April 3, 2012

Why I doffed my ruby slippers

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:16 pm by dgcombs

It’s a good thing I’m not a weather man.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a young web programmer. We somehow got onto the topic of programming languages. I said I had never learned Ruby. You know those long pauses where something should be said but you just can’t figure out what? Yeah. It was a lot like that. In my head, there was a lot going on. But out in the real world it was very, very quiet.

In my head I’m thinking back to the 1960’s when my dad came home from work all excited. “Look what I’ve got!” he said in that “don’t show this to mom” voice. He pulled a little metal box from his pocket. All boxes back then were metal or wood. Or they were cardboard like Quaker Oats cylinder-shaped boxes. He opened it up an inside were four or five brightly colored chunks of… what? What was that? He winked. “Plastics,” he said, Foreshadowing a movie I had yet to see, staring a man I did not yet know, with music that had not yet been written. “What can you do with it?” I asked. “Make things out of it,” he replied. Thinking about how you interact with metal or wood or sometimes cardboard when you make a cylinder, I said, “it’ll never catch on.”

In my head I’m thinking back to the late 1980’s when my wife was in graduate school at the real GSU trying desperately to juggle home, children and research for her Master’s thesis on multicultural education. Although she could look up the title and some of the general description, the book’s content simply eluded her. The screetching Hayes modem just couldn’t drag the books those long miles to home. “If only I could find, download and read whole books over the modem,” she pleaded. Thinking how complex an undertaking it would be to convert all that printed material to some electronic format for easy download and delivery, I mused, “It’ll never catch on.”

In my head I’m thinking back to the late 1990’s as a new programming language made the Internet scene. I had graduated from C to Rexx to VBScript and JScript, automating simple tasks in Word and Excel for finance users. Awash in tools that were already included in Windows and not seeing an easy way to deploy Ruby to the masses, I realized at once that, “It’ll never catch on.”

But out loud I simply said, “No, I skipped Ruby and went directly to NodeJS. Sometimes I regret having missed out on the whole Ruby phenom.”

Oh, look! It’s sunny out. I thought it would rain today.

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