[Oberon] Towards a syntax directed editor: IDE

Bob Walkden bob at web-options.com
Sat Dec 29 15:21:16 CET 2012

> From: eas lab [mailto:lab.eas at gmail.com]
> aka Old-paradigm rediscovered.
> The new paradigm/illusion, about 50 years old now, is commumicating via
> written memos, with little-man-in-box.
> The original/valid view of computers is of a multi-dimensional switch.
> All this talk about "typing and fingers" is absurd.
> The old railway-diagrams vividly emphasise that at all stages the next
> valid token is one of only-a-few;  which is most economically [in
> effort] just selected from a menu.

it doesn't sound like anything I would choose to use. If you ever write it I
would be intrigued to learn about the usability scores if you tested it with
real programmers doing real work. I suspect it would score 0/20. It removes
entirely the ability to sketch solutions, to leave things half-finished
while you pursue other ideas. You step on the track, and you cannot deviate
until you come out at the other end. It would be like shopping in Ikea
(which I have only done once).

> Of course this whole idea is already CONFIRMED by ETHO:
> you don't piano-play the keyboard like a journalist/novelist.

I would say that this is precisely what the overwhelming majority of
programmers do.

> You select, visually recognised [bigger than keys] items and assemble
> them. Let's just extend the good, proven method of ETHO.

Yes, let's. But this is not it.

I can't stand editors like this, they are like straitjackets, or the sort of
person who pushes you in the small of the back when you are stuck in a

There are all sorts of similar things available, for example for developing
ER diagrams, UML diagrams and so on, which insist that you conform to the
syntactic rules of whatever component you are drawing before you can draw
something else. I refuse to use them because you cannot sketch with them -
they force your thinking onto the railroad tracks of syntax, rather than
freeing your imagination to roam, and to move from one thing to another,
trying things out and being creative.


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