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9 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Jan. 19, 2016
Our coding crystal ball offers developers meaningful bets for the next five years -- but few guarantees given the rate of change for tech

The most prominent are pinky-saving dialects, such as CoffeeScript, that strip away much of the punctuation that bothers some programmers. There are dozens of variations on CoffeeScript, including Coco, IcedCoffeeScript, and CoffeeScript II: The Wrath of Khan. These are only the beginning because clever programmers have written transcoders for languages as diverse as Cobol, Java, Lisp, and C. All of them can now run in your browser after being lovingly translated and optimized for fast delivery and parsing. Why actually write in JavaScript when you can have your robot software concierge translate your favorite language?

Prediction No. 7: PHP will battle back against Node.js

... but only to preserve legacy apps from being rewritten. A few years ago it felt like PHP would gradually fade away as Node.js and JavaScript ate the server farm. That still might happen, but PHP is going down with a fight. The newest versions of just-in-time tools like PHP 7 and the HipHop Virtual Machine are offering dramatically faster performance. Because of this, codebases such as WordPress or Drupal are running 30, 40, 50, or even 100 percent faster.

This doesn’t change the other advantages JavaScript offers in devising in projects, like the way it enables the same code to run on the browser and the server, but it removes one of the biggest reasons for abandoning an old code base written in PHP in favor of Node.js. These old platforms will have new life after all.

Prediction No. 8: Everyone will know how to program -- but few will write “real code”

Education projects have everyone teaching everyone how to write software. On Dec. 8, 2014, President Obama took time out from fixing the Middle East and fighting terrorism to spend an hour learning how to write a single line of code. Did his hack fest make the roll out of the next generation of the Obamacare website any smoother?

The obsession with teaching everyone, including maybe someday our dogs and parakeets, to program will continue for years to come. The best strategy for real programmers is to smile and encourage them. The more the general population tries programming, the more they’ll realize how hard it is to juggle all of those numbers, APIs, and whatnot. It’s one thing to write a line of code as President Obama did. It’s another to build out an entire system with thousands if not millions of lines of code.

There will be some who pick up a language and soar, but many will pull out their hair and silently scream. Anyone can write a loop, but only a few can choose the right loop. Everyone learned how to cut wood as a kid, but they still call carpenters to build houses.


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