Is the Web the new BASIC?

“Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code”… hundreds of thousands of geeks first got into computing by learning BASIC (or something similar) on their computers. Commodores, Amigas, Altairs, etc…

You don’t really hear of that anymore. It seems to be the trend that with the rampant popularity of the Web, instead of learning BASIC or something similar and working their way up to more traditional (i.e., not designed specifically for noobs) languages, people are getting their first taste of design by learning HTML and CSS and moving on to things like AJAX or PHP. They’re not learning to write clever programs to make their *computer* do new things, they’re writing web apps to make the *Web* do new things.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? One obvious point of failure is that HTML and CSS are not programming languages as they’re nowhere near Turing complete, and really teach nothing more than a form of typesetting (though I’m sure Knuth would appreciate the return of the popularity in general of the separation of content (HTML/XML) from presentation (CSS)). But then again, JavaScript, the “J” in “AJAX”, certainly *is* a proper programming language by anyone’s standards, it just happens to have a very specific problem domain like Erlang or raw assembly… or BASIC. Not to mention PHP, ASP, and all the other web scripting languages.

And with on/offline web apps becoming so popular (look at Google, or Facebook, and this whole “Web 2.0” craze in general for obvious examples, not to mention WordPress), has anything really changed, other than instead of learning to program computers, the new breed learns to program the Web?

Just a thought.


April 5, 2008 - Posted by | Life, Programming, web

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