Apple's Swift could make programming more accessible and innovation much easier, which could thrust forward an industry held back by old baggage.
Much like genetics, programming is developed cumulatively, with all innovations built on top of the old ones. Just as how, when scientists study the biology of a species, they can see the genetic history of all the animals that came before and all the ways that the species has improved over millions of years, so too can one look into today's programs and see the same basic coding structure that was developed before technology had grown exponentially to the almost inconceivable level that it has reached today. Take for instance, the programming language C. C, upon which so much of what we use today was built, was developed by
In technology, there is a concept known as 'lock-in'. In his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget, programming pioneer
MIDI, in fact, was developed in the early 1980s by a music synthesizer named
Similarly, the problem with basing modern programming on the C language developed 40 years ago is that because programming has grown exponentially more complicated, the language itself is too dated and cumbersome to keep up with how programmers today work. In fact, C is so tremendously bloated and problematic that there is an entire industry that exists just to teach people how to use it to develop apps for Apple's iOS.
The difficulty of programming in C doesn't mean that people won't do it, of course. Developing apps is often fantastically lucrative. It could lead to huge profits, or, in the case of programs like WhatsApp and Instagram, lead to reaping billions in a buyout over night. But it is difficult. Tasks take far longer than they in fact should, because C requires tasks to be programmed in much greater detail than they need to be, make it impossible to preview in real time to check your work, and, along with other problems, can cause massive bugs and challenges that slow down the process of development.
At Monday's WWDC, or
The change to Swift will now let programmers speak the language that comes much more naturally to them—they can now program iOS apps in their own tongue, at their own speed, rather than adorning tattered robes and reciting Latin in a dark basement. Predictably, programmers completely flipped out. Writer
That first point is the most amusing, and also the most problematic—'media badge people are silent.' This has carried into coverage of the event across media all over the world—a lot of talk about the new OS developments, and not much talk about this new programming language Swift. The New York Times, for instance, added the Swift development almost as an afterthought at the end of their story. This is most likely the case because only those that work in programming understand absolutely anything about programming. In fact, there is a pervasive illiteracy when it comes to programming throughout the world. (I myself am probably the equivalent of someone who, rather than knowing nothing at all, picked up a few useful phrases in a guidebook the week before a trip to a foreign country to survive the trip from the airport to the hotel). Given that coding has become not only a key aspect of our everyday lives, but also our economy, it's quite alarming that knowledge of the subject is lost on the vast majority of the world, and that this isn't being taught as a basic subject in schools when much less relevant subjects are (ok, I'll stop there on that fact, that's a whole other story best left for another time).
It shouldn't just be tech journalists who are leaping from their seats at this development—those in and interested in business should as well. There is always vast talk of the ease of doing business—cutting out impediments that could stifle innovation, or stop new businesses from starting up. There is a worldwide acceptance that the system should be made as easy as possible for new businesses to start in order to help grow our economies for the future. So why shouldn't making programming easier—surely a huge part of all innovation going forward in our modern world—be just as big of a deal?
Making the basic language of coding simpler for developers will not only make it easier for experienced coders to try new things and innovate more quickly and more brilliantly, but also will make it more accessible for those who might have been scared off by the difficulty of the language. If Apple is making it easier for people to develop apps, this will most certainly lead to innovations that wouldn't have happened before. Perhaps now even n00bs like me can pick programming up more easily and make the next billion dollar app. Anything that will help translate ideas into action more easily should be applauded. And this could be a huge deal for not only current businesses that are affected by programming, but also great businesses of the future that have yet to be built. This could change everything—and it, undoubtedly, it shouldn't just be the guys in
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