Code nostalgia

You wouldn’t think that programming languages could provoke a feeling of nostalgia. After all, programming code is the epitome of machine-like expression. Its coldly logical construction is in some ways the very opposite of natural language’s focus on mood, feeling, human connection and frailty.

Yet today I found myself looking at some code written in a computer language I had not encountered since college, and was swept back in time to an earlier era of my life, remembering people, places, sounds, smells and feelings that had long been dormant.

I suppose that on some level the mind treats code like any other textural experience — like the intricate veins of a leaf, the sunlight that glistens through a snow frosted window, the smell of fresh mown grass on a summer morning. Anything you’ve experienced can be a trigger for deep memories.

It just seems strangely ironic when that trigger turns out to be, of all things, computer code.

2 Responses to “Code nostalgia”

  1. Sharon Perl says:

    It makes perfect sense to me! In addition to being something that you probably spent a lot of time with, a computer language comes with a whole way of thinking and a particular culture—books, teachers, machines, people, conversations, etc. Plus, it has a concrete form in the syntax and, possibly, media, in which it was expressed. Seeing it after a long time would definitely bring up strong memories.

  2. Snobol.
    Pdp 11 Macro Assembler Language
    OS 360 (and the green card)

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