Is creating a programming language an extreme form of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome?

c3wifereinventingIn my last article, I posted a link to Joel Spolsky‘s “In Defense of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome“. To justify modifications to a compiler is something technical that can be demonstrated in a non-subjective way. Creating your own programming language, can hardly justified the same way since there are so many languages already existing. Still I’m coming in defense of the language creation, mostly by describing my husband motivations.

The first motivation to any write any code for which you aren’t paid is fun, including compilers. If design is fun to you, there is nothing wrong trying to design a programming language. In fact, the exercise will make you grow up. Trying is the better way to learn, programming language design and compilers are two of the best ways to get down to the metal, into the deepest layers of the machine. Understanding how things work will always gives you a heads up compare to learning workaround by memory. This is true for programming, but also when learning English or French, or when operating a microwave (you can learn what not to put in it, and maybe forget, or you can learn how it works, and deduce naturally what is a bad idea to put into it.)

Still there is more about C3 than having fun. It sure began that way, but my husband has outgrown the educational purpose. It all starts with a dream of making the perfect language. Off course reality catches up, the more you program, the more you realize the complexity of the task. But the more you program, the more you see space for improvement. There is an amazing amount of programming languages out there, some are really good and we have a lot of respect for them, especially C++. But they all have a bunch little something annoying (sometimes big) which leave the door open for improvement and new discoveries. Closing the door would be a very sad thing for the sake of creativity, but pushing the limit farther: that’s an interesting challenge.

Identifying what doesn’t work is one thing, but thinking about an elegant solution is very different. Over the years, he had been collecting problems in languages he was using, each time challenging his design. But the good designer also has an eye for good design, even when it’s not own work. Experience is what shaped this dream into the refined reality of C3.

So here we are, he doesn’t intend to reinvent the wheel, C++ is a big inspiration in his work and those familiar to it should feel totally comfortable with C3. But he’s making it evolve, mostly by making the syntax leaner. This doesn’t make the language more restrictive. On the contrary, simplifying the rules will leave more space for innovation. Alongside come ideas to make the programming more comfortable with better tools and a dream of a more unified community of programmer (and somewhat of a plan on how to make it happen).

Back to the question, is this a Not-Invented-Here syndrome? Probably… But this is how evolution works right? If everything was perfect, there would be no need to improve it. Only the most innovative persons challenge the very basics of things.

So mostly that’s it, a programmer should start designing his own programming language for fun and educational purpose. Some people, like my husband, discovers along the way that the world could benefit from their innovative ideas and want to push further. There is a long way ahead to make this actually happen. Hopefully he isn’t alone, a wife stands by him!

2 thoughts on “Is creating a programming language an extreme form of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome?

  1. And that is how creativity works, isn’t it ? The wheel certainly wasn’t invented out of thin air, either. Since… way back then, your husband was the most creative by far. No surprise he is now giving life to his projects. In a way, he’s more of an artist than a programmer. Always was, actually. Very much like you, I would think. And where art is supposed to serve no purpose (even though we couldn’t make without it), he, and you, you both are managing to unite it with usefulness. Interesting.

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