The Big Toolkit

When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail. — Abraham Maslow

I used to think versatility and choice were always good things.  In fact, I wrote something to that effect just over a week ago.  Knowing what is out there means not having to reinvent the wheel.  It means being able to select the right tool for the right job.  When all you’ve got is a hammer, you end up writing messy 50-line snakes and ladders programs in assembly language when you could instead write the same thing in 7 elegant lines of Python.  But?

Less is more.  The first time I recall hearing this was on the first day back to school in grade 9.  Our vice principal was urging us to cut back on academic and extracurricular activities.  You’ll have time to save the world later.  Look around and appreciate your friends now.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. — Antoine de Saint Exupery

Less is more.  Software with a feature list as long as the tax code is software only a marketer could love.  That’s user design 101.  VCRs that elude usage by someone with engineering degrees from MIT and UPenn have some improving to do.  Toilettes with more buttons than I have digits and more card readers than my laptop have gone too far (hint: flushing is accomplished by pressing the buttons on the top labelled 小 for #1 and 大 for #2) .

Why should choice be any different?  Sometimes, I spend as much time thinking about the design of a throw-away program as I spend writing it.  What programming language would be best?  What deserves its own class?  Is there anything I can pull into a function?  I hadn’t noticed that my design overhead time had been steadily increasing since taking up computer science until I noticed parallels from something I do in my spare time…

Until two years ago, my camera kit included exactly three lenses and two cameras.  If I wanted to go out and snap some pictures, I’d just grab a camera according to my mood and a lens, usually my trusty 50mm f/1.8 AI-s.  For any serious outing, I could easily take everything.  My biggest decisions were colour/black & white, film speed, and how many rolls.

At last count, I had three cameras, eleven lenses, and a teleconverter.  I spent about half an hour, hemming and hawing about what to bring, before going to Wintercity where I spent an hour photographing.  On Hot Yam! days, deciding what to bring takes up to ten minutes for what is essentially a five-minute shoot.  So maybe less is more, even when it comes to choice.

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