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FEATURE STORY 45
Hertzfeld. Hungarian is widely cursed by its detractors. Cana-
dian Java expert Roedy Green has jokingly called it "the tac-
tical nuclear weapon of source code obfuscation techniques."
Mozilla programmer Alec Flett wrote this parody:
prepBut nI vrbLike adjHungarian! qWhat's
artThe adjBig nProblem?
Hertzfeld, writing about an encounter at Apple with
some Hungarian code written by a colleague who d worked
with Simonyi at PARC, said the names "looked like they
were chosen by Superman s enemy from the 5th dimen-
sion, Mr. Mxyzptlk."
But while critics believe Hungarian makes code illegible,
Simonyi remains proud of it and employs it to this day.
By the early 1990s, Microsoft s success had made Simonyi s
fortune. (For several years, Forbes has estimated it to be
$1 billion.) But he still felt the tug of un nished business.
Software s confusion had made the creation of O ce ner ve-
racking for Microsoft. But now, with computers more pow-
erful than the Alto on every desk and the Internet linking
them together, software s crisis was everyone s crisis.
Simonyi began to think it was time to go meta again.
"Charles has always tried to build his systems in ways
that raise the level of abstraction, so that you can manage
the complexity of the system. Because complexity is death,"
says Chuck Thacker, Simonyi s old colleague from BCC and
PARC, who is leading a research project on computer archi-
tecture at Microsoft. "And unfortunately, these days, provid-
ing the facilities people actually want results in a complex
system. We re hanging on with our ngertips right now."
Moving to a position at Microsoft Research, Simonyi
began to de ne the concept of intentional programming, or
IP for short. Intentional programming would add an entirely
new layer of abstraction to the practice of writing software. It
would enable programmers to express their intentions with-
out sinking in the mire of so-called implementation details
that always threatened to swallow them. Like the "meta-
programmers" of Simonyi s dissertation, passing instr uc-
tions to worker-bee coders, the intentional programmer
would hand o the scut work---but not to a junior colleague.
Instead, intentional programming called for a sort of code
factory called a "generator," a program that takes in a set of
relatively high-level commands and spits out more-detailed
working code. The goal wasn t so much to ease the labor
of programming as to let programmers clear their brains of
trivialities so they could actually be creative.
From his programming initiation as a teenager punch-
ing opcodes into the Ural, Simonyi had been climbing the
ladder of abstraction. But he felt he wasn t high enough. In
many ways programming still felt primitive. Why were pro-
grammers still saddled with incompatible programming-
language syntaxes? Why was it so hard to extend their
preferred languages into new areas? Why did program-
mers still work with plain text, arranging a small number of
characters into linear strings as they had in the punch-card
past? Simonyi s Wysiwyg work had liberated o ce work-
ers to create and edit complex documents. Engineers and
designers were using advanced CAD/CAM tools to design
and modify blueprints for skyscrapers and airplanes. Why
were programmers, the wizards who d made all this pos-
sible, still pecking out their code one character at a time?
His Microsoft Research team got to work, and by March
1995 they had built a working system for constr ucting
programs using the intentional-programming approach.
Simonyi said IP had "achieved complete self-su ciency":
that is, "all future work on IP would be done using IP itself."
He rewarded his team with T-shirts emblazoned with one
of his favorite pictures from childhood: the image of Baron
Munchausen lifting himself and his horse out of a bog by
tugging at his own hair. Simonyi announced intentional pro-
gramming to the world in a September 1995 paper titled
"The Death of Computer Languages." It was time, as he later
put it, "for the cobbler s children to get some shoes."
Through the 1990s and into the new millennium---while
Microsoft fought its wars with Netscape and the U.S.
Department of Justice and rode out the dot-com bubble
and bust---Simonyi and his team labored and lear ned.
Meanwhile, beginning in 2001, Microsoft was pushing
the armies of developers who wrote software for Windows to
adopt a new programming system called the .Net Framework.
Unlike intentional programming, .Net was nished, and it
required a less radical break from existing programming tech-
niques. Simonyi itched to take his idea out of the lab and put
it in front of customers, but that was awkward under the cir-
cumstances. He explains, "It was impractical, when Microsoft
was making tremendous strides with .Net in the near ter m,
to somehow send somebody out from the same organization
who says, This is not how you should do things---what if you
did things in this other, more disr uptive way?"
Simonyi had been a company man for more than 20
years. But in 2002, he left Microsoft and launched an inde-
pendent company. He walked out with a patent-cross-
licensing agreement that let him use the concepts and ideas
of his intentional-programming research but did not permit
him to take any of his old code with him. He would have
to start writing a new code base from scratch.
Under the banner of his new company, Simonyi dropped
the word "programming" and rebranded his project as
"intentional software." The basic idea hadn t changed,
but now he began to stress the approach s value to non-
programmers. Simonyi s pitch went something like this:
Today, only the programmer is able to have a direct e ect
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