More Trouble with Programming

The Technology Review interview with Bjarne Stroustrup last month apparently caused a great deal of trouble for the Technology Review…something I have a feeling they weren’t counting on.

In an effort to address the comments left by readers and on Slashdot, they followed up the interview. I’m not sure they did themselves a favor.

The controversy from the first interview mostly focused on the second half where the interviewer essentially tried to get Bjarne to admit he made a mistake by creating the C++ language.

In my opinion, the second interview picked up where the first one left off. The first question asked:

Name the coolest and lamest programs ever written in C++, and say what worked and didn’t work.

Ok, now Bjarne shows true class by only answering the first part of the question. He deliberately and explicitly ignores the request to name the “lamest” programs.

Perhaps the most controversial question asked during the interview attempts to imply that the new direction for programming languages should be to simplify them to a point where any one is able to “participate in development.”

As Bjarne states, that would definitely be misguided.

Obviously, we don’t want our tools–including our programming languages–to be more complex than necessary. But one aim should be to make tools that will serve skilled professionals–not to lower the level of expressiveness to serve people who can hardly understand the problems, let alone express solutions. We can and do build tools that make simple tasks simple for more people, but let’s not let most people loose on the infrastructure of our technical civilization or force the professionals to use only tools designed for amateurs.

We wouldn’t accept this idea for architects and engineers, so why should we accept it for programmers?