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Book as Script, Code as Script

Mark Mzyk | December 13, 2009

Heard any good books lately?

So asks Neil Gaiman on NPR in a story on audiobooks.  It makes for riveting listening, thanks to Gaiman’s ability to make the mundane fantastic and because he has a mesmerizing British accent that holds me rapt.

Gaiman makes the point that audiobooks continue on, strong as ever.  The rise of the iPod has only made them more popular.  Given our information starved yet saturated world it seems the ceiling for audiobooks is limitless – until the day we can download information directly. Even then, there’s always a market for a good story.

So what is an audiobook? Gaiman wonders.

According to audio producer Rick Harris: “Well, my feeling is that it is not a book.”

“An audiobook is a separate entity that is absolutely true.  And a novel can be seen as many things, and one of the things it can be seen as is a script for an audio performance.”

Gaiman sums up: “An audiobook is its own thing, a unique medium that goes in through the ear, sometimes leaving you sitting in the driveway to find out how the story is going to end.”

As an audiobook is its own thing – separate from, but attached to, a book.

So to a program is its own thing – separate from, but attached to, code.

For what is code, except a script that is read by the compiler/interpreter?  We developers just happen to count on the compiler/interpreter reading the script we give it the same way every time, even though there is nothing that dictates this must happen.

It would be an interesting world to have a compiler/interpreter that put its own spin on the code given it.  To an extent, this does happen now, except in reverse.  You and I can write dialects of the same code and the compiler/interpreter will read it and spit back the same performance, even though it was based on two different scripts.

Code as performance.

I grew up in a world where stories were read aloud
– Neil Gaiman

What would the world be like if code was read aloud?


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