[Haskell-cafe] Learning advice

Brent Yorgey byorgey at gmail.com
Thu Sep 6 14:00:14 EDT 2007

On 9/6/07, Chris Saunders <evas at mountaincable.net> wrote:
> So far I'm finding Haskell difficult – I may be too thick.
Once upon a time there was a young man who wanted to be a race car driver.
He bought an old, junky car with a souped-up engine (after all, that's what
all his friends were using).  It didn't go very fast, but it was easy enough
to drive.  It did have its quirks, of course -- in order to start it you had
to be parked on an uphill slope, turn the steering wheel three-quarters to
the right, and jiggle the key in a certain way; it would also stall every
time you shifted from second into third gear, unless you simultaneously put
your foot on the brake and turned on the hazard lights; not to mention how
the windshield wipers came on every time you used the left turn signal.  But
he actually got pretty good at driving it.  He and his friends would race
around the block and in empty parking lots.

Then one day he met someone else who said she was also a race car driver,
but her car was different -- she called it a "Haskar".  It had a top speed
of 400 miles per hour, no steering wheel (you just lean whichever way you
want to go, she said), and a frictionless, silent magnetic engine.  Even
more strangely, you could get one for free!  This sounded too good to be
true, and naturally the young man wanted to try it out.  So he got his very
own Haskar, and entered a race that the woman recommended to him.  The
Haskar race took place on a real racetrack with banked curves, cheering
fans, and officials with colored flags.  The man came in last.  "Gosh," he
thought.  "I always used to beat my friends when we raced around the block,
but this Haskar thing is pretty tough to drive.  I guess I'm just an
innately bad race car driver."


OK, I like making up stories and analogies, I hope you'll humor me. =)  The
point, of course, is that finding Haskell difficult is completely normal,
because Haskell directly exposes you to fundamental issues in logic,
computation, type systems, and so on, which are themselves difficult.  It
doesn't mean you're too thick.  Stick with it -- it may be difficult, but in
time you'll become more comfortable with Haskell, and learn a lot of other
things besides.  And hopefully you'll have some fun, too. =)

This list is a great place to ask questions, and you'll find that the
#haskell channel on irc.freenode.net is a great place to hang out, ask
questions, and learn things as well.  (Think of it as that bar where all the
drivers go to relax between races. =)

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