The Shape of Everything
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January 23, 2021

Dr. Brad J. Cox Ph.D. 1944 - 2021:

Dr. Brad Cox, Ph.D of Manassas, Virginia, died on January 2, 2021 at his residence. Dr. Cox was a computer scientist known mostly for creating the Objective – C programming language with his business partner, Tom Love, and for his work in software engineering (specifically software reuse) and software componentry.

I had always struggled building apps for the Mac, first in Classic MacOS and then in Mac OS X. I used Java, I used REALbasic, and I even had a professional license for Metrowerk's CodeWarrior so I could write apps in C or C++. But there was always some sort of mental block, or maybe the way my brain worked never really lined up with the way these programming languages did. Out of these I was most efficient with Java, but the UI toolkit was pretty lacking.

Then I saw these cool apps coming out for Mac OS X, and they were proudly written in Objective-C.

I took a couple of runs at it. The brackets and pointers threw me off, but I kept on trying because I knew I needed to learn this language to build the apps I wanted to see in this world.

And then one day, I believe when plugging away on my little internet search utility VoodooNetKey, everything clicked.

Pointers, the brackets, selectors, messages. Oh my god, I get it now — the brackets! It's not a function call, it's something way better!

Everything just sort of aligned in my brain. Previously I found myself struggling to express the ideas I had in my head, and it was a frustrating experience. Now I was struggling to type fast enough and come up with new ideas that I could express in Objective-C. I felt like I could do anything I wanted with it.

And loadable bundles, and input managers- I can't express to you about how much fun it was being able to inject my Objective-C code into Safari or other applications to add functionality at runtime. Or using class-dump against the system frameworks to explore private methods. NSObject's performSelector: was just so great when you needed to quickly hack around something.

Objective-C was brilliant, powerful, and elegant.

All my applications are written in Objective-C even to this day. I play around in other languages from time to time, but I haven't found one that fits me like Objective-C does.

I realize it's not for everyone, and that Objective-C requires discipline, but it's been amazing for me. I owe my career in part to Brad Cox's creation, and I am forever grateful for it.