Code Samples/Comparisons

Peter Brigham MD pmbrig at
Sat Dec 5 12:18:43 EST 2009

On Dec 5, 2009, at 6:08 AM, Richmond Mathewson wrote:

> I haven't stuck my oar into this discussion until now as
> I was interested which way it would go.
> My view may be a bit different to most of the "real programmers"
> who have offered views and code examples.
> I am not a "real programmer" insofar as I do not depend on programming
> for my bread and cheese, and have never had to. I have not touched any
> programming language other than Metacard/RunRev since 2001.
> I think that comparing:
> length of code samples
> is a bit silly: "It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it."
> AND, surely, the first and foremost point to be made about RunRev
> is that little boys and girls (8-11 years old) can produce something
> that works and is not a Powerpoint clone in half-an-hour (I have
> seen it happening right here in my school). Teachers and other
> non-programmers can, very quickly, assemble "programs" /  
> "applications"
> / "thingies" / "widgets" to do what they want to do without having to
> either hire a computer specialist or spend donkey's ages on a
> programming course.
> Runtime Revolution is all about empowerment; it should not be
> compared with C++ and so forth, because they are 2 different
> creatures. C++ lives in an aquarium, nurtured by trained zookeepers:
> RunRev is like my cat - much more cuddley and approachable, and
> doesn't need lots of fancy care and food.
> One of the things that the lecturers at Abertay University (where I  
> did
> an MSc, for my sins) kept rambling on about was that programmers had  
> to
> become sensitive to the needs of specialists in other areas they would
> be working for. Forget the "sensitive" programmer; RunRev can
> "sensitise" almost anyone to doing the job themselves.
> <snip>

I second this, as another "amateur" who has a full-time non- 
programming job. Here's an excerpt from the intro to the help text for  
the stack system I use to manage a psychopharmacology practice:

Most software is developed by IT people who are technically proficient  
in their own field but have no detailed understanding of the actual  
day-to-day needs of the end user, especially if those needs are  
specialized and context-sensitive. As a result, such software is  
generally non-intuitive and somewhat clumsy to use and has annoying  
gaps in its functionality. ("Dammit, I should be able to just click a  
button and....") By contrast, Psychopharmica has been developed by a  
psychopharmacologist over the course of almost two decades of daily  
use in a very active psychopharm practice and has been refined and  
adjusted for maximum flexibility and functionality by someone who  
knows what is needed for streamlined comprehensive documentation and  
clinical management.

Created originally in Hypercard and further developed using Runtime  
Revolution, a cross-platform XTalk environment. RunRev allows  
switching from run mode to editing mode on the fly, which has enabled  
me to tweak, debug, and add useful features even as I continue to use  
the database daily in my practice. I developed Psychopharmica simply  
in order to make my own life easier -- basically, every time I wished  
I could just click a button to do something, I tried to find a way to  
build it in....

Eventually I hope to release this in standalone form and see if I can  
market it -- for now I run the thing in the IDE and there is one other  
psychopharmacologist in the group using it as well, possibly more to  
come. Over the years it has grown in flexibility and sophistication,  
providing very context-sensitive options that depend heavily on text  
parsing -- right-click on a medication entry to print a prescription,  
right-click on a procedure code to change the procedure, right-click  
on an address to print an envelope or start a letter, right-click on a  
fax number to print a fax cover sheet, lots of forms that get filled  
in automatically from patient data at the click of a button, automatic  
tracking of medication history & prescriptions written, built-in self- 
updating medication database, alerts you if you try to prescribe  
something the patient is allergic to, reminders to get lab work done,  
etc., etc. Now over 26,000 lines of scripting, works fast as lightning  
-- and I can revise and debug it daily.

The strength of RunRev is that it is entirely feasible for an  
interested amateur to create (and refine and update) an extremely  
powerful customized tool for a niche use. Look at the NASA Landsat 7  
example in the Rev case studies. I suspect people like that NASA  
administrator and me are an important market, since there is nothing  
else comparable that is accessible to the moderately intelligent non- 
IT professional.

-- Peter

Peter M. Brigham
pmbrig at

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