Re: Programming Languages: A *Useful* Comparison?

Subject: Re: Programming Languages: A *Useful* Comparison?
From: David Castro <thejavaguy -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Joe Malin <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2005 14:12:52 -0500

On 12/28/05, Joe Malin <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com> wrote:
> What
> *I* want is something that says "Use Java to do <x>, because it is
> [better/faster/easier]; Use Perl to do <y>", and so forth.

Years ago, when I worked for Synon, I had a trainer coworker who said
something that has stuck with me: "people like what they know." I have
known of cases when people would turn a technology or technique into
pretzels to make it to something that another technology or technique
was much better suited for simply because they *knew* the technology
that they used.

So, for example, grep is a really great tool for doing string
manipulation when you know how to perform regular expressions (I'm not
an expert in it, but it seems like a good example). And yet, if you
don't know the somewhat arcane and easily-confusable regular
expression syntax, I could see why someone would use a programming
language like Python to do string manipulation.

When it comes to programming languages, I think that the language's
usefulness is more frequently tied to the libraries that the language
comes to than the language itself. If you look at the reserved words
in any given language, there's usually not more than a couple dozen.
It's how they're put together into something that is made part of the
programming language product (such as the JDK for Java) that is going
to affect you. Does the language have a library for doing what you
want to do?

Ruby has gained a lot of momentum this year because of the gaining
popularity of Ajax. Ruby has an offshoot called Ruby on Rails that
provides a lot of Ajax-type functionality in very little code. I
haven't worked with it myself, yet, but it's on My List of Things to
Read About Someday. As I understand it, Ruby was something of a niche
programming language before this confluence of technologies. It offers
enough ease-of-use that die-hard Java programmers are flocking to it
as a potential replacement or addition to their web-based Java skills.

How's that for a long post that doesn't really answer your question?
My recommendation is to have a smattering of knowledge about all
languages that are used in your company/market niche and in-depth
knowledge of the most prevalent language in that market niche. Once
you really know a single language well, its concepts usually translate
pretty well to others. Individual implementation details may vary, but
at the 10,000 foot level, 3GL languages are pretty similar.

HTH,

-David Castro
thejavaguy -at- gmail -dot- com
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References:
Programming Languages: A *Useful* Comparison?: From: Joe Malin

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