[Self-interest] slow systems (was: OurSelf trial nowwithout invite!)

David Ungar ungar at mac.com
Thu Nov 26 01:20:05 UTC 2020


What you did was very cool! Quite an achievement, and great taste to implement APL.

Back in the day, the ST group at PARC did overlapping windows, and the Mesa folks  did Spaces, IIRC, non-overlapping windows. Although I have heard from many who prefer the non-overlapping ones, I stronger prefer the overlapping sort, at least given the particular systems I have been to. I can give quasi-rational reasons for the preference--no machine can figure out what I need to be able to see as well as I can--but my best guess would be that it comes down to a combination of brain wiring (n.b. the "typical mind fallacy") and the "incidental" aspects of the experience. For instance, how verbose the language is, how the IDE lays out windows (e.g. Xcode insists on putting certain things in certain places), and whether the new window jumps "into the hand". That last was a Smith-ism, which turned out to be fantastic, IMO. Ask for implementors, and just put it down where you like. Whether next-to, or overlapping. For my money, Morphic/Self was maybe two hours better at the 3am test than any of the "modern" IDEs I've used.

Our debugger reified each frame, so you could see as many as you wanted to, at once. Could yank them out, rearrange them, make a column morph of just the slots you wanted to see. And it was much less tool-centric than ST, or almost anything I've seen after.

Menus and icons are two more stories. I suspect the hierarchical radial ones might be OK, but haven't used them.
The guy with the best insight on this stuff is Randy Smith.

- David

> On Nov 25, 2020, at 4:56 PM, Paul Chapman <paul at igblan.free-online.co.uk> wrote:
> David,
> Five years before I saw Smalltalk, I built a windowed IDE in C for a FORTH-like language (called DE before I’d heard the term IDE) of my own design, which rendered on a 25x80 monochrome text screen. Exactly six resizable and maximizable/restorable, non-overlapping windows; no icons; no menus; no mouse. Each window could display any of: selectable list of global functions; editable function source with settable breakpoints; function symbolic object code; contents of RAM (heap); contents of call stack; contents of value stack; contents of local variable; source trace; object trace; application I/O console. Where a value referenced something else symbolically, the symbol was shown; eg READ_LINE+0014H, RAM+1210H. The IDE ran entirely in RAM on a 128K IBM PC clone. The output was a symbolic object-code file. An STSC APL*PLUS program then compiled this to binary – eventually taking 5 hours.
> It took me 9 months to use this language and IDE to implement I-APL, a complete, standard-conforming APL interpreter which compiled to 26K of object code which ran under a VM. The VM was then implemented on a number of platforms (by other members of the I-APL project), including CP-M, Apple II, IBM PC, BBC Micro, etc.
> It took me one month (1st-30th September 1987) to design the language and implement the IDE. On schedule!
> My take-away?
> Overlapping windows are overrated, and maybe even counterproductive to dev (see most IDEs of the past 20+ years: they use minimizable-in-place windows and docking). I do love my mouse now, but tabbing through the windows was easy in my IDE. My Smalltalk/V dev setup was always 3 non-overlapping windows: Transcript, Workbench (my idea: ListBox+TextEdit where I could define & run small pieces of code), and one CHB for the app. A second, overlapping, CHB, usually minimized, was used for browsing non-app classes. Of course walkback windows and inspectors overlapped (but when I get around to writing a Smalltalk dev environment, they won’t.)
> Menus *might* be a design choice left over from when graphics displays had much lower resolutions, to save on real estate. (Look at the welcome proliferation of toolbars.) In those days, IBM keyboards had 10 function keys arranged in 2 columns on the left. I stole WordStar’s 2-function-key commands (one from the left column, one from the right) allowing 25 commands at my fingertips without having to hit CTRL or ALT. These were my ‘menu shortcuts’ and all I needed.
> And I still find icons annoying: they’re not scalable, ie eventually they all look like a multicoloured splodge. Same with emojis. Okay, maybe my eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be.
> As you can probably tell, I’m still resting on this particular laurel.
> Cheers, Paul
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