[Edu-sig] On case sensitivity

Hank Fay hank@prosysplus.com
Fri, 4 Feb 2000 12:10:07 -0500

Case consistency in place of case sensitivity will make it much easier to
convert xBase programmers to Python.

xBase programming is an interesting language to study from an historical
perspective: it has changed as needed to meet the needs of the users, rather
than the theoretical concepts of cs.  As a result, it has become more and
more productive over time.  Evolution to meet real life needs is a good
thing. <s>



> -----Original Message-----
> From: edu-sig-admin@python.org [mailto:edu-sig-admin@python.org]On
> Behalf Of Guido van Rossum
> Sent: Friday, February 04, 2000 9:53 AM
> To: edu-sig@python.org
> Cc: Randy
> Subject: [Edu-sig] On case sensitivity
> For those here who weren't at the recent Python Conference, it may be
> hard to understand the case sensitivity issue.  I'll try to explain
> some of the background.
> One of the best keynotes was given by Randy Pausch, who demonstrated
> Alice, a 3D virtual reality builder that uses Python as the control
> language (www.alice.org).  Randy is a very motivating speaker, and his
> stories and demos of small teams of 19-year old non-cs students
> creating interactive virtual worlds using Alice (and hence programming
> in Python) had the audience in awe.  He reminded us that we (the
> audience) were geeks -- who make up only one percent of the population
> -- and that we need to think about how we talk to non-geeks.
> Randy explained the importance of user testing, and mentioned that
> only two Python language issues were a problem: (1) case sensitivity
> and (2) integer division.  I believe he said that case sensitivity was
> by far the worst offender, affecting as many as 75% of the students.
> He also said that *that's it*.  No other Python features (used in
> Alice) caused problem for his audience.  The rest of the user testing
> dealt with things like how to express a quarter turn (the answer is
> 1/4, not 90, as we geeks think :-), and what to name rotations along
> the x/y/z axes (the answer is, surprising, turn left/right, turn
> up/down, and *roll* left/right).
> Alice now uses a modified Python interpreter which is case insensitive
> and where 1/4 returns 0.25.
> Randy's scientific evidence swayed many who were there into accepting
> that a language for "everybody" has to be case insensitive.
> For those who still don't like it, trust me that the programming
> environment will enforce case *consistency* -- if you name a function
> or variable "Spam", later references to it as "spam" or "SPAM" will
> quietly be changed to use "Spam".  There are also some ideas on how to
> start warning about dependencies on case sensitivity in Python 1.6.
> (We'll probably have to change the standard library in some places to
> make it conform!)
> --Guido van Rossum (home page: http://www.python.org/~guido/)
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