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An Interview With Brian Kernighan, Co-Developer of Awk and Ampl

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Princeton University Professor Brian W. Kernighan

"Programming today depends more and more on combining large building blocks and less on detailed logic of little things," says Brian Kernighan, a professor of computer science at Princeton University.

Credit: Penn State University

Brian W. Kernighan — a contributor to the development of the AWK and AMPL programming languages — says that he remains "very interested" in domain-specific languages as well as tools that ease the writing of code. "Programming today depends more and more on combining large building blocks and less on detailed logic of little things, though there's certainly enough of that as well," he notes. "A typical programmer today spends a lot of time just trying to figure out what methods to call from some giant package and probably needs some kind of IDE like Eclipse or XCode to fill in the gaps. There are more languages in regular use and programs are often distributed combinations of multiple languages. All of these facts complicate life, though it's possible to build quite amazing systems quickly when everything goes right."

Kernighan points to an increase in scalable systems, and businesses that he thinks are making significant societal contributions include Google, through its wide scale access to a vast corpus of information.

Kernighan observes that "for better or worse, the driving influence today [behind contemporary computing] seems to be to get something up and running and used via the Internet, as quickly as possible." However, he says that approach "only works because there is infrastructure: Open source software like Unix/Linux and GNU tools and Web libraries, dirt-cheap hardware, and essentially free communications."

From Computerworld Australia
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