An Approach to No-Code… In The 80’s

No-Code Oct 28, 2021

We’ve dabbled in these exercises before. To think of things that could be No-Code or that are or were extremely similar to it in one way or another. Well, recently we stumbled into an approach that, under other circumstances, could have been called No-Code. Perhaps one of the things that drastically differentiates it from the No-Code movement is that it wasn’t a twenty-first century endeavor, but one that came in 1981.

We are talking about “The Last One”, a program generator for BASIC that was marketed as, wait for it, “the end of programming”. But “The Last One” is far from being the only, first or last program generator. An issue of Popular Science of the time describes how it worked as follows:

“The Last One presents you with a series of menus – a logical list of things you’d like done – and asks you to choose one of the items in the list … The process continues until you’ve provided all information to make your program work. The final step: Push a button and The Last One writes your program using standard BASIC terms”
The Last one Program Generator - Personal Computer

Now, we all know today that “The Last One” wasn’t actually the end of programming, and in a stack overflow thread, one of its directors actually talks about how the failure from the marketing team was part of the cause of the company not going further with the product.

Of course, there’s a lot in between to just blame it on a single line (hehe) of marketing copy, but No-Code tools and approaches today know better than to simply say they will end coding or programming as a whole. Programming languages evolve every day and transform into what we need as humans. No-Code tools are, in a way, their own language. A visual language, if you will. And what it allows us is to have a lot more options. We can either use only No-Code tools to create the software we need, we may use a hybrid programming in which there’s code as well as No-Code, or we could find instances —personalities and backgrounds— in which some might prefer to work only with programming languages.

Being part of the software development industry, the end of programming should not be our endgame. What if we look forward instead to the evolution of development? From a scientific standpoint of the term, evolution sometimes means variation. Yes, we have dogs, but we also still have wolves; we have cats, but still have tigers, lions and many other felines; we now have drag-and-drop and visual programming, but we also still have python, html and javascript.

Why look for others’ extinction when we can thrive as branches of the same species. In the end, we just want to be able to talk to our computers.