Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts

20 April 2008


Programming software is Magic.

I don't mean that there's something mystical about it, nor that it is intrinsically inaccessible to ordinary people. Nor (I emphatically add) do mean that it is like Magic. In every aspect I can think of, the act of Programming software meets all the criteria for performing Magic. Magic in the Swords and Sorcerers or Unseen University sense. "Alakazam!" and the Prince turns into a Frog. "Shazam!" and you're whisked away to a far, far place at high speed.

Just look at the facts: We (programmers) write programmes -- spells -- in arcane and cryptic symbol languages unknown to the common mob.  Get the slightest part of the spell wrong, and, at best, it fails utterly to do anything.  At worst it runs amok and fearful consequences ensue -- fires, floods, loss of money and even life!  Get it just right, in every teensy, tiny, ball-aching, nit-picking detail2, and Lo! out of nothing, stuff happens in the real world.  Gold changes hands.  Trains run on schedule.  Music plays and Feyries dance1.

Where nothing was before the spell was cast, something comes about solely because of the spell.  That's Magic.

And, just like in the fantasies where Wizards keep pet Dragons and dribbly candles set atop skulls are the acme of interior decoration, programmers frequently work at odd hours, with intense, monomanic concentration bordering on the inhuman.  And, like the traditional Wizardly Schools, programmers are admitted to different schools of various arts and degrees.  So we have Clerics -- programmers content to churn out the boilerplate code needed to keep the wheels of commerce (and most web applications) running, but lacking any true proficiency with martial weapons of higher degree; Monks -- who eschew the use of particular weaponry but, ninja-style, willingly embrace whatever comes to hand as combat fodder; Wizards -- capable of serious Magic, but forget their spells once cast, capable of wonderful stuff, but doomed to repeat it -- with minor variations -- time after time; and then there are the Sourcerers -- Masters of The Source3 whose code is so elegant and expressive, so parsimonious and pretty as to make brave Programmers weep with envy and admiration.

No, you can not deny.  Programming really is the realisation of the ancient idea of Magic.  Say the Magic Spell and Change Reality.

[1] Well, anybody who wants to dance, I suppose, really.
[2] ...and My God, there's an inordinate amount of crappy detail that all has to be Just So!
[3] Waves to Ken, Doug, Dave, Jason, Paul, Johan, Bob, Brian, John and several dozen others...
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