[Haskell-cafe] Re: The programming language market (was Re: Why functional programming matters

Tim Chevalier catamorphism at gmail.com
Sat Jan 26 17:57:34 EST 2008

On 1/26/08, Stefan Monnier <monnier at iro.umontreal.ca> wrote:
> >> * Say "computers are cheap but programmers are expensive" whenever
> >> explaining a correctness or productivity feature.
> > This is true only if talking to people in high-income nations.
> Is it?  Maybe you're right.

Yes -- consider the OLPC project (and its competitors). In some
developing nations, $200 for a laptop is still a *lot* to pay (the
laptop I'm typing this on cost $1400, purchased on a government grant,
and that purchase was treated as nothing.) Labor is a lot cheaper in
those places. And there's not much in the way of big government
funding (whether for universities or companies) to pay for any of it.

> But historically, computers have been available at all kinds of price
> ranges, so people chose the price point that fit them.  So, for the last
> 15 years or so already computers have been chosen (in the wealthy
> countries) to be cheaper than programmers.
> Is there any reason to think that the same forces aren't at play in
> lower-income nations?  After all, cheap (typically second hand)
> computers are easy to come by.

Not with the same amount of computing power that computers that run
modern application tend to have; a lot of places don't even have
reliable *electricity* (so in that case, lots of people and limited
machines could be *good*, if the machines aren't working all the
time), etc. I don't really know enough to give a more complete answer
to your question. But my original point is that saying labor is always
expensive and hardware is always cheap by comparison is a culturally
biased statement, at least right now, on January 26, 2008.


Tim Chevalier * http://cs.pdx.edu/~tjc * Often in error, never in doubt
"I eat too much / I laugh too long / I like too much of you when I'm
gone." -- Ani DiFranco

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