[Haskell-cafe] Mozart versus Beethoven (was: Writing "Haskell For Dummies ...)

Kirsten Chevalier catamorphism at gmail.com
Tue Dec 12 06:07:37 EST 2006

On 12/12/06, Patrick Mulder <pemulder at yahoo.de> wrote:
> Not sure whether this is the right place to discuss
> computers and programming in general:

You're implying that there's a *more* appropriate forum somewhere for
discussing analogies between music composition and programming
languages? If so, I'd like to know what it is!

> But Dijkstra's
> metaphor is suggesting, that while Beethoven learned
> by experiment and debugging compositions, Mozart did
> not have a need for reflection while writing down
> music ?

I've been thinking about this. Are there really any programmers who
are like Mozart in the way you describe? Donald Knuth might be one, or
at least, he wrote that he wrote and debugged all of TeX on paper
before entering it into a computer and "only found 13 more bugs" (or
something like that), once he did. I don't remember if it was 13
exactly, but "13 more bugs" might be the closest that any programmer
gets to Mozart, or at least any programmer in the 20th or early 21st

But, can you imagine waking up in the middle of the night, sitting
down, and writing a compiler from start to finish? Well, of course,
easily, undergrads do it all the time during finals period. But, one
that works, and that contains original ideas? I know some awesome
programmers, but I don't think any of them are quite that awesome.
Whereas it's conceivable to imagine somebody writing a piece of music
that way, or a poem. Does that just mean that computer science has a
long way to go in maturation? Or does it mean something else?

> PS  I like the idea of a book "Hakell for Hackers"

Maybe "Haskell for People Who Want to Be Hackers"? (Since, of course,
one should never apply the term "hacker" to oneself.) I'm not sure
whether it's best to aim at people who might be already hackers who
want to learn Haskell, or people who are already programmers who want
to be Haskell hackers, in particular. I suppose that the first group
of people is probably larger.


Kirsten Chevalier* chevalier at alum.wellesley.edu *Often in error, never in doubt
"What is research but a blind date with knowledge?" -- Will Henry

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