Appreciation for syntax and plain text

Years ago I thought that programming should evolve out of the plain text. I spent lot of time before I discarded it. I was excited about the idea because I found plain text parsing to be a difficult subject.

Large enough parsing problems may take several seconds or even minutes to complete. We may always invent a parsing problem that takes as much processing power as we got.

Structure editing only introduced more problems. When I was working on my structure editor I figured out that it's difficult to get computers layout code such that it is satisfying to read. You also had to pick a representation for the code. This representation and the method to write should match to make it convenient to work with. It led me to writing a parsing engine to compose and decompose structures so I could edit them on screen.

At this point I realised that the plaintext representation I tried to replace is human-friendly. Humans are evolved to convey extremely complex details into speaking and text is a reflection of this capability. Having a language or not is an ergonomic aspect of programming. It binds into our ways to communicate.

Today I appreciate the idea of writing text and extracting details from it by parsing. It's clean and reliable although it takes lot of processing time.

If I ever revisit the ideas of visual programming I believe I'll do it with PNG and SVG files and optical recognition algorithms.

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