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[Perl-advocacy] Fwd: Re: [Slightly OT] "NASA Uses COBOL"

Shlomi Fish
Aug 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm
Sending to the list as the sender declared it to be his intention.

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: Re: [Slightly OT] "NASA Uses COBOL"
Date: Sunday 08 August 2010, 20:41:50
From: Joel Limardo <joel.limardo@forwardphase.com>
To: Shlomi Fish <shlomif@iglu.org.il>

This is my first post to this list. I apologize in advance for its length.
Shlomi got me thinking about COBOL and other languages like it in general so
I wrote the following:

perl-advocacy-1
===============

Author: <Joel Limardo@...>
Date: 2010/08/08 12:32:26 PM


Table of Contents
=================
1 Why do you want more people to use Perl?
1.1 Advocacy in Question
1.2 Shouldn't we just use math puzzles?
1.3 Was this what Dijkstra was talking about?

1 Why do you want more people to use Perl?
==========================================

1.1 Advocacy in Question
------------------------
I liked this [
http://prometheus.frii.com/~gnat/yapc/2000-advocacy/slide2.html],
particularly the question, "...why do you advocate Perl?"

Here's my answer: I'd like to see more people use Perl because it
forces you to think creatively and, in effect, makes you smarter.

1.2 Shouldn't we just use math puzzles?
---------------------------------------

I like the comparison between Perl and math puzzles because, to me, they
represent the two opposite poles of the programming universe. Creativity
and expressiveness on the one end and so-called correctness,
conformity, and universality on the other.

So why should we use Perl rather than simply do mathematical puzzles if
we want to become smarter?

I think mathematical puzzles build up a different set of mental muscles
-- particularly ones that see problems as targets and programs as missles
to be loaded, armed, and fired in the most efficient manner possible.
The Perl credo 'there is more than one way to do it'
implies at least two things: a) open-mindedness to other methods of
achieving the
same or similar result b) inquisitiveness to seek out other ways to achieve
a result yourself from a different perspective.

Let's face it, as programmers we are in the business or producing results;
unless we would no longer like to be employed those results must be correct.
But with Perl we get something intangible from the exercise of programming
that we would not get from the lock-and-load, shortest-path-possible
methods.
I call that thing creativity.

1.3 Was this what Dijkstra was talking about?
---------------------------------------------

I think Dijkstra was talking about this elusive quality I call creativity
when he bashed COBOL, BASIC, and a ton of other languages as well as
some approaches to computer languages in 1975 (see
[http://userweb.cs.utexas.edu/~EWD/transcriptions/EWD04xx/EWD498.html]).

Consider Dijkstra's statement: "The use of COBOL cripples the mind;
its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence...."

Here I think that Dijkstra is generally talking about the loss of creativity
that he felt that the use COBOL produces in the average person. We find
more statements in this vein when he describes BASIC:

"It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that
have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are
mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."

If it is possible to cripple or mutilate one's mind with certain programming
languages is it possible to make people smarter with others? I think the
answer,
again, can be derived (or deduced) from Dijkstra's own statements:

"The tools we use have a profound (and devios!) influence on our thinking
habits, and, therefore, on our thinking abilities."

In advocating Perl I am promoting a tool that encourages better
thinking habits. Better thinking can have
broad-reaching effects on business, government, and other areas
where computing languages and other technical knowledge are employed.
Therefore, more people should use Perl.
On Sat, Aug 7, 2010 at 8:33 AM, Shlomi Fish wrote:

Back when we discussed the "NASA Uses Python" in April, 2008, I said that:

[quote]
However, this thread gave me a really wicked idea for a parody site (not
just
of http://www.python.org/ of course), which I'm planning to take forward.
[/quote]

( http://www.nntp.perl.org/group/perl.advocacy/2008/04/msg2394.html )

Now, due to some recent developments, I feel that I've kinda missed its
boat,
but I still set up a page which contains my old ideas:


http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/bits/COBOL-the-New-Age-Programming- Language/
So now it's official - "NASA Uses COBOL". Hope you enjoy it.

Regards,

Shlomi Fish

--
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
"Humanity" - Parody of Modern Life - http://shlom.in/humanity

God considered inflicting XSLT as the tenth plague of Egypt, but then
decided against it because he thought it would be too evil.

Please reply to list if it's a mailing list post - http://shlom.in/reply .
-----------------------------------------
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-----------------------------------------------------------------
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Original Riddles - http://www.shlomifish.org/puzzles/

God considered inflicting XSLT as the tenth plague of Egypt, but then
decided against it because he thought it would be too evil.

Please reply to list if it's a mailing list post - http://shlom.in/reply .
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1 response

  • Shlomi Fish at Aug 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm
    Now replying.
    On Sunday 08 August 2010 21:06:23 Shlomi Fish wrote:
    Sending to the list as the sender declared it to be his intention.

    ---------- Forwarded Message ----------

    Subject: Re: [Slightly OT] "NASA Uses COBOL"
    Date: Sunday 08 August 2010, 20:41:50
    From: Joel Limardo <joel.limardo@forwardphase.com>
    To: Shlomi Fish <shlomif@iglu.org.il>

    This is my first post to this list. I apologize in advance for its length.
    Shlomi got me thinking about COBOL and other languages like it in general
    so I wrote the following:

    perl-advocacy-1
    ===============

    Author: <Joel Limardo@...>
    Date: 2010/08/08 12:32:26 PM


    Table of Contents
    =================
    1 Why do you want more people to use Perl?
    1.1 Advocacy in Question
    1.2 Shouldn't we just use math puzzles?
    1.3 Was this what Dijkstra was talking about?

    1 Why do you want more people to use Perl?
    ==========================================

    1.1 Advocacy in Question
    ------------------------
    I liked this [
    http://prometheus.frii.com/~gnat/yapc/2000-advocacy/slide2.html],
    particularly the question, "...why do you advocate Perl?"
    Quoting from that page: "Selfless reason: Perl saves companies money and we
    hate to see waste." - I disagree with calling this reason "selfless". Selfless
    means having a complete disregard for one own's self, which is not healthy.
    While this may be a "compassionate", "caring", or "altruistic" reason - it is
    not selfless. For more information see:

    http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/fortunes/shlomif-fav.html#neo-tech-
    selfishness ( http://xrl.us/bhvhcs ).
    Here's my answer: I'd like to see more people use Perl because it
    forces you to think creatively and, in effect, makes you smarter.
    I'm all for things that make people smarter.
    1.2 Shouldn't we just use math puzzles?
    ---------------------------------------

    I like the comparison between Perl and math puzzles because, to me, they
    represent the two opposite poles of the programming universe. Creativity
    and expressiveness on the one end and so-called correctness,
    conformity, and universality on the other.
    With many maths puzzles, there is more than one way to solve them (like in
    Perl). See for example, 85 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem:

    http://www.cut-the-knot.org/pythagoras/

    In fact, Larry Wall told this story about his daughter here:
    http://www.wall.org/~larry/pm.html

    [quote]
    Heidi said, ``You wanna know something really funny. In my IMP class, our
    class slogan is, 'There's more than one way to do it.'''

    ``You're kidding,'' I said. [I should also say that that IMP stands for
    Interactive Math Program, which is a math curriculum in which you sort of
    learn everything at once. In sort of a postmodern way.] Anyway, I said,
    ``You're kidding.''

    ``No,'' she said, ``That's why IMP is better for math students like me--we
    learn better when we can see the big picture, and how everything fits in. The
    old way of learning math never gave you any context''.

    While I was digesting this, and thinking about how it applied to computer
    science, she went on, ``Well, it's like, you know, we have this saying at
    school, when somebody gets uptight about something, we say: 'Tsall good. If
    someone is depressed, we say: 'Tsall good.'''

    ``But you don't actually think everything is good, do you?''

    ``No, of course not.''

    ``Are you saying that everything has good elements in it?''

    ``No, Dad, I think when we say that, we're saying that, overall, things are
    good. Like, look at the big picture, don't just focus in on the two or three
    bad things that are happening to you right now.''

    I report this conversation to you not just because I think my kids are cute
    and smart, but also because I think it's important that we know where our
    culture is going, and because it's our kids that will shape our culture in the
    future. I don't think I could have defined postmodernism better than Heidi.
    Look at the big picture. Don't focus in on two or three things to the
    exclusion of other things. Keep everything in context. Don't go out of your
    way to justify stuff that's obviously cool. Don't ridicule ideas merely
    because they're not the latest and greatest. Pick your own fashions. Don't let
    someone else tell you what you should like. 'Tsall good.
    [/quote]

    I would not like maths if I didn't have some flexibility in reaching a
    solution (despite the fact that I naturally need some rigour and to play by
    the mathematical and logical rules.)
    So why should we use Perl rather than simply do mathematical puzzles if
    we want to become smarter?

    I think mathematical puzzles build up a different set of mental muscles
    -- particularly ones that see problems as targets and programs as missles
    to be loaded, armed, and fired in the most efficient manner possible.
    The Perl credo 'there is more than one way to do it'
    implies at least two things: a) open-mindedness to other methods of
    achieving the
    same or similar result b) inquisitiveness to seek out other ways to achieve
    a result yourself from a different perspective. Right.
    Let's face it, as programmers we are in the business or producing results;
    unless we would no longer like to be employed those results must be
    correct. But with Perl we get something intangible from the exercise of
    programming that we would not get from the lock-and-load,
    shortest-path-possible methods.
    I call that thing creativity. :-)
    1.3 Was this what Dijkstra was talking about?
    ---------------------------------------------

    I think Dijkstra was talking about this elusive quality I call creativity
    when he bashed COBOL, BASIC, and a ton of other languages as well as
    some approaches to computer languages in 1975 (see
    [http://userweb.cs.utexas.edu/~EWD/transcriptions/EWD04xx/EWD498.html]).

    Consider Dijkstra's statement: "The use of COBOL cripples the mind;
    its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence...."

    Here I think that Dijkstra is generally talking about the loss of
    creativity that he felt that the use COBOL produces in the average person.
    We find more statements in this vein when he describes BASIC:

    "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that
    have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are
    mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."
    One thing I hate is that such quotes by Dijkstra are often misapplied to more
    recent and more evolved dialects of BASIC, including those that both Larry
    Wall (see http://www.perl.com/pub/2007/12/06/soto-11.html ) and I and many
    people of past (and present?) generations started with. Furthermore, I studied
    BASIC from booklets that taught it with Structured Programming in mind, so
    later on the transition to C, what was then C/C++ and other languages was
    mostly painless.
    If it is possible to cripple or mutilate one's mind with certain
    programming languages is it possible to make people smarter with others?
    I think the answer,
    again, can be derived (or deduced) from Dijkstra's own statements:

    "The tools we use have a profound (and devios!) influence on our thinking
    habits, and, therefore, on our thinking abilities."

    In advocating Perl I am promoting a tool that encourages better
    thinking habits. Better thinking can have
    broad-reaching effects on business, government, and other areas
    where computing languages and other technical knowledge are employed.
    Therefore, more people should use Perl.
    Right.

    BTW, I think Dijkstra hated all the languages of his day except for ALGOL to
    whose design he had contributed, including I think the earlier versions of
    LISP.

    Regards,

    Shlomi Fish

    --
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
    List of Portability Libraries - http://shlom.in/port-libs

    God considered inflicting XSLT as the tenth plague of Egypt, but then
    decided against it because he thought it would be too evil.

    Please reply to list if it's a mailing list post - http://shlom.in/reply .

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