Less Syntax Errors

It occurred to me today while reading an article about Tiny Basic in the latest Dr. Dobbs that much of my childhood contempt for actual programming may have come from my propensity for syntax errors and the primitive nature of the editors I used back in my childhood.

I’m dyslexic, thus spelling has always been pretty difficult by nature. Modern IDEs and editors nicely include features like auto-complete or at least syntax coloring and error suggestions. This greatly reduces the impact for not being a stellar speller. Enough so that in the last ten years or so I’ve always enjoyed pure coding versus my earlier experiences.

I remember taking forever to work my way through simple basic programs on a TI 99/4A or the Commodore 64. I also remember working in vi and absolutely detesting it, and not for just its absolutely frustrating modal interface. I edited my first HTML in a raw text editor and quickly determined that not using a tool was for the birds. A simple download of BBEdit Lite and I was instantly more productive and making a lot less syntax errors or at least being able to instantly spot them. And that just had syntax coloring at the time.

Now I love working in IntelliJ IDEA with auto-complete, intention actions, and refactoring support. I probably start to make just as many syntax errors, but they’re identified so quickly I hardly notice. It certainly makes me a lot more productive. And I still hate vi. My old joke from Georgia Tech was that I knew the most important command in vi: Shift-Z-Z.