Miracle Programs, Legacy Systems, and Too Many Wordles

Justine Tunney writes software that borders on the miraculous. Witness redbean, a single-file web server executable on most x86 machines, regardless of operating system (or absence thereof).

Tunney’s approach is to ignore computing systems’ high-level interfaces and focus on the operating-system-level view, which has changed so little over time, and would be so difficult to change even if we wanted to, that it’s a safe bet for a stable foundation to build ultra-portable binary programs on. From Actually Portable Executables:

One of the reasons why I love working with a lot of these old technologies, is that I want any software work I’m involved in to stand the test of time with minimal toil… I believe the best chance we have of doing that, is by gluing together the binary interfaces that’ve already achieved a decades-long consensus, and ignoring the APIs.

On the other hand, sometimes you really do need to move on from old technology. Marianne Bellotti’s Kill It With Fire is a lively and reasoned take on the technical, organizational, and psychological aspects of modernizing old computing systems. Much of it applies equally well to new development, since it’s pretty rare for any system to be entirely unprecedented.

If you haven’t gotten enough Wordle yet, Dordle gives you two Wordles at the same time (which is just enough), while Quordle lets you try four at once (which is too much). For a different take altogether, try Semantle, in which the secret word can be any length or part of speech, and the hint you get is how semantically similar each guess is to the secret word.