Programming is Writing, but Simpler

Programming is writing, but simpler. That might sound strange. But it’s not. In programming, the rules are stricter and more enforcing, I admit. But the language syntax of Java, for example, is stupidly simple, compared to German grammar.

But before elaborating further on the thesis that programming is simpler, let’s look on the similarities. Programming and writing have very similar goals and operate very similar. You don’t believe me? Let me show you.

Writing from a programmer’s perspective

When you write, your goal is to create a world: a succession of images, sounds and feelings inside your readers mind. Agreed? So for a programmer that translates to: your script – the source code – gets executed sequentially in the reader’s hard wetware and conjures the intended flow of images and feelings. In doing so, certain keywords trigger certain memories and create a hardware specific (personal) version of the “program”.

Programming from a writer’s perspective

When you program, your goal is to tell the computer, how the user interface looks like, how it should react to user input and what rules exist and should be enforced. The computer reads this “story” and conjures the described world in it’s hardware. The computer is the reader and you – as the computer’s user – are watching straight at the unfolded story inside this poor beings brain.

It’s oversimplifying of course. There are not only programs with user interfaces, but the idea (the computer is the reader of the programmers writing) fits even embedded systems (in your car for example).

Both, writing and programming can be done in different languages. And there is a huge amount of different languages on either side. There are languages with exotic rules and some are much stricter or more complex than others. Some are absolutely incompatible to each other. And yet others are very similar.

Each language gives you different words, rules and patterns. You have to study this languages and read a lot, to become fluent.

Programming is simpler!?!

Matching the “target platform”, the readers brain, is the hardest part in writing and unbelievable more complex than in programming. Everyone is unique after all, so your only chance is to group them, imagine target audiences that share similar backgrounds, knowledge and interests.

You don’t know how the reader’s wetware is configured and what other “programs” are already installed. There might be essential ‘plugins’ missing. Or they might interfere with, or contradict each other. You have to guess a lot.

I love programming for it’s instant feedback, which makes it simpler to learn:

  • If you screw it, it looks as if nothing has happened, until you look at what the computer spat out in some console, shell, terminal or log file.
  • If you did it quite good, you can see something, at least, if you look closer you might see some flaws, visual, in the intended function, or somewhere else.
  • If you did great, everything looks gorgeous and even things you haven’t ever thought of, are “magically” possible. I love it when that happens.

Writing on the other hand, this blog for example, doesn’t provide me with much feedback. Some of my dear readers are merciful enough to hit the like button sometimes, or find some kind words in the comments, but really, I don’t know where I stand.

I try to improve my English.

Some words about my writing would be really appreciated. I can stand critique, really. I love it actually. That’s how I work and what I need to get better. Give it to me! Please!

As an aside, this whole programming-is-writing-thing might have been obvious to you. It wasn’t for me. Not until I dove a little bit into writing and theories behind human as well as computer languages.

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