Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Back to the future with Croquet

The Squeak community have been pretty busy of late. It looks like they've re-invented the operating system, distributed computing and the internet all in one go . See the Croquet website

This stuff looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, and yes, it actually works!

I've been airing my views on programming in a discussion thread on theserverside. The thread was started in response to Bruce Tates new book "Beyond Java". A lot of people are looking for a better way to develop software. There is a lot of ignorance out there, especially when it comes to anything other than C/C++/Java/C#. Seeing what has been achieved in Croquet using 1970's ideas, has really got me thinking.

What is it about our society that we only value things that have popular appeal? If something isn't popular then we instantly dismiss it. Very often, whether something is popular or not just comes down to circumstances, marketing and luck. One of the most strongly argued alternatives to Java on theseverside was something called MDA (Model Driven Architecture). It turns out that MDA is just CASE reborn, with the same old code generation that failed in the early 90's. Why would anyone want to try CASE again? Yet there still seems to be an appeal. I guess it must be the bang whiz appeal of flashy graphics.

I'm dead certain that late bound languages like Smalltalk will now take off on the back of Croquet, but I can't help but wonder where we'd be today if we spent the last 20 years building on sound engineering principles.

The term "Software Engineering" has gone out of vogue in recent years. Many in the Agile community have turned away from it. I find this a bit of a shame. Engineering is a practical profession, solving real world problems in a practical way. I don't see why engineering should not be viewed as creative. Instead titles like Analyst, Architect and Coach have become popular.

Hopefully Croquet will make an indepth apreciation of technology and the title "Engineer" popular again. I remember reading BYTE magazine in the 90's. Technology would be put through its paces. It was really interesting. SIGs and ACM publications were available too. Today this type of indepth analysis just isn't readily available. Instead technology has become like pop music - you use whatever is currently top of the pops.

We need a new BYTE. Hopefully the achievements of Croquet will make Software Engineering popular again. Developers may start to take more of an interest in how the Software technology they use actually works. Relying less on vendors and more on their own informed judgement.

It looks like interesting times ahead.

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