Lambda the Ultimate

inactiveTopic The Little Coder's Predicament
started 6/15/2003; 1:38:42 AM - last post 6/16/2003; 11:47:17 PM
Dan Shappir - The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/15/2003; 1:38:42 AM (reads: 1814, responses: 9)
The Little Coder's Predicament
via Slashdot

The old machines don't compare to the desktops of today, or to the consoles of today. But, sadly, current versions of Windows have no immediately accessible programming languages. ... Yes, there are burgeoning free SDKs for many of these platforms. But they are obscure and most children have no means of actually deploying or executing the code on their own hardware! This is obvious to us all and likely doesn't seem such a big deal. But ask yourself what might have happened had you not had access to a programming language on an Atari 800 or a Commodore. You tell me if this is a predicament.

A discussion of the current state of affairs for beginner aspiring programmers. Being an oldie (35), my recollections match those presented in this article (I had a TI-994A as well (a weird, wonderful / terrible machine). OTOH my kids are too young to give me a feel as to the state of things today for teenage programmers.

My feeling is that Web "programming" (DHTML and Macromedia) could compensate of the lack of desktop development environment of beginners. Also, while the writer does mention the Windows scripting host, he neglects to mention HTAs, which make building simple GUI apps rather easy. OTOH he is correct with regard to the lack of examples and documentation (but did I have documentation for the TI's Extended Basic ;-)

Posted to teaching/learning by Dan Shappir on 6/15/03; 1:40:50 AM

Paul Snively - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/15/2003; 12:20:01 PM (reads: 1053, responses: 0)
I have the same conundrum in the sense that I have an intensely intelligent, turns-15-tomorrow stepson who's curious. A while back I tried him on "The Little Schemer" and DrScheme. No way, José. I may as well have suggested that he learn Swahili. For a while he was computerless, but he got a very nice programmable calculator for school, and he began to program it, in its built-in dialect of... you guessed it... BASIC.

So being a CS purist, I cringe. But you know what? I've concluded that getting stuff done quickly is more important than getting stuff pure, especially when you're learning new stuff. Experience and time will lend polish if anything will. So I'm wondering whether I should buy the kid REALbasic. I see more and more stuff built with it, and you can by the academic license for the standard edition, with downloadable software and docs, for $70, for either Mac or Windows.

What the heck. I'm going to do it. We'll see how it turns out. Heaven knows I've spent more on stuff that he's left behind already. ;-)

Adam Vandenberg - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/15/2003; 4:14:42 PM (reads: 1039, responses: 1)
This was PROBABLY mentioned somewhere in the Slashdot thread... but modern versions of Windows (Windows 98/2000 and up?) do come with a couple of languages: VBScript and JScript runnable through the Windows Scripting Host (or through IE, I guess, but ugh, DHTML programming.)

But the WSH makes a junky tooling around environment compared to the old 8-bitters, there's no interesting places to poke, can't even change the background color.

In fact, now that I think about it, just install a C64 emulator on the PC and write BASIC in that!

Dan Shappir - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/15/2003; 11:51:18 PM (reads: 999, responses: 0)
The existence of VBScript and JScript was mentioned in the original article as well as my comments on it (that's the Windows scripting host). It's actually not that bad an environment, and if you install the free script debugger, it's quit serviceable. The problem with the scripting host, from the kiddy perspective, is that the UI capabilities are very limited (and anyway, what kid is interested in WMI?)

That's why I mentioned HTA. HTA (which stands for HTML Application) is basically and HTML page with an .hta extension. It runs as an application, that is, no security restrictions on the contained script plus extended capabilities to control Window appearance (icon, etc.)

Script (VBScript, JScript, PerlScript, ...) running inside the .hta can do very powerful UI manipulations using DHTML, including transition filters, vector graphics and animations. It's really a cool environment. Unfortunately, Microsoft has done very little to promote this environment, and thus few are aware of its existence. There is also a dearth of samples and documentation (though that shouldn't stop a dedicated hacker-to-be ;-)

And it also supports BeyondJS :-)

Dominic Fox - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 1:35:11 AM (reads: 964, responses: 0)
There's also VBA built into every MS Office application. Alt-F11 in Word or Excel will bring up the IDE.

bryan rasmussen - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 3:13:28 AM (reads: 940, responses: 0)
I recently encountered someone in my local library looking through computer books wanting to learn their first language, I suggested Rebol since it would work on windows, was free, and would let them do a lot of things quickly and easily, such as sending emails, which seems like the kind of thing that beginning programmers can appreciate.

Noel Welsh - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 5:38:52 AM (reads: 913, responses: 0)
DrScheme has a nice OpenGl binding.

This message brought to you by the PLT Scheme marketing board.

Luke Gorrie - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 9:03:25 AM (reads: 875, responses: 0)
I was reading "Starting FORTH" by Leo Brodie a while ago. It reminded me very strongly of the C=64 BASIC books that I learned to program from. I reckon it'd make an excellent first introduction.

On the other hand, that might be all nostalgia. Kids can probably choose well enough for 'emselves. (God knows what profession I'd be in now if I'd had to start from The Little Schemer, much as I like the book now :-))

Darius Bacon - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 9:19:32 PM (reads: 760, responses: 0)
This will be utterly useless to little coders, but still:

A is for APL, with ciphers arrayed.
B is for BASIC, for kids and for trade...

Martin DeMello - Re: The Little Coder's Predicament  blueArrow
6/16/2003; 11:47:17 PM (reads: 748, responses: 0)
I liked the Y bit :) Should ideally spawn two versions, though, one consisting solely of languages and one of concepts etc.