A standard should be long on prescription and short on overhead. It should give lots of rules for designing programs and data files for synergy. But neither the programs nor the files should cost too much more than the expedient variety. Although we are looking to a future with CD-ROMs and perpendicular recording, the standard must work well on floppy disks. For program portability, simplicity, and efficiency, formats should be designed with more than one implementation style in mind. It ought to be possible to read one of many objects in a file without scanning all the preceding data. (In practice, pure stream I/O is adequate although random access makes it easier to write files.) Some programs need to read and play out their data in real time, so we need good compromises between generality and efficiency. As much as we need standards, they can't hold up product schedules. So we also need a kind of decentralized extensibility where any software developer can define and refine new object types without some "standards authority" in the loop. Developers must be able to extend existing formats in a forward- and backward-compatible way. A central repository for design information and example programs can help us take full advantage of the standard. For convenience, data formats should heed the restrictions of various processors and environments. For example, word-alignment greatly helps 68000 access at insignificant cost to 8088 programs. Other goals include the ability to share common elements over a list of objects and the ability to construct composite objects. And finally, "Simple things should be simple and complex things should be possible" - Alan Kay.
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