(Source: Paul Graham)
"The quantity of meaning compressed into a small space by algebraic
signs, is another circumstance that facilitates the reasonings we are
accustomed to carry on by their aid."
- Charles Babbage, quoted in Iverson’s Turing Award Lecture
The first person to write about these issues, as far as I know, was Fred
Brooks in the Mythical Man Month. He wrote that programmers seemed to
generate about the same amount of code per day regardless of the language.
When I first read this in my early twenties, it was a big surprise to me
and seemed to have huge implications. It meant that (a) the only way to get
software written faster was to use a more succinct language, and (b)
someone who took the trouble to do this could leave competitors who
didn’t in the dust.
Brooks’ hypothesis, if it’s true, seems to be at the very heart
of hacking. In the years since, I’ve paid close attention to any
evidence I could get on the question, from formal studies to anecdotes
about individual projects. I have seen nothing to contradict him.