Dan Byström’s Bwain

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Archive for July, 2008

Real Programmers don’t use Pascal – 25 year annivarsary

Posted by Dan Byström on July 31, 2008

I just happened to notice that the legendary text “Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal” was published exactly 25 years ago this month (and I just have a couple of hours left before this month ends, so I thouht I had to write up something quickly). You can often find it on the Net filed under “humor”. This can, of course, only be done by Quiche Eaters! Sometimes someone has replaced Pascal with Visual Basic. I have no problem with that. 🙂

Among all the words of wisdom, I found these:

  • Real Programmers aren’t afraid to use GOTOs.
  • Real Programmers can write five page long DO loops without getting confused.
  • Real Programmers like Arithmetic IF statements– they make the code more interesting.
  • Real Programmers write self-modifying code, especially if they can save 20 nanoseconds in the middle of a tight loop.
  • Real Programmers don’t need comments– the code is obvious.
  • Since Fortran doesn’t have a structured IF, REPEAT … UNTIL, or CASE statement, Real Programmers don’t have to worry about not using them. Besides, they can be simulated when necessary using assigned GOTOs.

I guess that the number of programmers out there who have written (or even know what it means to write) arithmetic IF-statements or self-modifying code are decreasing rapidly by the day. And writing a five page long DO loops without getting confused may be a cool party trick, but nothing to applause in real work. But the remaining two points are something I’d like to comment!

Real Programmers aren’t afraid to use GOTOs

Well, why on earth should they be? Really? This “truth” seems to be something that all student know by heart. Thou shalt not use GOTO. Thou shalt not use GOTO. Without even understanding why GOTO was such a big problem in the first place. In a structured language it is not. How could it be that more students seem to know about this silly “non-problem” while at the same time failing to understand the most fundamental thing about programming: Thou shalt never duplicate code. Thou shalt not use copy-and-paste. I just wonder…

Real Programmers don’t need comments– the code is obvious

I think this is almost true! It only needs slight modification:

Real Programmes write code in such a way that the code becomes obvious

I have come to realise that when I download a piece of code from the Net, the first thing I usually have to do is delete all the comments so that I can read the code!!! Most of the time, comments seem to have been put there just “because you must write comments”. Then after a time, changes are made to the code and the comments are not updated, leaving any reader totally confused! Skip the comments and write clean code with long descriptive methods and variable names I say!

(This goes for much of the documentation too, I think. The code is the best documentations because it is “the truth”! This is one of the reasons Tests (Test Driven Development) is such a great thing: you get “true documentation” for free.)

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Quote of the day

Posted by Dan Byström on July 18, 2008

“He doesn’t seem to have all his methods compiled”.
— Douglas Nilsson Ekeforshus

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Posted by Dan Byström on July 4, 2008

The other day I got a glimpse of something that could turn out to be really useful. Or maybe a Pandora’s Box. I really don’t know until I investigated it more. 🙂

I was asked to add some simple string manipulation functions (to something that we for simplicity can think of as a report generator).

After thinking about the problem I decided that I would violate the YAGNI (you ain’t gonna need it) principle and give the customer the full Monty directly. Why? Because I realized that it was so incredibly easy to give them the possibility to write full fledged VB.NET code directly that it would probably take the same amount of time to code as some basic string manipulation functions together with a UI!

Consider the following facts:

  1. It is extremely easy (and fast) to compile a piece of VB.NET (or C#) code into an in-memory assembly and execute that code. It takes roughly 20 lines of code.
  2. This dynamically compiled code can easily be given access to any specified part of the application or it’s business objects (just by adding the appropriate assemblies).
  3. Of course the code to be compiled can be preprocessed first, in order to provide the user with a syntax as simple as possible.

I think that these facts taken together implies that opening up parts of the business logic code to the user / customer / domain expert could be worthwhile.

So, the next time I feel that:

  1. I am just transforming the domain expert’s words into executable code
  2. I may not have fully understood the intention of the domain expert
  3. the code I’m writing is likely to change in the future

Then I will definitely consider making that code modifiable by both the domain experts and me (or most likely: read by the domain experts and modified by me and them together). The choice of VB.NET over C# seems obvious; novices read Basic easier – it is no coincidence that “B” in BASIC stands for Beginner. Many users have also encountered VBA while playing around with macros in Word and Excel. Ekeforshus

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