“Proper Programming” A Concept
As I delve into a career in computing and software design, I am constantly met with tropes, that more often than not, make me wince.
Once the eye-rolling has finished and the cringe has subsided it is now the task to understand why this is an unjustified.
The example I have today was based on a discussion about web design and the importance/difficulty of the art of it. It began positive, whereby web developers are praised for their commitment to the art of programming and design. A combination not often favoured. Swiftly, and unsurprisingly, it changed to a conversation about how certain languages have importance over others and referred to web development languages as not “proper”. This has not been the first time I have met this remark from a fellow computing student/enthusiast/professional, it usually is followed by a checklist of all the “real” languages that they can perform and how HTML has held them back.
Now, while I disagree with HTML being any less important, I understand it definitely has its limits. It serves its purpose in its fullest as a mark-up language and nothing more. This, however does not make it unimportant, how would we all be accessing pages, like this, without it?
1980s: In The Beginning
The World Wide Web began life at CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics). This is a surprising place for the beginnings of a technology which would deliver, essentially everything, to our fingertips. This language can quite obviously be overshadowed by the research and creating of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider).
In 1980, physicist Tim Berners-Lee, a contractor at CERN, proposed and prototyped a system for CERN researchers to use and share documents. In 1989, Berners-Lee wrote a memo proposing an Internet-based hypertext system. HTML was not quite accepted in 1989 by CERN however, developments in communications technology during that time meant that, sooner or later, something like the Web was bound to happen.
Since 2014 we have been using HTML5 and we continue to base our web development on this crucial language. As limited this language can be seen as, it has shaped our lives as we live online day to day.
Now: The Importance
Whether or not you believe HTML is trivial or out width your idea of programming languages, there is a reason that if you search “The importance of website development” the search is swarmed with articles. HTML is an accessible language, which may be why it is labelled as “improper” or less impactful than more object oriented languages that out world is filled with. However, no matter how many other languages that exist in our world, we will be relying on web development languages until websites are no longer used. In this current day an age, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Going on the basis of this accessible language being seen as lesser, this is exactly why this language is important. Imagine you are a new business owner in 2021 with little/no computing experience, you know you need an online presence but don’t know exactly what to do. Luckily, there are many websites and hosting platforms that can help you make a website quickly and painless. Nonetheless, there are now ways you can learn simple web design to create and host your own website.
Now, I know people in this industry understand the importance of simple web design. I think the main issue lies with experience of other programming languages and the comparison to the learning curve. HTML is often used as a stepping stone, I know it was for me, as the first programming language I learnt, at a very young age. So, as you move away from the “starting zone” you do lose the context at which you needed that step. Now in my experience, the dismissal of basics or removal of context can make you seem above or better than it. I do find this attitude is somewhat practiced in advanced computing. It makes computing seem as though it is an inaccessible career only for people doing [insert language here] and only those as smart as the hardest thing you, as a professional, has ever done.
Portraying this attitude, demonstrates that the context and the development that you have taken yourself (probably over years), could never be compared to a beginner, or they could never be compared to you.
Web development is sometimes seen as “the Biology of computing” but anyone that has tried to design a website with accessibility, UX, modern design and marketing all in one, can agree that is isn’t an easy feat. Nothing in computing is easy without practicing and starting somewhere. As a community we need to try harder to attract future students and professionals, not increase imposter syndrome or scare potential contributors away before they’ve even began.