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Chapter Seven. Interface Issues Outside ... > More Humane Programming Language Env...

7-1. More Humane Programming Language Environments

7-1-1. System and Development Environment

Programming environments have had even less benefit from research into cognetics than user interfaces have had. There is no question that modern systems are becoming increasingly complex and that programming tools need to accommodate this increasing complexity. Simple things have been made unnecessarily difficult, and we have failed to provide sufficient and sufficiently well-designed software tools needed to ease the difficulties of working in today's computer environment.

I will start with a simple example. To write a program that adds two numbers on the long-dead Apple II, you turn it on (boot time is undetectable!) and press Control-B, which gets you into BASIC. If you then type PRINT 3+4 and press Return, you get 7 instantly and painlessly. From launching BASIC to result: five seconds. As the industry is well aware, ease of use requires copious resources of memory and speed. Therefore, we know that the Apple II can operate with such dispatch and ease of use because it is a powerhouse of brute hardware: 2MHz 8-bit processor; 48K bytes of RAM (all that you could stuff in!), and a 400KB disk. A 1999 400MHz 32-bit processor with 192MB of RAM (and there's room for more!) and gigabytes of disk storage takes more than three minutes. Considering bus width and processor speed, the new machine is about 1,500 times faster than the old. Considering the time it takes to get started on writing a program, the new machine is about 36 times slower.


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