The last week Ero Carrera in his blog linked to this spectacular site:
These eye catching images evoked an old question in me. Briefly it can be formulated as “text vs graphics”.
Everyone would agree: graphic images are much nicer and more powerful than simple text. There are no limits for images while text is a sequence of predefined symbols. Images are accessible for illiterate while reading text is impossible without knowing its language. One glance at an image is sufficient to grasp its idea while text requires careful deciphering of letters and words. Images can easily affect conscious and subconscious parts of mind. Text can do it too, but to much less degree.
Yet many, if not most, of our data is in the text form. Programmers write programs in text files. Data kept in databases is mostly in text form. If data is not in the text form, we have to process it to extract text or some textual description from it. Web pages are essentially text files with links to graphic images. Ubiquitous XML files are kept in the text form. Even the graphs from the above site are represented in a text language like GDL or DOT or something similar.
How strange that we still continue to use text as the fundamental form of our knowledge. Why is it so? Why this awkward and unnatural device has not yet been replaced by something better? Why is this
more widely used than this?