[Haskell-cafe] Re: Aim Of Haskell

Kirsten Chevalier catamorphism at gmail.com
Tue Dec 12 10:03:53 EST 2006

On 12/12/06, Brian Hulley <brianh at metamilk.com> wrote:
> Kirsten Chevalier wrote:
> > since it's not as if anyone programs in Pascal anymore.
> Yet I'm sure most people who did a computer science degree some decades ago
> remember the old joke about passing things by name or value for what it's
> Wirth... :-)

I was kidding slightly. My first programming language was Pascal, but
I guess I should be grateful that I didn't take the same course a year
later, because then my first language would have been Java.

In fact, a comment from Lyn Turbak, who taught the second-semester
computer science class I took at Wellesley, is in some sense or
another half of the reason why I'm participating in this discussion
today -- a student (not me) asked him, "why are we learning Pascal if
you hate the language so much?" and he explained, "Historical
accident..." and talked about the reasons why Pascal ended up being a
popular teaching language. Much later, I'm amazed at how few students
ask this kind of question and how few teachers talk about the answers
to them.

I think this relates back to the point of the original discussion.
People (except people on this mailing list, and a few similar fora)
don't talk much about the reasons for choosing programming languages.
When they do talk about it, it's usually very prescriptively oriented
rather than descriptively oriented. I think that it would serve this
community well if somebody was able to achieve a better understanding
of the social reasons why some programming languages are adopted and
some aren't. I think all of us already know that the reason isn't
"because some are better than others," but it might be time for
someone to go beyond that.


Kirsten Chevalier* chevalier at alum.wellesley.edu *Often in error, never in doubt
--David Foster Wallace

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