A smartphone, as well as being able to make telephone calls, is also a device for absorbing small units of spare time. Anywhere, any time people have nothing to do, out come the smartphones, which we then peck away at en masse, heads down and generally oblivious to whatever else is going on around us.
A smartphone has all the features of its bigger brother the personal computer, and then some. After all, few computers can make phone calls, act as a torch or show you where you are on the planet down to a few meters. The power of a smartphone is equivalent to that of a laptop computer of maybe 5 years earlier, so it's no slouch in the processing department, but its most notable feature is also its main weakness compared to a computer. Although the screen resolution is frequently better than that of a laptop, using it for text at that resolution is impossible without a magnifying glass.
So one of the hardest things to do on your smartphone is to write and test code. Which is a shame, because programmers also have time to fill; on buses, waiting for the dentist or in the usual social environments where everyone else is peering at Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram.
I'm not talking about carrying our work wherever we go or cramming essential skills for that interview coming up. Worthy as this may be, we all need a break from time to time, and for some of us that can still be coding, just a coding activity that's a bit less demanding; more fun, even.
At this point, spare a thought for young coders in some less well-endowed parts of the world, where smartphones outnumber PCs many times over. (As a matter of fact, there are plenty of disadvantaged communities in the so-called 'developed West' where this is just as true; it's not a problem that's confined to African and other post-colonial countries.) There's a wealth of potential talent we pay too little attention to encouraging.
Of course when you write your own programming language no IDE will understand it, so you have to forego the niceties of color-coded editors, autocompletion and so on unless you can do it yourself. This started to look like a deal-breaker, so I went hunting and quickly discovered CodeMirror. After some head-scratching I figured out how to customize it to color-code my scripts and I was back on track again.
So I was now set up to write code for the browser in an expressive language that required no external compiler or build tools and could do everything from basic arithmetic to graphic animation. It goes without saying that I wanted to be able to play with this in my spare time too, writing simple games and simulations or just trying out ideas that would be useful elsewhere.
Somewhere around this point came the idea of building a scripting playground combined with a tutorial and reference manual, and naturally it would have to run on a mobile browser too. Equally naturally, it had to be all written in the same scripting language; if it couldn't handle that then what kind of a pathetic excuse for a language would it be?
The project is still ongoing but it's now at the point I feel confident enough to offer it to others, the hope being that feedback will point the way for future enhancements. Maybe some would like to use a mobile-friendly scripting playground, as I do, to soak up some of those tedious minutes after Facebook begins to pall. If you do, let me know what you thought; what you liked (if anything) and what you didn't, and where it should go next.
Thank you for reading. The scripting playground is at EasyCoder Codex.
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