Blog archive


The Future of Programming?

I really enjoy computer programming – trying to solve some intricate problem with as few lines of code as possible, making code libraries more efficient, or playing detective to find the causes of obscure bugs.

Picture of a backache My only gripe is that computer programming has to be done on computers. I think I would have preferred the days when programming was done with punch cards – not the hours upon hours sitting scrunched and staring at a screen. Even with good posture, a comfy chair, wrist pads, arm rests, a raised screen and frequent breaks, it still stinks.

And I don’t think we can wait for evolution to resolve this issue. It took humans millions of years to lose their tails and gain workable thumbs. How long will it take to grow shorter legs, padded forearms and stronger backs (and more fingers would help too)? I’d like a solution sooner than that, for next Monday if possible, but 2015 would be acceptable. However, I think the answer is already on its way, invented by Nintendo, in the shape of a Wii.

Boxing on the WiiI don’t own a Nintendo Wii yet, they’re difficult to get hold of. I haven’t even tried one, but I have read articles about them, and I have first hand experience talking to people who use them regularly. In case you’re unaware, the Nintendo Wii is the latest games console from Nintendo. It’s biggest feature is the motion-based ‘joysticks’. For instance, to hit the ball in tennis, you swing the controller as if it were a racket. It forces you to get off the sofa to golf, bowl, throw, sword fight, etc. It looks, sounds, and probably even smells fantastic. I can’t wait. I hope my parents hurry up and ask me what I want for Christmas.

But my biggest hope is that these innovations can be brought over to the world of computing. Telmo and I were exploring the possibilities a few days ago:

I can imagine standing in a room with a computer ‘screen’ projected onto a wall. I could point to a window to activate it, point at menu bars to activate them, and have a different action associated with each key, with a small jump for the space bar. Typing would become a dance, moving forward for the shift key, back for Ctrl, and nodding for the letter ‘e’ or the word ‘yes’.

Kickboxing the letter aThere could be different typing interfaces. In the kickboxing one, a jab could be ‘e’ and a jab/cross for ‘e’, ‘d’. Writing in the past tense would be a full arms workout and really help your punching. I personally would associate a front kick with ‘compile’ (or ‘save’ if I was writing PHP). That would add a really satisfying oomph to every change made.

The 3D desktop would also finally be useful, rather than a gimmick to justify expensive graphics cards. You could move forwards and backwards through your windows, pointing, swinging and moving around to get things done.

Unfortunately, all of the above may require a few leaps forward in technology, and a lot of space. In particular, it might be difficult to reconcile with open plan office environments. Health and safety regulations and whole new forms of RSI would undoubtedly rear their heads as well.

So perhaps we could start with a sitting down, ergonomically focused version – where you have to stand up to save, look into the distance to change applications, roll your shoulders for a space, sign language for typing, and straightening your back for the Shift key.

I hope that is the future of computing, because it would make computer programming a much nicer career option. Perhaps I can inform Nintendo. I wonder if they’ll help me jump the queue at Hollingbury Argos. And if you have come across any other technologies along these lines, or have any similar ideas, or have a good copyright-free picture of someone enjoying a Wii, please tell me about it below.

This post was filed under Training, Working culture and tagged Comments are currently closed.


  1. Could make for a very fun work environment – especially if you’re rocking out to music at the same time. Only last week Queen’s We will rock you was noted coming from your corner. Imagine what would happen to your code if you got caught up in the choons…

    I did see an altogether less active solution

    Posted 23rd November 2007 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  2. thank god for flickr & creative commons

    Posted 23rd November 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  3. Ruth

    That sounds like a great idea. I’ve been lamenting my lack of activity since resuming desk-based work about 4 years ago and have considered a return to working in shops (despite the terrible pay) ever since, on the basis that I’m not a huge fan of sitting down all the time.
    I’d *love* to have a stand-up jump-around workspace.

    I reckon you should make that call to Nintendo…

    Posted 23rd November 2007 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Thanks for the photo recommendations – I’ve put one in. Could call this sort of thing a MUI – instead of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) but with Moving – and it sounds a bit like Wii.

    Posted 26th November 2007 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  5. I’ve often thought along these lines myself. One thing that’s easy nowadays, providing your main working machine is a laptop, is to configure a standing as well as sitting workstation. Donald Rumsfeld stood at his desk all the time. If barbers can stand all day, so can I, he reasoned.

    I do it once in a while then quickly remember the ease of sitting.

    Alternatively, the great cure-all for the stiffness of a sedentary lifestyle:

    Posted 14th December 2007 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  6. bob

    I don’t agree at all with this approach. I think this motion technology is terrific for video games, but not a practical alternative to the keyboard. I think the next generation should design a keyboard that connects to your brain. All you have to do is think!

    Posted 18th January 2009 at 1:32 am | Permalink