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

Toby Thain toby at telegraphics.com.au
Sun Sep 3 01:00:17 AEST 2017

On 2017-08-31 10:38 PM, Dan Cross wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 3:47 PM, Toby Thain <toby at telegraphics.com.au
> <mailto:toby at telegraphics.com.au>> wrote:
> [snip] 
>     > But the problem was that in those days, because Wirth had designed it
>     > for complete small student programs, it was hard to write large real
>     > programs (as Brian points).  So people fixed it and every fixed it
>     > differently.  Pascal was hardly standardized. ...
>     >
>     > And this was the root of the real problem.
>     >
>     > You could not write “real” programs in it and really make them run on
>     > actual systems.   Brian was writing that paper, after an exercise in
>     Professor Knuth seemed to manage OK, writing TeX and METAFONT in Pascal
>     (using his literate programming toolset, but that did not extend the
>     language much).
> To be fair, I think that Knuth originally wrote both TeX and METAFONT in
> the SAIL language for the PDP-10. He switched to Pascal (again on the
> PDP-10) later.
> I've often wondered to what extent (natural) language shapes thought;
> for instance, to what extent does grammatical gender influence
> patriarchy or matriarchy of the society that speaks that language, etc.
> If some thought is relatively harder to express in a given language,
> will less attention be given to areas associated with that thought? It
> is my limited understanding that linguists and social scientists have
> studied this and seen a positive correlation between language and
> culture/society (I don't know if it's causal).
> But if we go out on a branch and assume that it *is* causal for a
> moment, it naturally raises the question: is the same true of other
> types of languages? How about programming languages or mathematical
> notations (or other similar domain specific languages)?
> I have long suspected that it is true of programming. ...

This is why, as our ideas grow in sophistication, our languages must
also. I think the history of mathematical notation is a perfect example.

Lots of people are on this wavelength, e.g. this presentation:

Metaphors We Compute By, Alvaro Videla
33 minutes + Q&A

  "The main thesis of Lakoff... [is that metaphors] permeate all of the
language, furthermore they dictate in a way how we live, how we see the
world comes from the metaphors ... How our conceptual system is built.
... A metaphor can thus be used to identify a structure in a domain that
would not have been discovered otherwise.
  ... Master the art of meaning amplication."

This talk also mentions Dr Barbara Liskov's paper, "Programming with
Abstract Data Types":

  "The motivation behind the work in very-high-level languages is to
ease the programming task by providing the programmer with a language
containing primitives or abstractions suitable to his problem area. The
programmer is then able to spend his effort in the right place..."

Finally, a favourite quote:

  "Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally
for machines to execute" -- Hal Abelson



>         - Dan C.

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