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Code Complete Nonsense: More Language Proposals

Posted by chet on August 23, 2007 at 6:16 AM PDT

There's been a lot of talk recently about the various language proposals that
people have made, or debated, or agree with, or detest more than their mother
using spit to wipe something off their mouth when they were kids. But I think
that some very important language features have been under-represented in all
of the discussion, and I'd like to make sure that they make it into the
language change death match.

Here are my pet language proposals. You may recognize some of these as
features from other languages whose absence from Java has long been a mystery.

Line Numbers

How many times have you wanted to refer to a line or block of code, in a
presentation or a review, or just a conversation in a bar (otherwise known as a
"pickup line"), and you end up saying something like: "in the line that starts
with "if (ventedCelebrium == MAX_VENTAL_SIZE)" or "in the for() loop ... no,
the other for() loop ... no, the one before that, right after the call to the
creakleFrantic() method"?

Isn't it time that we had line numbers in Java? Then you could simply say, "On
line 42" or "in lines 8709-8752" and be done with it.

Obviously, time has moved on since line numbers were first used in other
computer languages, back in the 16th century or so, and we're all a lot smarter
now. So I would like to propose a small tweak to this proposal and demand that
the line numbers be in floating-point units. Besides having all of the
additional power of floating-point processing over the more typical, and
therefore much dumber, integers, think of the utility of being able to insert
code without changing the surrounding line numbers.  Imagine:


1    for (int i = 0; i < 100; ++i) {
2 System.out.println("fart");
3 }


1    for (int i = 0; i < 100; ++i) {
2 System.out.println("fart");
2.5 System.out.println("Oops! Excuse me!");
3 }

An alternate proposal on the table is to allow imaginary numbers as well, but I
find that idea irrational.

Goto considered harmless

Once we have line numbers, it's an obvious step to go ahead and shovel in the
keyword "goto", which has been waiting in the wings lo these many years, like
the scrawny, bespectacled youth waiting to be picked for a kickball team. After
all, wouldn't we goto justification;


  love to have teleportation in our own lives?  Why should we deny our
code that very capability when it's just lying there like a goto metaphor;


  Twinkie under the bleachers, waiting for us to pick it up and cram it in
our mouths? goto end;


Line Spacing

Whatever happened to that great capability in older languages of
having meaning embedded in the spaces? You couldn't just type code willy-nilly
wherever you wanted, but instead had to start the code in certain
columns. Sure, we get this fantastic capability from Makefiles, but today's
make systems are hidden behind IDE interfaces, and we rarely get to work
directly with the beauty and elegance of Makefile directly.

Isn't the significance of space just a metaphor for life (at least when you're
brain is chemically altered) where it's really the space and silence that count
the most?  It's the silence in scary movies that really build the
suspense. It's the quiet times that you spend with your kids that make you
forget the screaming matches. It's the geographical space between
relatives that makes family relationships function at all. And it's the space
characters in code that really give the code meaning and quality.

I would like to introduce column significance into Java, and make us all think
more about where we put our code. I've had enough of the code style wars of
indentation amounts, tabs-vs-spaces, and wide-vs-narrow line lengths. Let's
start enforcing code style by making the compiler puke when it finds code in
the wrong place.

Capital Idea

Have you ever noticed when you get an email from someone in ALL CAPITAL
LETTERS that the case actually changes the way you interpret the information?
For one thing, you feel confident that the sender is an idiot who
isn't aware of the caps-lock key. But more importantly, you feel as though
they are SHOUTING AT YOU through the computer (a real need in society
which has since been addressed by Skype).

I think that the code that we write is cool enough, powerful enough, and
significant enough that it should be screaming itself at the readers. How else
will they understand how awesome the code is?  Did Martin Luther King just
casually mention "Oh, by the way, I have a dream" to
whoever happened to be nearby? No: he used a microphone to
proclaim this great speech to as wide an audience as possible. Did Black
Sabbath speak their lyrics to the audience, like a folk singing
group in a coffee shop? Of course not: they screamed them out through bat
entrails to an audience so deaf from the amplifiers that nothing less than an
ear-splitting banshee wail would penetrate the din. Did Prince Charles proclaim
his love for Camilla in a quiet manner, over a private telephone call?
Actually, yes: it was the press that illegally tapped the call and then
relayed the sordid content through huge headlines, in a way that only
the British tabloids could do.

Of course, we are free use capital letters in our code today. But this
approach is mixed at best, with various keywords expected in lower case and a
lack of convention and consistency defeating the system overall. We need
compiler-enforced capitalization to make sure that our code intention comes


There are many more classic language features out there, dying to resurface in a
modern language. They worked well for previous generations of programmers, I'm
sure they would work for us too. Ignoring all of these features would be a sin

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