Friday, December 14, 2012

Praise to the Humble Spreadsheet

I have been rather obsessed by the idea that normal people ought to be able to learn how to create their own useful programs...

In my youth (or so I remember) there was a fairly common belief that people would write their own software... Microsoft began as the purveyor of BASIC (so anybody could program their new-fangled Personal Computers)... Apple's Macs boasted  HyperCard...  Writing your own programs was expected and encouraged.

Now we have the iPad and its brethren, and we're just supposed to install Apps and play them.  Programming is for someone else to do, we are just supposed to play Apps the same way we used to play vinyl records, CDs, etc.  Personal Computer replaced by Personal Media (created by someone else) Device.

But not really.

Many of the most popular Apps are those which allow folks to create Media, and the closer you look the more it appears that many Apps are heading in the direction of creating (simple) programs involving media and sharing.  It's not the overt message of "write your own programs" heralded by BASIC, but the undercurrent is there.  People (well, some people) really do want to write their own programs once in awhile.

If I am right (and I am just arrogant enough to believe that I am right), then the world still needs a Personal Programming Language that mere mortals can learn and use on a semi-regular basis to write their own programs.

Curious as to whether or not others agree, I started searching for examples without much luck until I stopped searching for Easy Programming (it's a cruel joke to associate C++ with easy anything) and I started searching for Spreadsheet Programming.

Spreadsheets have a proven track record for learn-ability, perhaps not by anyone but certainly by a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds.  Any efforts to create (or find) tools for Personal Programming really needs to start with what's been learned from Spreadsheets.

There really are some great efforts out there to expand on what's been learned from Spreadsheets, and to take them to "the next level" in terms of programming.  Here's a partial list for you to look at:
Please let me know of others as you find them.

Update: Nice articles on Spreadsheet Programmng and User Centered Functions

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