6. Transparency: Let There Be Light

Beauty is more important in computing than anywhere else in technology because software is so complicated. Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity.

Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology (1998) —David Gelernter

In the previous chapter we discussed the importance of textual data formats and application protocols, representations that are easy for human beings to examine and interact with. These promote qualities in design that are much valued in the Unix tradition but seldom if ever talked about explicitly: transparency and discoverability.

Software systems are transparent when they don’t have murky corners or hidden depths. Transparency is a passive quality. A program is transparent ...

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