Case-sensitivity: why -- or why not? (was Re: Damnation!)

James Logajan JamesL at Lugoj.Com
Sun May 21 22:28:33 CEST 2000


Guido van Rossum wrote:
> Yet, here are some of the reasons why I am considering making Python
> case-insensitive:
> 
> (1) Randy Pausch, a professor at CMU, found, when teaching Python to
> non-CS students in the context of Alice (www.alice.org), that the
> number one problem his students were having was to remember that case
> matters in Python.  (The number two problem was 1/2 == 0; there was no
> significalt number three problem.)

First, there didn't seem to be any DNS entry for www.alice.org, just
alice.org. Secondly, I wasn't able to find any reference to these results on
that web site. Thirdly, at no point in the mini tutorial at alice.org did I
find any mention of case-sensitivity of variables. Nor did I find any
explicit mention of it when doing a quick (and incomplete) search of the
tutorials on www.python.org directed towards non-programmers. Based on these
observations, my questions and suggestions are:

1) Did Professor Pausch explicitly explain (and demonstrate) early in the
course that the language was case-sensistive, or was it implicitly assumed?
I simply find it hard to believe that case-sensistivity is "hard to
remember". More likely it was never taught. Or that typing errors accounted
for most of the problem. Further clarification is needed.

2) The second observation that I elided was merely anecdotal and an
inadequate reason for such a radical change to the language.

3) Professional programmers must have learned to deal with case-sensitive
languages at the very beginning of their career.

4) Early studies indicate that for less able and inexperienced subjects,
there are fewer errors measured for statically typed languages than for
dynamically typed ones. And that subjects introduced to statically typed
languages first and then learn dynamically typed languages generate fewer
coding errors than those who are first introduced to dynamically typed
languages. (Gannon, John; "An experimental evaluation of data type
conventions," Communications of the ACM, 20, 8 (August 1977) 584-595). Given
this sudden religious adherence to the "result of the day", when can we
expect Python to become statically typed?



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