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Keep JavaScript dumb

I’ve been a hobbyist programmer since I got my first computer in 1984 or so. I greatly enjoy it and I’m terrible at it.

I mainly use JS to create utilities for myself that take me 1,000 hours to write and save me a lifetime of 45 seconds. I like Javascript for tawdry reasons: It’s straightforward, there’s a huge collection of libraries, any question I might ever have has already been asked and answered at StackOverflow, and I get to see the results immediately on screen. It’s of course also useful for the various bush league Web sites I occasionally have to put up (e.g., Everyday Chaos). Also, jQuery makes dumb HTML (DOM) work easy.

But here’s the but…

But, ECMA is taking JS in a terrible direction: it’s turning it professional, what with the arrow functions and the promises, etc. If you’re a hobbyist who enjoys programming for the logic of it, the new stuff in JS hides that logic on behalf of things I happen not to care about like elegance, consistency, and concision.

Now, I know that I don’t have to use the new stuff. But in fact I do, because the community I rely on to answer my questions — basically StackOverflow — increasingly is answering with the new stuff.

There’s a reason JS became the most used language on the planet: not only can you do webby stuff with it, it has a pretty linear learning curve. Now I literally feel like I’m in danger of losing “View Source” from my browser … literally because while I can view the source, increasingly I can’t understand it.

I’m going to lose this argument. I already have lost it. I should lose it. My position is wrong. I know that. Nevertheless, I stand firmly on the wrong side of history as I declare in my lonely, quavering voice: Keep. JavaScript. Dumb.

2 Responses to “Keep JavaScript dumb”

  1. I feel your frustration. I feel the same way about Basic. Not Visual Basic, but the good old fashioned Basic that came with computers way back when. I learned Basic from the guys that invented it at Dartmouth. I know a lot of people that got their start in programming from the language. I was a pro programmer for 45 years and fluent in all kinds of assembly, Fortran, Perl and more. But for quick and dirty little programs, Basic was okay. I miss it. (BTW, yeah I’m the guy that put up a review of Cluetrain back in 1999 on and was surprised that both you and Doc sent me a thank you within hours of it going live.)

  2. Hi, DC! This is to register you as an official member of the Old People Yelling at Clouds Club!

    I oddly cut my programming teeth on Structured Basic, because it came with my Kay-Pro. SB was Basic with the ability to write functions. I taught myself by staring dumbly at the manual that assumed you knew how to program and you knew Basic. I regressed from there to assembler, and then up to Turbo Pascal and then C. I did spend a lot of time with Visual Basic, which I found satisfying.

    In the early 1990s, I learned Lisp which I know some amazing developers absolutely swear by. But for my applications, it seemed purposefully weird, right down to its vocabulary. Cdr? Really? But it was the document extension language the company I worked for — Interleaf — used. And I really really wanted to write extensions to the Interleaf text-and-graphics sw. When HTML and JavaScript came out, it was for me a big “Ohhhh, that’s how you do it!” moment. (I wrote a book back then called “The Adventurers Guide to Interleaf Lisp”, that’s written in the way I wish guides were written for people like me.)

    Anyway, good to hear from you. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply; I’m spending less time on my blog these days.

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