OT: Programmers whos first language is not English

Stuart D. Gathman stuart at bmsi.com
Sat Mar 8 18:25:08 CET 2003

On Sat, 08 Mar 2003 06:21:36 -0500, Stephen Horne wrote:

> One thing I'm considering is the use of a non-ASCII source code.

Use unicode.  This works very well in Java - although it is "fun" to read
Java code written in India with identifiers displayed in beautiful
non-Latin characters - matching the identifiers feels like playing

> In particular, I'm thinking of using XML - not as an AST representation,
> but merely as a way of marking up source code. This would require
> special editors, of course, but if WYSIWYG editors can be created for
> HTML I don't see why programmers are still stuck in the plaintext age.

Ack! Yuck!  Don't use XLM!

> One possible use of XML might be that 'keywords' and 'symbols' could be
> stored as XML elements specifying non-language-specific tokens - the
> editor could have a local language table to recognise keywords as the

You don't need XLM for this.  I am reminded of a college prank. On April
1st, 1978 (or some year close to that), the sysadmin at GMU replaced the
keyword table for the HP2000 Basic system used by all the beginning
computer science students.  For instance, "PRINT" was now "SCRIBBLE",
"INPUT" became "LISTEN FOR", "LET" became "MAKE", "NEXT" became
"INCREMENT", "FOR" became "VARY", "IF" became "WHEN", "GOSUB" became
"DIVE", "RETURN" became "SURFACE".  Actually, I thought the new keywords
were more intuitive than the original.

The programs were stored and interpreted tokenized, so everything worked
flawlessly as it always had.  But program listings were, "amusing", and
you had to use the new keywords to enter or edit programs.

The funny thing was, all the real computer nerds immediately realized what
was happenning and took only a minute or two to familialize themselves
with the new keywords, with no need for outside help. Pity the poor newbie
coming into the lab.  All around, dozens of students were busily doing
their work (or "working" on the multi-player spacewar game that was
popular then) with no apparent problems.  But every attempt to execute any
of the examples in the textbook resulted in complete frustration.  When
they appealed for help to those in the know, there were some pretty
fanciful explanations of why the textbook was wrong - I wish I could
remember some of the stories.

	      Stuart D. Gathman <stuart at bmsi.com>
Business Management Systems Inc.  Phone: 703 591-0911 Fax: 703 591-6154
"Confutatis maledictis, flamis acribus addictis" - background song for
a Microsoft sponsored "Where do you want to go from here?" commercial.

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