is the root of all complexity.

It's interesting that programming-language afficionados, especially the elite ones (i.e. the ones that like functional languages) tend to love adding new features to their languages, but that they do this by increasing indirection and abstraction. Parameterized types, virtual methods, function pointers, closures, continuations, etc. All of these things make programs harder to understand. Yes, they add a lot of power, but I think we should focus on making programs more powerful without having to resort to more abstractions to do it. We should be gaining power by removing layers of abstraction, rather than by adding more layers to cope with the inadequacies of the existing layers.

Amusingly, a lot of programmers hate lisp-style macros because they think they make programs harder to read. I completely disagree. I think macros decrease the level of abstraction in a program. They make the syntax more directly-meaningful, closer to the problem domain. Which brings us back to the quote by Graydon I started this post with.

Now you'll have to go back for the quote...

But the quote aside, there's a controversial (at least to me) idea in here, either that or I'm confused on terminology. Most of computer science is about applying indirection. The commonly held wisdom in language design is that we help people build bigger systems by finding new ways to hide the details from them. That's called abstraction, and has gotten us functions/procedures, objects, frameworks, etc. And I would put macros in the same category. When I use a macro, I don't have to know how its implemented (and its probably implemented with some of the aforementioned goop). So for me, macros increase the level of abstraction in a program...

[01:19] | [computers/programming] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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