# Re: [Jchat] What do programmers mean by: variable, constant, function, array, etc?

```That's why most people give up on chatting to anyone outside their own
little circle.
It's one response to the challenge.```
```
And why I always felt international mathematics conferences were a waste of
time
(unless you were the invited speaker at a plenary session).
There was nobody you could talk to.

On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 4:50 AM, Don Guinn <dongu...@gmail.com> wrote:

> When in grade school they called things like + and - "operators". But they
> never defined it. Then in trig thay had "functions", but they never defined
> what functions were either. Then came calculus. Differentiating and
> integrating were never given a group name or general classification. I
> think teachers thought they were functions. But obviously quite different
> from things like sin and cos. I searched several math school books looking
> for definitions. Never found any. They just started using the terms without
> definition.
>
> I asked several people the difference between function and operator and got
> nonsense answers. So for the fun of it, I googled it. Overwhelmed. The only
> definitions that make sense are those of calling things as J did like +, -,
> sin and cos "verbs" and differentials and integration "modifiers". Because
> differentials and integrals return "functions". Or in J terminology,
> "verbs".
>
> These things are concepts. I think I have an understanding of the concepts,
> but as to what to call them. Who knows? The thing is that we need to try
> many ways to describe them until one of them sticks. Maybe one of the
> descriptions will work with students or other people. But I suspect that
> few people realize that things like differentiation is really different
> from + and sin.
>
> On Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 9:09 PM, Ian Clark <earthspo...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Too right, Devon.
> >
> > And have you explored the unicode situation with minus? Not to mention pi
> > and mu.
> >
> > If programmers coded like they talk and write, planes would be dropping
> on
> > our heads from all over the sky.
> >
> > I knew folk who'd never read a manual or an article about a novel
> language.
> > Only the code – and then they'd try out variants, to see what worked and
> > what didn't.
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 3:59 AM, Devon McCormick <devon...@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > I did once ask a fellow, knowledgable programmer if the distinction
> > between
> > > function and operator in conventional languages in fact meant "with
> which
> > > alphabet do you spell it?"
> > > If it's a plain old ASCII name, like "plus", it's a function; a symbol
> > like
> > > "+" is an operator, even if both tokens behave exactly the same.
> > > Ultimately not a particularly illuminating distinction.
> > >
> > >
> > > On Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 10:56 PM, Ian Clark <earthspo...@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> > >
> > > > >  it does not match my understanding of how standards bodies work
> > > >
> > > > However they work, they don't seem to produce a leading answer to a
> > > > question.
> > > >
> > > > Before posting my appeal, I googled variants of "ISO computer
> > > terminology".
> > > > I got the impression there were over 30 ISO committees dealing with
> > > aspects
> > > > of this topic, including the vexed one of translating computer
> > manuals. I
> > > > gave up and asked this forum if anyone could recommend the leading
> > (ISO)
> > > > source of common terms, like: platform, program, etc. (…hey! – I've
> > just
> > > > reduxed my original post.)
> > > >
> > > > It seems nobody can. I might as well have asked the Freemasons their
> > > > meaning of "secret society".
> > > >
> > > > > that does not match my understanding of how language use works
> > > >
> > > > What hope is there of dialog with someone if you don't agree on basic
> > > > terms?
> > > > That's my understanding of how language use works. Or doesn't.
> > > >
> > > > Yet here I am, setting out (…yet again) to talk to non-J initiates
> > > J
> > > > – and I want to use words which I know they'll understand, like:
> > > variable,
> > > > constant, function – and I want to avoid words like noun, verb,
> > pronoun,
> > > > proverb – because that's all J mystery jargon.
> > > >
> > > > Don't I need a touchstone of definitions my reader and I will agree
> on?
> > > >
> > > > To-date I've come up with these candidates:
> > > >   (a) The Oxford Dictionary (…nowadays better than I expected it to
> be,
> > > > going by past experience)
> > > >   (b) The following site: http://techterms.com
> > > > …which is cool. Just what I was looking for. But lacks the authority
> of
> > > an
> > > > ISO standard.
> > > >
> > > > Also (…oh no!) I look up a word like: Constant –and I don't agree
> with
> > > what
> > > > it says…
> > > >   https://techterms.com/definition/constant
> > > > In the final para it seems to be describing #define, not: const (…if
> > you
> > > > know any C/C++).
> > > > Plus no mention of IMHO the chief role of a "constant": to behave
> > > > programatically like a variable but preclude reassignment.
> > > > Thus scotching the perennial C/C++ bug:
> > > >     if (myconst = x) { … }
> > > >
> > > > Also, on the home page, "Today's Quiz Question" is garbled… not a
> good
> > > sign
> > > > for something purporting to be authoritative.
> > > >
> > > > Can anyone do better?
> > > >
> > > > …there, now I've described exactly what I'm looking for.
> > > >
> > > > On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 6:27 PM, Raul Miller <rauldmil...@gmail.com>
> > > wrote:
> > > >
> > > > > I do not think that "common usage" depends on ISO standards.
> > > > >
> > > > > Or, at least, that does not match my understanding of how language
> > use
> > > > > works (and, for that matter, it does not match my understanding of
> > how
> > > > > standards bodies work).
> > > > >
> > > > > Thanks,
> > > > >
> > > > > --
> > > > > Raul
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > > On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 11:42 AM, Ian Clark <earthspo...@gmail.com>
> > > > wrote:
> > > > > > Sorry, Joe, I want "common programmer terms" for "platform,
> > program,
> > > > > etc",
> > > > > > i.e. terms common to all programmers, not just J-ers.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Especially not J-ers!
> > > > > >
> > > > > > I tried looking up some of these terms in the Oxford Dictionary
> of
> > > > > English
> > > > > > (courtesy Apple) and I'm impressed. It seems it has authoritative
> > but
> > > > > > straightforward meanings under the subheading "Computing" for all
> > > I've
> > > > > tried
> > > > > > .
> > > > > >
> > > > > > But I'm still hoping to hear what ISO standard people on this
> list
> > > use,
> > > > > or
> > > > > > some standards body. I'm taking the baffled silence to mean that
> > > nobody
> > > > > has
> > > > > > ever used such a list. The fabled precision of IT professionals
> > > doesn't
> > > > > > extend to terminology, it seems.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Such lists exist. I've seen them – though only in German, and
> that
> > > was
> > > > > > decades ago. Documenters need them for the purpose of translating
> > > > > manuals.
> > > > > > Though maybe the whole thing is still woolly, like it was in my
> > day.
> > > An
> > > > > > Arab once told me he always used the English manual because he
> > > couldn't
> > > > > > make head or tail of the Arabic one.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 2:57 PM, Joe Bogner <joebog...@gmail.com>
> > > > wrote:
> > > > > >
> > > > > >> I went back and looked at some of the existing material
> > > > > >>
> > > > > >> This seems to be a good list of definitions with examples:
> > > > > >> http://www.jsoftware.com/help/primer/contents.htm
> > > > > >>
> > > > > >> This text seems devoid of too many terms:
> > > > > >> http://www.jsoftware.com/books/pdf/easyj.pdf
> > > > > >>
> > > > > >> Of course, I'm not reading these with "beginner eyes" so both
> may
> > > > still
> > > > > >> need to be unpacked more
> > > > > >>
> > > > > >> On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 7:28 AM, Ian Clark <
> earthspo...@gmail.com>
> > > > > wrote:
> > > > > >>
> > > > > >> > It's absurdly difficult to write a good "first-contact" text
> > for J
> > > > > >> without
> > > > > >> > reference to a single accepted source of definitions like:
> > > platform,
> > > > > >> > program, app, script, variable, constant, function, array,
> > string,
> > > > > >> > character, number …
> > > > > >> >
> > > > > >> > Is there an ISO standard for common programmer terms (in
> > English)?
> > > > > >> >
> > > > > >> > If the answer is: legion (…my first impression) – then is
> there
> > > one
> > > > > that
> > > > > >> > stands out for you?
> > > > > >> >
> > > > > >> > I have an operational need for a weblink to a good clear
> > published
> > > > > free
> > > > > >> > authoritative text. To avoid cluttering this thread, please
> > don't
> > > > > offer
> > > > > >> > your own definitions of the above terms here (although of
> course
> > > I'd
> > > > > be
> > > > > >> > frightfully interested to hear them one day.)
> > > > > >> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > > > > ----------
> > > > > >> > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/
> > > > > forums.htm
> > > > > >> ------------------------------------------------------------
> > > > ----------
> > > > > >> For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/
> > > > forums.htm
> > > > > >>
> > > > > > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > > ----------
> > > > > > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/
> > > forums.htm
> > > > > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > ----------
> > > > > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/
> > forums.htm
> > > > >
> > > > ------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
> > > > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/
> forums.htm
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > >
> > > Devon McCormick, CFA
> > >
> > > Quantitative Consultant
> > > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/forums.htm
> > >
> > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/forums.htm
> >
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> For information about J forums see http://www.jsoftware.com/forums.htm
>
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