Forgotten Art of Programming

I remember when I was a kid, the thrill of seeing a new game or demo effect on my computer. It was a true display of programming ingeniousness, when coders struggled to bend the rules of physics and electronics and squeeze every possible bit of power from these machines.

Then came the PC and with it lazy programming. Now we are witnesses to the absurd such as 1 GHz processors installed in mobile phones, but switching from one menu to another is mysteriously lasting 5 seconds.

Programming is no longer considered an art, but just a way to get things done. If something is slow just buy better hardware, we are all taught to behave in this way.

Like many other things, coding has became a picture of a modern, fast-paced, profit oriented society.

But not everyone gave up. Cult of programming is still alive today thanks to sites like scene.org.

I recently saw a demo from this year's coding competition.

Now you'll watch it and probably say OK it's nice. What if I tell you that the whole demo you just saw fits in 256 bytes of code. 256 bytes or 256 characters is all that is needed to setup exe, initialize graphics, and draw this beautiful 3D pulsating environment. Imagine having at your disposal the equivalent of  contents of this and a previous paragraph to produce that kind of stunning animation on the screen of your computer! Now watch that demo again and awe.

Download link

If we up the ante to 4096 bytes we come up with this

Download demo

Amazing? Well not quite when you know that the computer that landed Apollo on the moon also had only 4096 bytes.

In the modern world your pen is likely to have more than that, let alone your watch or a phone which have thousands and millions times as much. But has the world really advanced millions or even thousand times? Not really.

We've simply pushed too many things too far. It's coming the time to go back to the roots.


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5 Comments

  1. Danny
    Jun 27th, 2010 10:43 AM

    I began my working life as a coder 35 years ago, working with boring accounting machines with 512 bytes for code and memory, so I do appreciate exactly what you are saying, Vladimir. It was fun, though, writing code in Hex with a pencil - and an eraser was an essential piece of IT kit back then!
    I think those were the most satisfyingly creative years of my life and the need to develop the most efficient possible code was really good discipline.
    Sadly, I have progressed into management roles and I really miss hands on coding. I have always thought it is more like art than science, maybe like the WP “code is poetry”. Certainly, the examples above represent code mastery, like Rembrandt was a master of his genre.

  2. May 21st, 2010 8:00 AM

    Programming was once upon a time, very addictive and fun, but with all the complicated things that has been added to the core languages it is no longer attractive.

    I remember making a software that played chess in assembler with only 2K of code and 2K for the graphics in a commodore 64 (the same code was rewritten by the program and re-executed to save space!!).

  3. May 19th, 2010 6:05 PM

    Your post is just like... too amazing. I feel sick with the bull things like whatever-ism or just-do-it. All things are standarized, quicken-paced, placed together, there's the law and the way and such left in the past and now we just do it... Boredom. Now we need nothing but those things that we think that we get it too throughoutly. I don't know what are we gonna do, but we are not gonna come far with this.

    And that 256 bytes... is just fully amazing. I can't believe it.

  4. May 18th, 2010 9:40 PM

    Excellent post. I grew up on the demoscene, and just made a post about revisiting it myself. My favorite recent demo is 1024 bytes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMaNxyHhH6A

  5. May 18th, 2010 4:42 PM

    I never thought programmers have become so lazy in modern days, nice stuff as always. Loved it!