> -----Original Message-----
> From: Crispin Cowan [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]
> Sent: 09 July 2004 04:27
> To: Peter Amey
> Cc: ljknews; [EMAIL PROTECTED]
> Subject: Re: [SC-L] Education and security -- another perspective (was
> "ACM Queue - Content")
> Peter Amey wrote:
> >>>What is wrong with this picture ?
> >>>
> >>>I see both of you willing to mandate the teaching of C and yet not
> >>>mandate the teaching of any of Ada, Pascal, PL/I etc.
> >>>      
> >>>
> >>Makes sense to me. what is the point of teaching dead 
> languages like 
> >>Ada, Pascal, and PL/I?  Teach C, Assembler, and Java/C# (for the 
> >>mainstream), and some lisp variant (Scheme, ML, Haskell) and Prolog 
> >>variant for variety. But Ada, Pascal, and PL/I are suitable 
> >>only for a "history of programming languages" course :)
> >>    
> >>
> >I do hope that is a sort of smiley at the end of your 
> message.  Please.
> >  
> >
> It is a sort-of smiley. On one hand, I find the whole thing 
> amusing. On 
> the other hand, I find it patently absurd that someone would suggest 
> that curriculum in 2004 would comprise Ada, Pascal, and PL/I, all of 
> which are (for industrial purposes) dead languages.
> On one hand, university should be about learning concepts rather than 
> languages, because the concepts endure while the languages go 
> in and out 
> of fashion. 


I would have to (at least partly) diagree on two counts.  

Firstly a tactical one: Ada is by no means a dead language.  There is a great tendency 
in our industry to regard whatever is in first place at any particular point in life's 
race to be "the winner" and everything else to be "dead".  In practice very 
substantial use may continue to be made of things which are not in the ultra-visible 
first place.  For example, OS/2 was killed by Windows yet most ATMs in the USA still 
run OS/2.  We have't discussed the dead languages Cobol and Prolog but both are 
actually still in widespread use, the latter in the specific niches for which it is 
suitable.  Ada is actually still doing rather well in areas where high reliability is 
valued more than fashion (the Ada side of my business is growing steadily and has been 
for years).  Since we are concerned on this list with improving the security (a form 
of reliability) of systems, study of a language which has a proven track record in 
delivering relibaility is wholly appropriate.

Secondly, in response to your suggestion that we teach concepts (which I wholly agree 
with), languages, including dead ones, encapsulate and illustrate concepts.  Pascal 
was designed to teach structured programming.  Occam provides a splendid introduction 
to concurrency.  Modula-2 and Ada are ideal for illustrating the vital concepts of 
abstraction, encapsulation and the separation of specification and implementation.  
The languages are worth studying for these reasons alone.  Those exposed to them will 
be better programmers in any language and will find adoption of new ones much easier.  

As you say, languages come in and out of fashion; what I find sad is that so many of 
the new languages have failed to learn and build on the lessons of those that have 
gone before.  I think it highly probable that this is because their designers have 
casually dismissed those that went before as dead and therefore of no interest.  They 
would have done better to emulate Newton and "stood on the shoulders of giants" such 
as Wirth.

I would never recruit someone just because they knew Ada rather than C; however, I 
would be highly unlikely to recruit someone who had such a closed mind that they 
thought Ada had nothing to teach them and was only fit for snide mockery.


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