Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Worse is worse

The notion that worse is better has become something of a truism in the programming industry. The usual examples are the C language (worse than lisp, but it dominated anyway), Unix (or more recently, Windows) as opposed to Multics or VMS, and (in a completely different arena) VHS tape over Beta. Each of the dominant technologies, it is pointed out, was worse than the alternative, but the worse technology became the standard anyway. The moral to the story, or the reason that people bring the principle up in argument, is to convince whoever is on the other side of the argument that we should set our sights on the quick and dirty, less elegant solution to a problem, because "worse is better."

Of course, this received wisdom is just so much crap.