[TUHS] The Elements of Programming Style (book) - was Re: Discuss of style and design of computer programs

Toby Thain toby at telegraphics.com.au
Sun May 7 00:16:03 AEST 2017

On 2017-05-06 1:33 AM, Steve Johnson wrote:
> 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...
> ...
> 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...

As a longtime maintenance programmer: I could not agree more. Thankfully 
this idea is fairly well accepted today. Although, I am working on a 
project right now that makes me think the author simply never considered 
that anyone else might ever read or maintain it.

In this context, one of the timeless classics is The Elements of 
Programming Style (Kernighan and Plauger). It had a huge effect on my C 
when I read it years ago and I still try to apply its lessons every day 
in any language.


> Steve
>     ----- 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.
>     Doug

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