[TUHS] Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language - Unearthed!

Norman Wilson norman at oclsc.org
Mon Sep 4 00:48:11 AEST 2017


Steve Johnson:

  I think of Alan Demer's comment: "There are two kinds of programming
  languages, those that make it easy to write good programs, and those
  that make it hard to write bad ones."

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I'm (still) with Larry Flon on this one:

  There does not now, nor will there ever, exist a programming language
  in which it is the least bit hard to write bad programs.

-- SIGPLAN Notices, October 1975, p. 16.

There are certainly language that make it easier to avoid
trivial mistakes, like buffer overruns and pointer botches,
but the sort of nonsense Kernigan and Plaugher demonstrated
and discussed about the same time in The Elements of Programming
Style shows up in any language.

I'm afraid I see that nearly any time I look in source code.
To be fair, these days I rarely have the time to look at
someone else's source code unless it's buggy, but it is
nevertheless appalling what one finds in critical system
software like boot environments and authentication code.

There is no royal language to good programs.  Programming
well takes discipline and skill and experience.  Languages
like Pascal that prevent certain classes of sloppiness like
overrunning arrays and string buffers may be better for
teaching beginners, but only because that makes it easier
to focus on the real issues, such as how to structure a
program well and how to write clearly.  I have yet to see
evidence that that actually happens.

Norman Wilson
Toronto ON


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