Don’t Look behind the Curtain! (Please)

In a previous blog, I talked a bit about the hazards of coding to an implementation and not a specification, based on 1980s home computers. While the specifics and peculiarities of that case is hopefully confined to old hardware, the lessons are still worth contemplating. There is a modern variant of this phenomenon that is based on open-source software, and that I must admit to feeling a bit annoyed by. Fundamentally, the question is this: when figuring out how to use an API – should you look at the documentation or the implementation?

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A Toast to Abstraction Layers

toasterI just found “The Toaster Project“, a Royal College of Art project where Thomas Twaites built a simple toaster from scratch. Really from scratch, going all they way back to iron ore and raw petroleum. In the process, he had to smelt ore, create plastic from petroleum, etc. It is a very interesting observation about the immense industrial complexity behind the very simple everyday items of our lives. I also think it has something to tell us computer scientists about abstraction.

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