|Syntactic Confectionery Delight|
Re: Re: (OT) Programming as a craftby woolfy (Hermit)
|on Dec 16, 2003 at 13:06 UTC||Need Help??|
Indeed, the automation of programming is still quite far away in time, so it seems. I have witnessed two such attempts first-hand.
I once worked for a company that had two departments (this company ceased to exist over 10 years ago). The department I worked in, produced CBT (Computer-Based Training, or courseware, or Computer-Aided Instruction, etc.). The other department worked on designing AI (Artificial Intelligence): they made systems designed to create AI-applications, and they tried to produce AI-end-user-apps.
The European Community subsidised this AI-department with enormous amounts of money. Some spin-offs of their activities became mildly succesfull, like an application to support decision making. They used LISP to build their AI-system, and argumentably they did that in such a way that the applications could never be fast nor maintainable; that decision-making-support-application was horrendously slow. So they turned to the CBT-department, working with TenCORE (nowadays a dying language). The application was completely rewritten in TenCORE (liz did a lot of that work), after which the speed was acceptable. The app could be used to decide on e.g. the holiday destination for a family, using as many factors as that family wanted. As said, the app was mildly succesful, but it never was succesful enough to make up for the many EU-investments.
This AI-department tried to automate programming. And in the end, they failed, and very soon after the EU stopped investing, the department vanished. Their tools were too simple for so complex a task, their goals too high, and they produced hardly any end-user apps.
Back to TenCORE. That was the second attempt on itself. The creators of TenCORE made a system built on TenCORE itself, TenCORE Producer. Producer was just a higher programming language, simplified, made accessible in a GUI. Hardly any AI in it. At the time, there was also Authorware, built in C. Just like developers with Producer could extend their end-user applications with modules built in TenCORE, CBT-developers using Authorware could use C to extend their apps. By the way, developers used TenCORE and Authorware to create websites, multimedia, games (my company used TenCORE to create and maintain hundreds of websites).
CBT can be considered as automation of education. Producer and Authorware can be considered as automation of programming this CBT.
And why didn't this type of programming conquer the world? Because they are just tools. And there are a lot of other factors that influence success or failure, factors like marketing, economical growth, hype-ability.
Creating good software is a lot like writing good books. Or like good project management. Or like good management of a company. You can have as many good tools as you can find, afford and use, but still the tools make the job easier, they don't do the job, that is done by the people that use the tools.
Because of their complexity (both from a conceptual point of view and the implementation aspect), I think CBT and AI are not merged yet to be used succesfully world-wide. This complexity is not just a problem for the programmers, but certainly as well for managers, marketing people and end-users.
Attention was drawn from the further development of AI in software development because the arrival of new hypes in the nineties, first multimedia, later internet.
Now, there is a lot of simple (!) multimedia on the internet. And a lot of simple CBT on the internet. Even a lot of CBT combined with multimedia. But they all lack AI. I even see that most of this "modern" multimedia and CBT is simpler than what was produced 10 years ago (well, except maybe the games).
I think it might be a good step in the good direction when someone builds such a graphical editor in Perl for Perl. It should be easy to use, and it should enable a developer to build applications (CBT, multimedia, database management, computer system management, content management, etc.) without having to know much of the underlying language, Perl.
Next step would be to add AI-techniques to it, so a developer would just have to give the program a description of the app to create, a lot of paramaters and a lot of contents.
The first task of that program would of course be to build courseware to explain the use of the program and the underlying concepts. Because the developers need to understand the thing they are working on/with.