Look and Feel of Programming

Jonathan Edwards assembled a gallery of notable user interfaces for programming as inspiration for the next version of Subtext. post slides

Subtext is an ongoing experiment in radically simplified programming. It is radical in that I am willing to throw away everything we know about programming and start from scratch. This approach antagonizes both academics and professionals, but it is what I must do.

I seek to better understand the creative act of programming, and to help liberate it from the primitive state of our art.


I spend a lot of time learning how a system (or its designer) wants me to think. My best thinking ever has been with Kent Beck, pair-programming in Smalltalk. I’ve reflected on this recently.

Although its computational model was simple, we never felt limited by it since we spent our hours working with our own abstractions. Allen Wirfs-Brock described Smalltalk-80 as the pinnacle of the near exhausted line of imperative programming languages. I don’t disagree. But I do think that the language, its implementation, and our methods made a combination I’ve not seen eclipsed since.

Jonathan Edwards replies.

It is amazing what can be achieved by the best people with the right attitudes and the sharpest tools. But these days I’m interested in enabling regular people without expertise to get simple shit done with computers. That’s quite a different problem.

Ward Cunningham replies.

I failed to mention how much I enjoyed going through your slides and then reading further about Subtext. I know Alan Kay was disappointed that Smalltalk-80 turned Smalltalk into a programmer’s tool. Worse, there is so much accidental and even intentional complexity in modern devices which makes your challenge that much more difficult. But then, regular people are more clever than ever. I laud your intentions.


Luna. Visual and textual functional programming language with a focus on productivity, collaboration and development ergonomics. site