Sunday, September 26, 2010
On Software and Music - In With the Old
But what about the work that we consider to be truly significant? In the music world we still study Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Gabrieli, even Gregorian chants, not as nostalgia, but as work that is still relevant and valuable today. Where is this reverence for history in software? What is the difference? Is it in the platform evolution? Each new computing device to hit the market seems to render last month's model instantly obsolete. The arsenal of musical instruments over the years has progressed more by expansion than by evolution. The new does not generally displace the old. We've added saxophones, steel-stringed guitars, drum kits, electric pianos, electric basses, synthesizers, and on and on, but the symphony orchestra still looks pretty much like it did three hundred years ago.
This is one of the things that I find so fascinating about all the recent movement in the field of functional programming. It's old! LISP was developed in the 1950s, and we're studying this approach today not because it tells where we've come from, or because we have fond childhood memories of it, but because it is valuable to us right now. I have never seen this happen before in this field. Maybe it's just because I'm getting old, but I'm intrigued and excited to see "the new hotness" can be something that is older than I am.
Posted by Calvin Bottoms