Sign In

Communications of the ACM

[email protected]

Programming Languages Are the Most Powerful, and Least ­sable and Learnable ­ser Interfaces

View as: Print Mobile App Share: Send by email Share on reddit Share on StumbleUpon Share on Hacker News Share on Tweeter Share on Facebook
Mark Guzdial

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Mark Guzdial

Andy Ko wrote a recent blog post with an important claim: "Programming languages are the least usable, but most powerful human-computer interfaces ever invented." Andy argues the "powerful" part with points about expressiveness and political power. He uses HCI design heuristics to show how programming languages have poor usability. Obviously, some people can use programming languages, but too few people and at great effort.

I see that Andy's argument extends to learnability. There are two ways in which programming languages have poor learnability today -- (1) in terms of expectancy-value and (2) in terms of social cost.

What's the benefit of a closure? Eugene Wallingford tweeted a great quote the other day: