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7 reasons why frameworks are the new programming languages

Peter Wayner | March 31, 2015
Thanks to powerful tools, the need for speed, and the shifting nature of programming itself, your next nerd fight will be over framework APIs, not syntax

Many programmers understand it's dangerous and wasteful to spend time re-implementing standard algorithms and data structures. Sure, you might be able to tune it a bit to your needs, but you risk making subtle mistakes. Frameworks have been widely tested over the years. They represent our collective investment in a software infrastructure. There aren't many examples of when it makes sense to "go off the grid," toss aside the hard work of others, and build an algorithmic cabin with your own two hands.

The right approach is to study the frameworks and learn how to use them to your best advantage. If you choose the wrong data structure, you could turn a linear job into one that takes a time that's a quadratic function of the input size. That's a big hassle once you go viral.

Compilers and smart IDEs correct your syntax

Am I supposed to put a semicolon after the last statement in a block? Is the semicolon a "separator" or a "terminator"? Language designers have spent a long time crafting parsers that enforce these rules and — guess what — I don't care. There was a time a decade or so when I did care, but now the IDEs do the work for me. They're constantly watching my back and telling me when I screw up. I let them do the thinking for me and spend my time pondering the big questions about my code. The IDE is the peon, the programming assistant that handles those petty details.

Automation has saved us from the tedium of programming syntax. Oh sure, they don't do everything for us. We still need to have a vague idea of which punctuation to deploy. But most of the time, the details about the languages don't matter.

The IDEs also help with frameworks, but only the little details. They'll remind us the parameters for the function call, and they'll even check to see whether the data is the right type. After that, we're supposed to know which functions to use and how to plug them together. This is where our mind focuses when the syntax doesn't matter so much — toward the higher-level methods and functions that will help surface solutions more expediently.

Syntax is disappearing with visual languages

While this has been predicted for many years, it's slowly happening with some — though not all — code. Some programming continues to be very textual, but some is becoming more visual, which means the underlying computer language doesn't matter as much.

GUI builders are the easiest places to see this. You can drag and drop user interface widgets all day and night without worrying about whether it's C or Java or anything else. The details are coded in visual boxes.


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