[Beowulf] A press release

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Jul 16 15:22:04 PDT 2008

On Thu, 10 Jul 2008, Kyle Spaans wrote:

> OK, is it just me? All of my messages seem to take days to get to the list because the moderator has to approve them?
> I'm pretty sure that I'm subscribed properly.
> On Thu, Jul 10, 2008 at 09:02:25AM -0400, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>> I do that the Titorheads will attack and I'll have to once again
>> unconvincingly deny that I am, in fact, John Titor.
> John Titor? WOW! I remember reading about ``him'' a couple of years ago when I was in highschool.
> I never thought I'd see a reference to ``him'' in a place like this! ;)

I'd never heard of him until the moment that the 'heads decided I was
he, so to speak.  Now I know far, far too much about him, and have
actually read and critiqued a pretty fair chunk of his primary time
travel threads.

If only I could figure out some way of exploiting this to make money...
but writing a book entitled "I am not John Titor and Think He's a Dweeb"
seems kinda lame.

> On a "programming languages" note, my school may be a little better
> than most. The first-year CS cirriculum has moved entirely away from
> Java, and the main class is now taught in Scheme, with C as the
> steping-stone to 2nd-year imperative languages.
> There are also "CS for non-majors" classes in Python I believe. I
> can't comment on upper-year project type things though, because I'm only
> in my 2nd year. :)

C is good.  Scheme I'm not so sure about.  Maybe it's just my
curmudgeonly upbringing, but learning to code in a "standard compiled
language" has its benefits, if only separating the people destined for
coding greatness from the ones who should become accountants or lawyers
or something instead.

In fact, it would be good for teachers of programming to take note of
things like the size of the application base written in a language and
what kinds of applications are represented there.  Number of commonly
used applications written in Scheme, hmmmm, I'm guessing that is a
number of order unity, much as was the case with Pascal (another idiotic
favorite of CS teachers over the years).

Then count C -- uhhh, that would be tens of thousands, including nearly
all the systems code in the universe. C++ -- thousands at least,
probably tens of thousands if one includes Windoze.  Fortran -- hundreds
of thousands, although one has to be a total masochist to write
character code or systems code in fortran (but it is quite nice for
straight numerical code).  Even Lisp (Scheme's grandparent) probably has
a decent code base, and then of the scripting languages perl and python
each are easily in the thousands, with octave/matlab a strong contender
in the straight numerical arena.  On this scale, even java isn't insane,
nor is php.  Lots of apps, some of them quite solid and professional.

Given ALL OF THESE CHOICES -- each with an enormous base of programs,
each with a strong base of commercial and research demand, each with a
strong programming model that favors the development of certain kinds of
commonly needed programs, why teach a language nobody actually uses to
write applications, probably for some really excellent reasons?

I personally would favor teaching coding with any of the really gritty
languages -- C (yeah!) or Fortran, compiled, C++ maybe as a followup,
perl if you're not a fascist coder, python if you are.

But this is an old and standard rant by now.


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Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
Book of Lilith Website: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Lilith/Lilith.php
Lulu Bookstore: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=877977

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