[TUHS] Discuss of style and design of computer programs from a user stand point [was dmr note on BSD's sins]

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Sat May 6 15:33:02 AEST 2017

In 1973, I spent 9 months at the University of Waterloo, home of
Watfor.   I taught a course in "Advanced Application Techniques" --
the language was FORTRAN, and the techniques included such things as
using libraries and handling errors in input data...

When I left for Canada, there had been a lot of discussion about
programming style at the labs, and so in my first lecture I told the
students that I would award points for style, and briefly talked about
what that was and how I would assess the style, and I did so
throughout the course.

What amazed me was that some students seemed to instantly get the
idea, and became quite good at producing excellent, clean programs,
while others were violently allergic to the whole notion that anything
"subjective" should stand between them and their grade in the class.
 I remember several interchanges with students, often angry, who had
a lot of difficulty understanding why their 35-line solution to a
problem should get a lower grade than a 15-line version (excluding
comment lines).

in fairness, I didn't (and don't) know any better way to learn style
than doing a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and getting criticized
constructively by those with more experience.  For me, a lot of what
I learned was from Stan Brown at the Labs, who read piles of my
(atrocious) FORTRAN code and repeatedly pointed out that when you
wrote a program, you were not just communicating with the computer,
but also other humans (including yourself) who would read (and perhaps
modify) the code in the future...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug McIlroy" <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu>
To:<lm at mcvoy.com>, <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu>, <clemc at ccc.com>
Cc:<tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org>
Sent:Fri, 05 May 2017 22:02:21 -0400
Subject:Re: [TUHS] Discuss of style and design of computer programs
from a user stand point [was dmr note on BSD's sins]

 Clem wrote, "So, I wonder do any of the schools like Darthmouth and
the like
 teach courses that study 'style' and taste in CS."

 Some time around 1970, Bob Rosen instituted a program-reading
 course at the University of Iowa, by overt analogy to the
 study of literature. Style was certainly a central concern;
 I'm not sure about the deeper matter of taste. I'm not aware
 of other examples, except perhaps for a collaboration between
 Don Kunth and a teachaer of (I think) creative writing--a
 course whose content I can't recall.


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