Drawings on napkins, video game animation, and other ways to program computers  

Ken Kahn

This article was published in the August 1996 issue of the Communications of the ACM.

Various radical syntaxes for programs are feasible and offer many advantages over the state of the art. Programs, for example, can be defined by the topology of sketches, even hand-drawn scanned sketches. A programming environment can parse these sketches and generate animations of the drawings evolving as the program executes. Or programs can be defined by manipulating physical objects, e.g., by connecting blocks together or inserting plastic cards into slots. We are currently building a system called ToonTalk in which programs are created, run and debugged in a manner that closely resembles playing a video game. In the near future we may see programming systems that exist only in virtual reality or ones that interpret gestures in the real world.

Program sources need not be static collections of text or even text and pictures, but can be animated, tactile, enhanced with sound effects, and physical.

Download the entire paper as an Adobe Acrobat file (PDF) -1.6MB

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