4.0172 Text-Analysis Software; Programming Micros (2/89)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 13 Jun 90 17:48:45 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0172. Wednesday, 13 Jun 1990.

(1) Date: Wed, 13 Jun 90 09:45 EST (40 lines)
Subject: Software of the Future

(2) Date: Tue, 12 Jun 90 22:55:59 CDT (49 lines)
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: programming these silly micros - a relevant concern

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 90 09:45 EST
Subject: Software of the Future

The members of HUMANIST have in the past discussed the scholar's
workstation of the future. I'd like to turn the discussion to musings
about the software of the future, particularly software for text

At a recent conference (IASSIST--mostly social scientists, but this
year's conference included consideration of electronic texts, images and
sounds) I heard several presentations about text analysis software. It
seems to me, without having a good grasp of the nature of research using
this software, that most of the software is based on one of two types: a
concordance model, or a mark-up scheme. Using concordance-type software
like WordCruncher requires, it seems to me, a fairly thorough familiarity
with the text under analysis, searching for evidence of occurences the
researcher already knows to be there. The second type, using mark-up
schemes, requires that one painstakingly plan what we wish the computer
to tell us. If *only* syntactic elements are marked, then searching by
structural elements is still impossible.

These two types of software strike me to be somewhat first-
generational. I've looked briefly through the _Humanities Computing
Yearbook_ for evidence of other kinds, but do not see anything. Perhaps
I'm missing something. Perhaps the complexities of language and
literature will not allow for any more sophistication than this.
Perhaps the development necessary isn't equivalent to the expected
financial or career payoff. Still, I would like to hear from other
HUMANISTs the kinds of software they would like to see developed for
text analysis, either taking into consideration the limits of humankind
and machinery, or not, whatever one's preference. I think both
pragmatists and dreamers can contribute to this discussion. What will
the literary software of the future do, what will it look like, and who
will develop it?

Perry Willett
Main Library
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------69----
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 90 22:55:59 CDT
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: programming these silly micros - a relevant concern

Every few months we seem to get into a pretty senseless debate over
GUIs. We know that GUIs are good for some things, and not good for
others. Likewise, good command-line interfaces can be very good for
some things, and not so good for others. Some combina- tion of both is
probably ideal. Certainly the Mac errs on the one side, and MS-DOS errs
on the other. Maybe Microsoft Windows is okay for some people. Maybe
the OS/2 presentation manager is okay for others. For many (me
included) we let our kids play games on Macs and PCs and do our real
work under Unix :-).

One thing I would point out is that people seem to be forgetting an
important point about computing: Programming. If an architecture or an
operating system does not permit easy programming, software is going to
be expensive and not as easy to come by. Conversely, if a machine or an
OS is easy to program, software will be cheap and plentiful.

What Mac fanatics don't seem to be able to get through their heads is
that their machine was trend-breaking and innovative in only ONE
respect: The GUI. As a programming environment, the Mac was, if
anything, a setback.

This doesn't mean that MS-DOS, or specifically IBM, people should jump
with glee. This isn't a soccer game and we aren't fans. We are just a
bunch of cold observers looking over long-term market trends, and trying
to assess the relative advantages and disadvan- tages of various bits of
hardware and software. For multilingual work, the Mac wins hands down.
MS-DOS users are in the dark ages. Nota Bene is cute, but is
fundamentally limited by its operating environment. For programming
ease, MS-DOS wins hands down. And besides, just pick up a trade journal
some time and it will become obvious that there is FAR more MS-DOS
software that runs faster on cheaper hardware than you'll get for a Mac.

It's a tradeoff, and there's no sense getting all up in arms about this
or that cute GUI. GUIs are important. The Mac, however, does not
represent a quantum step beyond its competetion in this respect anymore.
If you don't want to program it, don't care about the cost of
peripherals and what not, and are happy with the software base, then buy
one. It's still a very nice machine. I'd love to have a Mac II on my
desk here at home, especially if Apple gets its act together and offers
us a Unix version that will be a breeze to port things to.

-Richard L. Goerwitz goer%sophist@uchicago.bitnet
goer@sophist.uchicago.edu rutgers!oddjob!gide!sophist!goer