cogitans alta voce 

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Rough Cut: Code aesthetics as a design consideration

From GNU sed 4.2.2 released, and a rant from the maintainer, and apparently quoting Richard Stallman:

We [the FSF] still prefer C to C++, because C++ is so ugly

The aesthetics of programming languages as an influencing factor in choosing which ones to use is relatively recent. Ten years ago I don’t think I ever heard anyone express a preference for say Pascal over C because it was “prettier.” It’s not that code didn’t have aesthetic judgements being made about it — you’d often find and complain about “ugly” code. It was however usually a comparison between code formatting styles for the same language.

Now Stallman might not have been making a purely aesthetic statement. I don’t know the context. He’s an old hacker from way back and there’s not a lot you could teach him about programming languages. He may have been referring to design trade-offs he didn’t like. Plenty of other people however have expressed, for example, a preference for Ruby or Python over Perl because Perl is “ugly.”

I’m just wondering out loud if it really is a new thing to see people use judgements about the “attractiveness” of a language’s syntax or if it’s always been there. Perhaps the rise of open source means that, compared to programming 10-20 years ago, we’re all reading a lot more code that we’re writing.

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