Lenny Domnitser’s

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This is a static archive of the domnit.org blog,
which Lenny Domnitser wrote between 2006 and 2009.

My Mind is Blown

If you like computer languages, set aside 40 minutes and watch the Subtext demo video, and then a few hours to digest it. Thanks to Eileen Head for telling me about it. (Disclosure: I’m enrolled in her class.)

I was skeptical about a visual programming language, since the ones I’ve played with—Lego Mindstorms and Yahoo Pipes—just got in the way. This one looks better—the environment provides impressive static analysis magical, and the direct editing of the program tree looked like Lisp. (This is based on my meager exposure to Lisp. (I can’t help but make a Lisp joke here. (Can you see it? (No?))))

When the video got to the central idea, though, I realized that Jonathan Edwards is a genius.

In every programming language I’ve seen, when the program must behave non-linearly, there is either code duplication or mental jumps that must be made between parts of the program. Subtext lays out a program in 2 dimensions, with deciding and doing on orthogonal axes. Of course, the underlying execution still requires duplication and jumping, but the mental model has neither.

There is a theory that a programmer must be able to load an entire program into his mind to understand the context he is working in. That may be true for 1-dimensional text languages, but Subtext’s seem to present all the context one needs in a clear and compact 2-D table.

Visual languages are probably not the future of programming. I think much of what is impressive about Subtext is the development environment, and text languages can probably come close to Subtext. Lisp looks the closest, but I have a lot to learn about Lisp and other languages before I can form a real conclusion.

I am eager for a public release of Subtext, but even if no significant program is ever written in the language, it brings up questions we thought were closed, and proposes a revolutionary and elegant alternative to the 1-D world view programmers have had.

1 comment on My Mind is Blown

1. What the rain knows » Blog Archive » Subtext (WYSIWYG programming) says:

[...] Lab. I’d read mentions of Subtext on a couple of other blogs recently, but it was My Mind is Blown that got me to watch part of a screencast showing off one of the killer features of the newest [...]

—What the rain knows » Blog Archive » Subtext (WYSIWYG programming), 12 February 2008, 6:28

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