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Computers Produced with Unskilled Labour

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft… and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor.

~ Werner von Braun (born:1912-03-23 died:1977-06-16 at age:65)
The people who design languages are the people who write the compilers and system classes. Quite naturally they design to make their work easy and mathematically elegant. However, there are 10,000 maintenance programmers to every compiler writer. The grunt maintenance programmers have absolutely no say in the design of languages. Yet the total amount of code they write dwarfs the code in the compilers.

An example of the result of this sort of elitist thinking is the JDBC (Java Data Base Connectivity) interface. It makes life easy for the JDBC implementor, but a nightmare for the maintenance programmer. It is far clumsier than the FØRTRAN interface that came out with SQL (Standard Query Language) three decades ago.

Maintenance programmers, if somebody ever consulted them, would demand ways to hide the housekeeping details so they could see the forest for the trees. They would demand all sorts of shortcuts so they would not have to type so much and so they could see more of the program at once on the screen. They would complain loudly about the myriad petty time-wasting tasks the compilers demand of them.

There are some efforts in this direction: NetRexx, Bali and visual editors (e.g. IBM (International Business Machines) ’s Visual Age is a start) that can collapse detail irrelevant to the current purpose.

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