Choosing a programming language as a competitive tool

Courageous jkraska1 at san.rr.com
Fri May 4 02:59:02 CEST 2001


>In my experience, Python is certainly much easier to learn or teach
>than Lisp, but is Lisp harder to learn or master than C++ or Java ?

I'd say so, yes. But I don't have that strong of an opinion about it.
There's more to learn in the extended Java platform than there is
generally in Lisp, but the Common Lisp core language (I'd say
"grammar," but that would be technical mispea,k if true in spirit)
is more difficult in Lisp.

>Becomming really good requires learning not just the language, 
>but a model of the runtime and the relative costs of various
>features. 

I could buy that; for example, with Lisp it's all too easy to "just
use lists for everything," which is almost always the wrong thing.
The cons cell is a holdover from the jurassic era, IMO.

>There may well be a shortage of good Lisp *trainers*  -- which 
>is a real barrier to lisp adoption -- but that's rather different
>that the implication that the language is inherently difficult. 

We do know that, for some reason we can't put our finger on,
the "market has spoken". Amongst other things, I believe that
a great many programmers simply don't LIKE Lisp. Personally,
I can see why. It doesn't help, for example, that Lisp (more or
less) outright enforces an editor on you. Writing programs in
Lisp without Emacs is... um... awful.

>I can accept the truism that recursion is more difficult to grasp
>that iteration -- but Lisp has iterative constructs.

Every Lisp programmer I know programs iteratively, a great
deal of the time, yes.

>The fact that most Lisp texts start early on recursion has more
>to do with Lisp culture and it's academic roots.

And a real red-herring, also.

>downside to adopting or learning lisp -- but I'm trying to distinguish
>between those real problems and the myth that Lisp is inherently
>difficult.) 

IMO, Lisp is "inherently difficult" the same way Perl is. Sitting down
and reading Lisp code written by various programmers will often
result in reading what appears to be almost another language each
time.

BTW, don't get me wrong. Lisp has it's good points. For example,
while I'm not fond of the s-expression per se, what it achieves is
awesome. And I absofreakinglutely love Lisp's macro system for
certain very specific problems.

C//




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