|Expanding Access to Science and Technology (UNU, 1994, 462 pages)|
|Session 4 : Intelligent access to information: Part 2|
|The new world of computing: The sub-language paradigm|
So here is our paradigm: It is the constant re-evaluation and adjustment of the relevant view that characterizes human information processing. A succinct expression of this view is a sub-language that is describable as a formal syntax and denotational semantics. When the basic conceptual structure of a task environment is changing only slowly, a sub-language can be established that characterizes the task and the considerations relevant to it. A computer can be programmed to understand this sub-language. providing a natural computer adjunct in accomplishing that task.
Programming languages are the proper sub-languages of system programmers, and their very limited application is the implementation of operating systems and language processors. Possibly it is only lack of a clear and relevant paradigm that has delayed even applications programmers from having an appropriate way to communicate with the computer. It is now time for the rest of us to be provided with the sub-languages appropriate to our concerns, sub-languages that are natural and efficient for our communications with the computer and for our communications with each other through the computer. Then the computer will find its appropriate niche as a medium of communication, tying people, information resources, and processing power together into the efficient focus of our appropriate sub-language. This is our vision. However, vision alone will not provide the better answer to Dr. Lucky's question. It is a sad commentary on this industry that the many visions, the promises, remain largely just that - visions and promises. The Apple Computer film "Knowledge Navigator" offers no clue for bringing that vision into being.
How do we realize our vision? How do we solve the many technological problems that lie in the path of such a development?
The problems now faced by the software industry are clear and indeed are recognized by that industry; the first of these is by far the most stringent:
(1) The high cost of software development.
(2) The integration of multiple media, of data, and of geographically dispersed people and resources into a coherent user interface.
(3) The computer's current inability to understand references to internal contents of files- to know what we are pointing at in a picture, to be able to answer questions using a table of data from a journal article, or to know to inform others of a change in an item of data.
(4) The difficulty in getting any single relevant item from all the world's information without being blocked by the enormous barriers of ambiguity, volume, and non-focused indexing.
We have faced these problems and have concluded that current software development practices, built as they are on the minimalist philosophy and the current perspective of software engineering, are not conducive to solving these problems. Object-oriented programming is a major step in the correct direction, but is insufficient because it does not deal with the adverse effects of the isolated, monolithic system that is the hallmark of the minimalist and software engineering views. Further basic changes of approach are required.
In seeking a solution to these problems, we have first put forward a clear paradigm: The sub-language is the proper focus of software development. From the vantage point of this paradigm, follow three radical changes in software system architecture:
(1) A single, grammar-driven language processor that includes language extension utilities.
(2) Segmentation at the language-processing level using a page-address structure compatible with networking.
(3) Hierarchical sub-languages sharing a common, worldwide address space to solve the distributed data and distributed processing problems.
In presenting our vision here, it has been important to us that our ideas really work, and that our words are backed by a solid, working system. The New World of Computing System exists. We have embodied the radical changes into a complete, rounded system. We have gone farther by extending this system to include capabilities that elucidate and amplify the basic concepts. The many technical designs, both indicated in the above presentation and implied by the illustrations, have been fully implemented in this single, integrated system. We have successfully tested and demonstrated every technological capability required to achieve every aspect of our vision. Thus, the basis has now been laid, a technical solution has been achieved for that new world of computing, the era of the telephone-computer.