History, Santayana, and The Next Big Thing

"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it"

- George Santayana (1863 - 1952)

Or put another way, those who do not learn about the past are doomed to repeat it.

And so it goes in our industry. Many of the so-called latest developments are nothing more than a re-hash of ideas from yesteryear. Ask any Smalltalk curmudgeon and she'll tell you this is true.

The statement above is also what makes learning Lisp (or Smalltalk, or ...) really and truly worthwhile: it's not because you're going to get paid to do any work in those languages (and if you are, then more power to you ...and tell me where I can apply...!).

George Santayana certainly had a lot to say about software development.

The Next Big Thing

Closely related to this meme is that of where to find The Next Big Thing. Quite often the answer is sitting on the end of our collective noses. Rather than seek out TNBT in the cyber ether, simply look at your hard drive.

Witness AJAX: the enabling technologies (XMLHttpRequest, XML and Dynamic HTML) were sitting on everybody's machines several years before somebody creative put these existing pieces together in a new and interesting way.

But Anybody Could Have Done That!

Yes, but they didn't.

There is a great story - probably apocryphal - about Christopher Columbus receiving an accolade for his discovery of the Americas at a banquet. A courtier present at the time remarked, "Well, all you really did was to sail in one direction for a long time - anybody could have done that". Columbus paused for a moment and picked up an egg. "Can you make this egg stay upright?", Columbus asked the courtier. "Of course not!", the courtier replied. Columbus then sharply struck the bottom of the egg on the table, making it stand up, breaking it in the process. "Anybody could have done that!" the courtier protested. "Yes", Columbus replied, "but you didn't."

Christopher Columbus certainly had a lot to say... erm, never mind....

And with this I launch my blog, Software Development Redux, with redux taken from the Latin meaning, brought back.

Thanks for visiting.

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