I’ve just come across an inspiring blog entry with the thought-provoking title You donâ€™t know that programming language. The authors argues that knowing a programming language is very different from knowing of a programming language.
Personally, I know ofÂ C, C++, Java, Python, Ruby, LISP, Scheme and Objective-C. But do I really know them perfectly? The answer is a big NO. For instance:
- I don’t know aboutÂ setjmp in C.
- Ditto about partial template specialization in C++.
- Ditto about the Classloader in Java.
- Ditto about accumulation loops in Python.
- Ditto about advanced metaprogramming techniques in Ruby.
- Ditto about macros in LISP.
- Ditto about continuations in Scheme.
- Ditto about posing in Objective-C.
But this is not a big problem according to the blogger. What is important instead is to have the right aptitudes to learn those things if ever the need arises. He mentions that one only has to master the essentials likeÂ algorithms, design patterns, etc. and the rest will follow (if needed.)
I believe he is right.
Eddy Young says
You KNOW a programming language if you can express solutions to problems with it.
Analogy: I do not master every single idiom of the English language, but I manage very well in England. Similarly, there are bits of Java about which I have only a vague idea, but that does not stop me from building applications used by millions.
At least, there is some sense in the ending. A willingness to learn and the fundamentals are better than perfect knowledge of a programming language.
Thats perfectly true :)
Maybe you missed the point. The original author argues that it is not necessary to master a programming language. What is important is to know the fundamentals and to have the right aptitudes to learn whatever is required when the need arises.
Can you please explain to Eddy then :-)
Patrick Ng says
Something was telling me that the author of the blog was a University of Waterloo student. And I was right :-)
I think we all agree that what is needed is “a willingness to learn and knowing the fundamentals.”
Eddy Young says
@avinash: I did understand the original post, but it annoys me that the author tries to make a big statement with the blatantly obvious. That you find it inspiring annoys me even more. But then, this is your blog :-)
Of course, what he said is obvious.
But many people tend to forget that mastery is elusive.
i don’t understand the reason of having to know EVERYTHING in a programming language, as long as you know the abilities of that programming language, hence whenever you think of a solution that using that “ability of that language” will help in a faster/nicer/ implementation, then at that time the trivial part is to just refer to the the doc.
Besides .. that’ll be foolish to learn everything in a language [according to me], people are not meant to be hard disks, but rather processors.
as for me, if that was the case as above, then i hell don’t know any programming language, but then when i get a problem, i will find a language the fits my solution easily, and uses lesser lines of codes and is much more friendlier to read… [not some brainfck stuffs]
as always, its just… my not so humble opinion :D i could careless :p
[don’t you people just has this major turn off once you’ve already figured out a solution to a problem?? its like pffft, i want someone to type it for me, its boring to type it now?]
ps. as for the pic attached for that post, that’s not even related to anything programming, reminds me of some porn with ear fetishism.
That’s the point Selven. No one (except MAYBE the language designers themselves) know everything that exist in a programming language.
This does not prevent people from creating fantastic software everywhere.
This implies that creating software does not require mastery of a programming language but rather knowledge of some fundamentals and the willingness to learn.
An interesting question would be whether your 3 years at the University of Mauritius has taught you those fundamentals and increased your appetite for knowledge…
(As for the pic, I chose it because, for me, programming is a human activity. It occurs when one human being describes a process as precisely as possible in a way that another human being can readily comprehend. As such, programming is only tangentially related to computers.)
Eddy Young says
Yes, it happens to me all the time. But, the nature of the job requires that I type the code, at least until such time that voice-recognition software become good enough to handle dictation of code.
Selven, it sounds like you’re about to burn-out. Other than trying to diversify your interests, practise agile coding: write draft code, then refactor, instead of trying to get it right the first time.
As an aside, I’m having more fun refactoring the code for an application that I wrote last year than writing new code. Just finding my own faults and realising how much more I have learnt in that one year is so satisfying.
I second that. Don’t forget this open source mantra: release early, release often.
I’ve been using git for a few days now and the whole concept of distributed versioning appeals a lot to me. Anyone can fork any project (including the Linux kernel) and get a lot of satisfaction by refactoring or enhancing existing code whether written by you or not.
Extremely bright (and rich) wankers nevertheless :-)
More seriously, fifteen years ago, no one wanted to be a geek. I fondly remember my university cohort in France which contained 20 geeks and 100 “tourists” (i.e. students having been channeled to CS because they were not good enough to get what they really wanted to do.)
Fifteen years later, hundred of students with no inclinations or aptitudes towards CS and especially programming (like you in fact) are dying to do Computer Science in order to get a job in the Cybercity. They don’t realize that they’ll have a boring and pathetic life…
seriously.. even now.. who would wanna be a geek?
Probably someone who doesn’t know the meaning of being a geek,
As far as being a wanker :p well, who hasn’t been one?
That’s being hypocrite to yourself to think that to call someone a wanker is an insult :p.. else otherwise you’ve never been a wanker and has been a nerdy lil creature who was afraid of becoming blind :p
Eddy Young says
@selven: 4lyf is pulling your leg. Ignore him.