[Edu-sig] re: Python Programming: An Introduction to ComputerScience

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Fri Dec 19 10:25:29 EST 2003

> 'Commercial programming' when it was done by people employed by
> businesses, was in general done in COBOL or RPG.  Scientists used
> FORTRAN.  University computer science departments didn't concern
> themselves with such wordly things.  The universities did indeed pay
> for the mainframes, and the operating systems which ran on them, of
> course.

I wonder if Princeton paid for APL (did it pay IBM?).  That was all the rage
when I got there in 1976.  Ran on the mainframe (IBM 370).  We hard
terminals with those weird keyboards in some of the dorms (basement of
Princeton Inn, where I was) and Firestone Library.  The Engineering Quad
used graphical APL on Tektronix terminals.  I snuck in at night a few times
and played with them.

If the source code for APL was available for free inspection, I never knew
about it.  There was no GPL or anything like that of course.  My guess is
IBM owned that source and was protective of it even then.

In terms of paying for operating systems, was the compiler bundled with
that?  It'd be hard to imagine Linux without GNU's gcc.  If so, then we
could say that much of the C programming was on proprietary systems.

> The big switch happened when computer science departments became flooded
> with people who wanted to be programmers, and they decided that it would
> be a good idea to teach languages that people wanted to learn because
> they would use them on the job, rather than languages you were guaranteed
> to never ever see again unless you got a job at your university.
> <snip>
> Laura

And yet because of open source, a lot of these job-relevant languages are
still free.  Ironically, LISP, which started out in the guts of GNU (e.g.
Stallman's emacs) is one of the harder to find in non-commercial form (if
you want to do anything fancy with it, like write GUIs).

I use xBase a lot on the job (Visual FoxPro).  That's proprietary and
Microsoft has attempted to quash any demos of the runtime library running on
Linux, even though, as a FoxPro developer, it'd be in my best interests to
have that as a platform and client base as well.

But I've never taken a class in xBase.  My impression, looking over the
community college syllabi in my area, is that the curricula are usually two
or three years behind.  When it comes to commercial culture, your average
college or university can take you only so far.


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