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Monday, January 17, 2005

Objects are Easy? (Maybe Not)

A comment on Scott Rosenberg's blog post about concurrent programming...

Herb Sutter's analogy to object- oriented programming is completely bogus - OO is a bag of tricks for making it *easier* to write programs (often at the expense of making them a little slower), and especially easier to debug and maintain those programs; parallel programming makes it *harder* to write programs, and dramatically harder to make them correct, debuggable, and maintainable. It's just not going to happen.
First I would argue that programming with objects is not easier. But then the question is easier than what? The commentator does not say.

Objects are a code organization mechanism. As the complexity of a system grows, objects help through organizing the complexity. Progammers can use objects to focus on specific problems without being overwhelmed by uninteresting aspects of the system.

But objects are not easy. However I would agree that concurrency is even more difficult, especially given the languages and tools of the past several decades.

The commentator appears to be making an assumption though that the languages and tools of the past will not improve and there will be no incentive to improve...

As a software engineer with over 20 years experience, including a good deal on highly parallel machines, I can tell you for sure that there is not going to be a revolution in software development. Explicit parallelism is just too difficult to get right in general, and the applications that benefit from it have already been optimized for multi-cpu machines since the 1980's.
This sounds a lot like previous infamous predictions like no one needing more than 640k RAM.

Objects are hard, but they offer better notational organization. Processes are hard too, but they offer better dynamic organization. We just need better notations and tools for processes and someday someone may be writing something like "concurrency is a bag of tricks for making it *easier* to write programs".

The same commentator adds in a subsequent comment...

People don't get smarter, so this problem is not going to be solved no matter how much Intel would like it to be.
The same might have been said about programming sequentially before objects, or even modules and structured procedural improvements. The software industry has gotten smarter, perhaps not as quickly as any of us would like.


Ian Bicking said...

It seems to me that he's confusing tools with requirements. Object oriented programming can be a tool with which to enable larger, more complicated software. Object oriented programming is not to blame for larger, more complicated software.

If we need concurrent programming, then maybe we need it, and we need tools to handle it. With those tools, design with tend to increasingly favor concurrent solutions, but that's merely because of a change in balance, not because the tools themselves are driving people to use certain techniques.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.