Monday, July 24, 2006

Walk with the master

How time changes everything. It heals a wound. It also introduces complexity in the midst of simplicity.

Going back to our days of yore, when we used to program on CP/M or MS-DOS, the system was small and so were their processors (8/16 bit). When Windows came into the picture, the whole place started looking like a tavern full of fake beer bottles. I mean Windows used to run on top of DOS. OS/2 was a better technical proposition. (but it lacked a DOS box) If you trace the lineage of Windows, it actually did something real (or should I say protected) starting from Windows 98 / XP.

To open a window and manage the various contraptions within it, we had to write many many lines of code.

Just to create a window, we used to write 30-40 lines of code using the Windows SDK (From the Bible at that time a.k.a Charles Petzold) All the mouse movements and scroll bars had to be taken care of explicitly.

In a language like VC#, this is taken care of automatically. All you have to do is write 2 lines of code.

And the abstractions get better and better. In 30-40 lines we can write an entire file viewer/saver - with menu controls packed in, for free.

Is the code getting simpler? Yes and No.

Yes, because it saves time by code reusability and process abstractions.
No, because we have a choice of an exhaustive class library collection. Who is going to remember what all and now that Web Services have also jumped into this band-wagon.

A lot of the plumbing details are handled by .NET internally, as a result of which, the programmer does not have to worry about the hidden details. The days of masochistic coding are over. At-least, it seems to be with the Windows battalion. Those who feel the need to be pervasive in all aspects of ‘deep down’ programming, Linux would be a better bet.

I say this despite hacks being prevalent in Windows world. Remember, only a select few less than 1% of this community know core Assembler and/or ‘C’. The rest are bogus script kiddies.

Hence the paradigm: Complexity in the midst of simplicity (Dukh ke andar sukh ki jyoti, dukh hi sukh ka gyan)

If you ask me, has my thirst for understanding those intricacies faded out, I would be a liar, to say a no. Somewhere deep down, I do feel the urge to be in charge of my machine and assure myself the complacence of the bygone days which have passed like a breeze.

Here’s s Zen Poem, that I could reflect. This one is from Richard Stallman’s excerpts.

To follow the path:
look to the master,
Follow the master,
walk with the master,
see through the master,
become the master.



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