Brian's Waste of Time

Thu, 18 Mar 2004

Cult of IDEA

I am home sick today (and yesterday -- first sick days in three years =/) so have way too much time to think. Reminded me of something I have been wanting to mention for a while -- the Cult of IDEA.

IDEA has a following akin to vi or emacs, almost. The key thing to this, I think, is that it is because of vi and emacs that it does. Before IDEA using an IDE was a joke -- you used it if you didn't know what you were doing in order to cover up the fact. IDEA came along with a simple proposition: presume the developer is smart and talented.

Most of the earlier Java IDE's were clones of Borland's Turbo Pascal environment (include JBuilder in this category), or Microsoft's Visual Studio. They basically aimed to take a novice programmer and make it so that the novice could produce something mostly useful. Code generation became a dirty word because the IDE would generate code the developer wouldn't have a clue how to reproduce or intelligently edit.

Emacs, vim, et al had made this jump long before, but lacked the platform standard UI's the shiny idiot-box IDE's had (or rather, had standard ui's for platforms named emacs and vi). You had to make a major commitment to move to these tools, one that paid for itself many times over, but still a major commitment you couldn't know the value of before you leaped.

IDEA changed all that -- and in doing so garned a very devoted set of adopters. It also redefined the IDE market.

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