This is a great piece that reminded me of my own programming history, which was, with the exception of learning Pascal in A level Computer Science for a few months, limited to these simpler languages. Think Sinclair BASIC and Liquid.
I don’t know enough about programming to accurately describe how, say, C# and Liquid differ conceptually. If I was to give it a stab, I’d say that “portal” languages focus on performing tasks now, and are not concerned with the “how“.
You can do a lot with these limited, expressive, fairly-close-to-English languages. Maggie discusses Apple’s Hypercards, which fuelled a whole gaming industry in the 90s, while Inform, the main language for writing parser interactive fiction, consists of statements like this:
Afterlife is a room. "Fluffy white clouds gather round you here in the afterlife." The Pearly Gates are a door in Afterlife. "The Pearly Gates - large, white, wrought-iron and splendidly monumental - stand above you." Heaven is a room. The Gates are above the Afterlife and below Heaven. St Peter is a man in the Afterlife. "St Peter, cheery if absent-minded, studies his celestial clipboard." Before going through the Pearly Gates: say "St Peter coughs disarmingly. 'If you'd read your Bible,' he says, 'you might recall Revelation 21:21 saying that the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl. I really don't know why people keep imagining it like the entrance to some sort of public park - oh, well. In you go.'"; end the story.
Of course, the original Football Manager was written in Sinclair BASIC.
Original article by Maggie Appleton. Published 23/10/22.
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