Student’s Research on Shell Programming Accepted to PLATEAU2020

A paper co-authored by Harvey Mudd College student Ishaan Gandhi ’21 and his sister, Anshula Gandhi (MIT), has been accepted to PLATEAU2020, the 11th annual workshop on the intersection of human computer interaction and programming languages.

Terminal emulators, or simply terminals, are used ubiquitously by developers. While many have proposed alternatives, their paper “Lightening the Cognitive Load of Shell Programming” examines the fundamental reasons why shell programming, especially when using a terminal as a programming environment, can be difficult, as understood through the cognitive dimensions framework.

“The paper is about shell programming, a way of instructing computers, and terminal, an application used to write shell programs,” says Ishaan, a joint computer science and mathematics major. “We discussed what parts of terminal make the experience of writing shell programs easier and less cognitively demanding and what parts make it harder and more cognitively demanding.”

He continues, “A lot of developers and researchers proposed alternatives to shell programming with terminal, but we wanted to take a step back and ask what shortcomings of shell programming with terminal any alternative might hope to address. Anshula was working at the Center for Brains, Minds & Machines at MIT at the time, and she brought some domain knowledge to this project.”

Ishaan will attend the workshop, which will be held virtually, on Nov. 20. “I was very pleased at how encouraging and helpful other students and faculty in the PL/HCI field are,” he says of his experience writing the paper. “I’m very excited to learn more about human computer interaction and programming languages at the workshop.”