Lately Mike Taylor over at the Reinvigorated Programmer has been on a roll with a couple of interesting blog posts (at least interesting enough to make Slashdot). First he blogged about deterioration of programming into pure drudgery and more recently he’s disagreed with Dijkstra on the value of BASIC as a first programming language. Here are links to the articles:
Maybe it’s that we grew up at similar times with some shared experiences, but I find myself generally agreeing with his analysis on both counts. I didn’t suffer through the exact form of BASIC he used (seriously Microsoft BASIC?), and I certainly think that Dijkstra’s piece: How do we tell truths that might hurt? is framed not just humorously, but from it’s own particular point in history. That article, 35 years old later today hints at basic truths (pun intended), but also misses the mark in places. BASIC programmers have gone on to become productive and even exceptional computer programmers — and possibly even computer scientists. The entire occupation of Unix System Administrator is a direct result of DoD mistakes. And while simple solutions are often the most reliable, simplicity isn’t always conducive to success.
But Dijkstra was right about COBOL — using it should be a criminal offense.