Thursday, May 09, 2013

Stuck with your first programming language

Barbara Liskov in her keynote presentation:

I'm a little dismayed what's happened in programming languages. And the reason I'm dismayed is because on the one hand we have the programming languages that experts use — I'm thinking of Java and C# but you can name bunch of others. And the problem with these languages is — they are powerful, you can build big systems in them — but they aren't very good for beginners. And what happens in MIT, and I think this is happening across the US anyway, is the people are no longer using those languages in their introductory programming language courses, because the amount of craft you have to go through in order to write the little print-loop is just too much, and the students just get lost in the process. So they've been switching to languages like Python.

Python is very simple and nice when you start to use it. But you don't get too far down the road, if you me, before you discover it has no data abstraction at all. That's not good because big programs require modularity and encapsulation, and you'd like the language that supports that. So my question is: Can we find a language that will work for both communities? And the reason it matters is because a lot of kids start off programming in their first programming language and that's it. They may have to change eventually, but they are building huge systems in languages that are really ill-suited for this. So it would be good if the language they started off with is the one they can grow with, and would be good for building big programs as well as small ones.


Igor Kolomiets said...

And the answer is: Scala! :)

Andrey Paramonov said...

Hmm, I didn't think of this, but you may actually be right.