Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Swift Playgrounds Aren’t HyperCard

Adam Banks:

HyperCard, “like a software erector set,” would crystallise computing into building blocks that any user could snap together to implement the functionality and user interface they had in mind. That’s not what Swift Playgrounds does today, however. Apple’s newest attempt to democratize coding presents a very inviting experience to the budding developer, but it insists that you code. And even after having done so, you still don’t get a deliverable app—only a work in progress.


Keith Martin, a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts London (UAL) with a long-term interest in interactive development, also wanted Apple to think beyond code. “Swift Playgrounds seems to be a tacit admission that Swift is not easy. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually address the fundamental issues, it just tries to show stuff in a cutesy form.” The difficult concepts that made learning Objective-C (Apple’s favoured language before Swift) feel like “banging my head against a wall” are still unavoidable.


Yet while hypertext went everywhere, programming without coding went nowhere.


As [Douglas] Adams recognised, HyperCard didn’t dumb down; it simplified up. The way it shoehorned objects and classes into a mundane Rolodex metaphor made advanced principles concrete, so users could bash them around and see for themselves what they achieved instead of having to learn dry theory before they could even start on syntax.

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