I wish for a simple computing experience

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I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:27 pm

Recently I've had the feeling that programming is too complicated, web development in particular. So many competing frameworks, so many layers on top of one another, so many different ways to do one simple thing. Programming loses its appeal when the whole system is too complex for me to understand, when everything is spread out across too many files that I myself have not written nor organized, when an error pops up and I can only solve it via trial and error.

I want to play with something not necessarily simple, but close to the metal, cutting through whatever abstractions the OS or language might put in the way. When I do something, I want to know exactly what goes through the machine, what portion of memory is being modified, how the memory is setup, what pages are rotating in and out, what the programmer was thinking...

And every computer out there, I feel, is too complex these days. They all have encrypted this, scrambled address space that, virtualized this, abstracted that. There is always a "it's just a simple function that does foo, except that because of (some new feature implemented for transparency or security), the situation is a bit more complicated".

Should I retreat to DOS? Buy a 8 bit micro? Does anyone else get this feeling too?
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:54 pm

You could try some emulators for the old 8-bit micros, like Applewin (emulates Apple ][ series) and VICE (for Commodores), to see if they seem like what you're after before trying to find physical hardware. Applewin's got a pretty nice integrated debugger.

There's also SimH for various older mini- and microcomputer architectures, such as VAX, PDP, and Altair, with operating systems available for download.
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:20 pm

Yes, sometimes I long for the DOS days too. Back then, one person could understand everything that was going on, from the user interface all the way down to the bare metal. You can't really do that any more, at least not for a modern GUI/web application that uses a canned framework or interpreted language.

If you enjoy bit twiddling maybe you should look into doing development for embedded microcontrollers. Or even FPGA development (Verilog/VHDL). Or maybe play around with interfacing devices to a Raspberry Pi... best of both worlds (the RPI runs a modern OS, but you can bit-bang homebrewed devices to your heart's content over the GPIO header).

Edit: Remember this thread? I haven't really had time to mess with it since, but intend to get back into it (along with some Raspberry Pi stuff). There are 32-bit versions of the PIC available as well (based on the MIPS architecture); the 32-bit ones are still "bare metal" but perhaps a bit less alien to people who have grown up in the Windows era! :wink:
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:21 am

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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:41 am

There's also GNUSim8085 for something a /little/ less in-depth than Visual 6502. :wink:
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:10 am

You're not going to be able to understand everything outside of a relatively simplistic program or hardware platform. That's just the way it is. Different people have different specialties, and it's better to leverage those specialties to create a performant ecosystem.

Tons of different ways to do the same thing is just the way people are. They all think their way is the best, or there is something they don't like about the other 99 versions. Just pick one you like and gets the results you want. Alternately, pick one that will get you paid; both ways are equally valid.

Assembler is the closest thing to bare metal programming there is. The programmer is responsible for managing everything. C has the luxury of a compiler that will optimize the code, but assembler does not. Of course, assembler is just floating on top of the deep water of chip design, and the chip is another black box of nested virtual machines.

DOS was an awful design for a general purpose operating system. Embedded system, sure, but not a desktop or laptop. Modern Unix-like operating systems are worlds better.

I got a creeping sense of nostalgia a while ago, so I fired up DOSBox. That lasted less then 5 minutes. As soon as I was in there, I missed all of the modern conveniences I have become accustomed to, and I realized that my nostalgia was tainting my view of the past. DOSBox was uninstalled, and I happily logged into a Linux VM.
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Mon Feb 10, 2014 7:03 pm

Crayon Shin Chan wrote:Should I retreat to DOS? Buy a 8 bit micro? Does anyone else get this feeling too?


Funny you bring this up. The number of JavaScript libraries out right now is astounding, crazy really. I want to see a new operating system built from the ground up in super simple C++ syntax with a crazy simple built in GUI library. Everything these days is so complicated and needlessly so.

Creating GUI's in vanilla WinAPI is crazy, it should be more like HTML markup where things are auto sized by default.
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Re: I wish for a simple computing experience

Postposted on Mon Feb 10, 2014 8:07 pm

pcunite wrote:a new operating system built from the ground up in super simple C++ syntax with a crazy simple built in GUI library
How the OS is built does not have much bearing on the application developers. You mean you want to dabble in the OS source code? BTW, simple and C++ syntax does not mix. For beginners, separating "." and "->" can already be daunting. For more advanced coders, let's see if they can deal with templates. The crazies? Let's deal with Alexandrescu stuff (template recursions, etc.) and the latest shiny object: lambdas. You may as well pick a language that cannot get this complicated to begin with.

pcunite wrote:Creating GUI's in vanilla WinAPI is crazy, it should be more like HTML markup where things are auto sized by default.

HTML5? Doing GUI "raw" is hard. If you want simple then you are already living in some sort of framework.
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