filed away

October 16, 2019
Simon Pitt writing on "Computer Files Are Going Extinct" (or "The Death of the Computer File.doc") had this nice line:
Years ago websites were made of files; now they are made of dependencies.
I would nitpick and say "files plus browsers and maybe a scripting language", but I think Pitt points to a major sea change. For me, coding is still about files - nouns - and then very well tested trustworthy verbs of the browser itself, and not too many intermediaries. Now coding is so much verb, so much process, and younger programmers put raw DOM into the same "low level stuff I don't need to think about much" level as an older CGI hacker might put assembly language.

The rest of the article was kind of delightful for us old-timers, reviewing how services and streams and what not have replaced quasi-physical files.

And I think that's a bummer. I'm currently reading Barbara Tversky's "Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought". It really emphasizes how there's a physicality to our thoughts, that we turn to metaphors of space and motion all the time to make sense of our experiential data - and with files and folders, there was a physical nature to our filesystems as well. I kind of hate the iPhone's "all your photos as a big stream" approach to life, or using "smart folders" to take a giant heap of information. Folders can be clutzy and coarse grained, but there was a flexibility and sense of stability to them that the modern replacements lack.