Browse Prior Art Database

IEEE Computer Volume 12 Number 9 -- The Open Channel Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131451D
Original Publication Date: 1979-Sep-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-11
Document File: 3 page(s) / 18K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

True Seaborn: AUTHOR [+2]


The Open Channel * National Semi offers SMUT

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This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 42% of the total text.

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1979 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

The Open Channel

"Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art."

Charles McCabe, San Francisco Chronicle

The Open Channel is exactly what the name implies: a forum for the free exchange of technical ideas. Try to hold your contributions to one page maximum in the final magazine format (about 1000 words).

We'll accept anything (short of libel or obscenity) so long as it's submitted by a member of the Computer Society. If ids bizarre we may require you to get another member to cosponsor your item.

Send everything to Jim Haynes, Applied Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, CA 95064.

R. N. Caffin's "Heresy on HighLevel Languages" brought forth a flood of letters -- three to be exact. I was not surprised to receive one from an APL fan, touting the superiority of his favorite language and ignoring all the issues raised by Dr. Coffin.. (Am I the only one in this world who neither adores nor detests APL? It certainly seems to be a polarizing topic.) John Lowry wrote regarding the "C" language, which is the base language of Bell Labs' Unix system. He notes that C has a certain amount of overhead, such as variable declarations and a procedure entry for the main program, but that it is on the whole a very terse language requiring few keystrokes. It has other virtues that we won't go into here.

The most philosophical letter came from David Feign, and is reproduced here:

Dear Jim,

The Open Channel in the March 1979 Computer makes a point I agree with thoroughly. Modern programming languages are designed to impose discipline on the programmer and to force him to think in certain standard ways. But most people don't naturally think the way computers and computer scientists would like them to. Forcing a programmer to use certain tools will not automatically straighten out his thinking. We have all seen horrible examples of "structured" programs and good examples of Basic, Fortran, and even assemblylanguage programs.

The problem is that computer scientists want to make people think and express themselves in a way that is easy to translate into machine code. The much harder problem of understanding how people really think and express themselves, and translating this into a machine language, has been dropped by the computer scientists. Solving the harder problem would mean more work and many "programming" languages rather than the "universal" programming language that they are looking for. If you want people to think and express themselves your way, you have to start training them in kindergarten.

A reason for the popularity of F...