9: Dividing and Conquering Using Procedures and Macros to Battle Complexity in .NET

Creating Quick Response Code in .NET 9: Dividing and Conquering Using Procedures and Macros to Battle Complexity
9: Dividing and Conquering Using Procedures and Macros to Battle Complexity
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Programming in Martian
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There is a computer language called APL (an acronym for A Programming Language, how clever) that has more than a little Martian in it APL was the first computer language I learned (on a major IBM mainframe), and when I learned it, I learned a little more than just APL APL uses a very compact notation, with dozens of odd little symbols, each of which is capable of some astonishing power such as matrix inversion You can do more in one line of APL than you can in one line of anything else I have learned since The combination of the strange symbol set and the compact notation makes it very hard to read and remember what a line of code in APL actually does So it was in 1977 Having mastered (or so I thought) the whole library of symbols, I set out to write a text formatter program The program would justify right and left, center headers, and do a few other things of a sort that we take for granted today but which were very exotic in the seventies The program grew over a period of a week to about 600 lines of squirmy little APL symbols I got it to work, and it worked fine-as long as I didn't try to format a column that was more than 64 characters wide Then everything came out scrambled Whoops I printed the whole thing out and sat down to do some serious debugging Then I realized with a feeling of sinking horror that, having finished the last part of the program, I had no idea how the first part worked The APL symbol set was only part of the problem I soon came to realize that the most important mistake I had made was writing the whole thing as one 600-line monolithic block of code lines There were no functional divisions, nothing to indicate what any 10-line portion of the code was trying to accomplish The Martians had won I did the only thing possible: I scrapped it And I settled for ragged margins in my text
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Boxes within Boxes
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This sounds like Eastern mysticism, but it's just an observation from life: Within any action is a host of smaller actions Look inside your common activities When you brush your teeth you do the following: Pick up your toothpaste tube Unscrew the cap Place the cap on the sink counter Pick up your toothbrush Squeeze toothpaste onto the brush from the middle of the tube Put your toothbrush into your mouth Work it back and forth vigorously And so on The original list went the entire page When you brush your teeth, you perform every one of those actions However, when you think about the sequence, you don't run through the whole list You bring to mind the simple concept "brushing teeth" Furthermore, when you think about what's behind the action we call "getting up in the morning," you might assemble a list of activities like this: Shut off the clock radio Climb out of bed Put on your robe Let the dogs out Make breakfast Brush your teeth Shave Shower Get dressed Brushing your teeth is on the list, but within the activity you call "brushing your teeth" is a whole list of smaller actions, as listed previously The same can be said for most of the activities shown in the preceding list How many individual actions, for example, does it take to put a reasonable breakfast together And yet in one small, if sweeping, phrase, "getting up in the morning," you embrace that whole host of small and even smaller actions without having to laboriously trace through each one What I'm describing is the "Chinese boxes" method of fighting complexity Getting up in the morning involves hundreds of little actions, so we divide the mass up into coherent chunks and set the chunks into little conceptual boxes "Making breakfast" is in one box, "brushing teeth" is in another, and so on Closer inspection of any box shows that its contents can also be divided into numerous boxes, and those smaller boxes into even smaller boxes This process doesn't (and can't) go on forever, but it should go on as long as it needs to in order to satisfy this criterion: The contents of any one box should be understandable with only a little scrutiny No single box should contain anything so subtle or large and involved that it takes hours of hair-pulling to figure it out
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