TITLE: Poetry as a Metaphor for Software AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 16, 2013 11:38 AM DESC: ----- BODY: I was reading Roger Hui's Remembering Ken Iverson this morning on the elliptical, and it reminded me of this passage from A Conversation with Arthur Whitney. Whitney is a long-time APL guru and the creator of the A, K, and Q programming languages. The interviewer is Bryan Cantrill.
BC: Software has often been compared with civil engineering, but I'm really sick of people describing software as being like a bridge. What do you think the analog for software is? AW: Poetry. BC: Poetry captures the aesthetics, but not the precision. AW: I don't know, maybe it does.
A poet's use of language is quite precise. It must balance forces in many dimensions, including sound, shape, denotation, and connotation. Whitney seems to understand this. Richard Gabriel must be proud. Brevity is a value in the APL world. Whitney must have a similar preference for short language names. I don't know the source of his names A, K, and Q, but I like Hui's explanation of where J's name came from:
... on Sunday, August 27, 1989, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, [I] wrote the first line of code that became the implementation described in this document. The name "J" was chosen a few minutes later, when it became necessary to save the interpreter source file for the first time.
Beautiful. No messing around with branding. Gotta save my file. -----