Why python???

John J. Lee jjl at pobox.com
Sat Sep 6 14:03:10 CEST 2003

"Michael Peuser" <mpeuser at web.de> writes:

> "John J. Lee" <jjl at pobox.com>
> > > There are two aspects:
> > > (1) More power for same price - this works in favour of 'complex
> software'
> > > (2) Same power for less money - this works in favor of 'cheap software'
> >
> > And?  What is your point?  In both cases, the more bangs per buck, the
> > greater the economic advantage that accrues to Python when compared
> > with, say, C++.
> There is no linear scaling in these issues. It is of no importance whether a
> word processor takes 0.1 sec instead of 0.01 for some operations. It is when
> it takes 5 sec instead of 0.5. The issues with hard real time programs are
> obvious. Most code is not written for home applications or some esoteric
> operating systems as windows but for telecomunication, industry
> microcontrollers, car applications,....

Windows is an esoteric OS?

Still, you make an interesting point here: is it the case that more
code is written for hard real-time systems than not?  That would
certainly surprise me.  Where do you get your data?

> May be they will be programmed in Python in 20 years, though I do not see
> it. You need a certified compiler, a fail proof and predictable garbage
> collector, and a little bit more.

Yes.  And?  We seem not to be communicating here...

> This is the matter of 'cheap' software.

Sorry, I don't quite follow that.  How does that relate to the rest of
the paragraph?

> Same argument holds for supercomputing as well. I may be wrong but I doubt
> that the ASCIs will ever see much Python in their production lifetime.

ASICs, you mean?  Well, no, but so what?  I don't think anybody has
ever *claimed* that Python is suitable for that kind of application.

> > Python is an order of magnitude easier to learn than C++, but it
> > brings really significant programmer-efficiency benefits.  As a
> > result, the argument about training simply doesn't stand up: the costs
> > are lower than the benefits even on a short timescale.
> I know this argument well and have repeated it myself in the days of Pascal
> and  Algol68. Few have listened.....

Well, they'd be right not to listen if you argued it about Pascal.
There's a real difference in productivity between Pascal and Python.
Pascal doesn't even have built-in garbage collection, for heaven's
sake, which places it much closer to C than to Python in this respect.

> Programmers are generally not trained in their compyna, thea are hired
> including their special language skills.

You're begging the question: arguably, that is the mistake of those
hiring.  Training (for Python, anyway) will frequently be cheaper than
sticking to, say, C++.  Other skills are more important than
pre-existing ability to use a language like Python (though that's
certainly not irrelevant!).

> > > The fact that  a better world is possible does not mean you get it.
> > True (with the definite exception of 'state any new thing you like'!),
> > but I get the impression most places don't even try.  Obviously, OOP
> > *has* swept the industry, and presumably most commercial development
> > makes use of version control.
> There is a great, great  difference between what really happens and what
> management thinks is happening....

Point taken.

> [..]
> > Total costs are exactly the issue -- the contention is that use of
> > languages like Python really does have a significant impact on that.
> This argument had been used by the most ambitious software tool project of
> the last century, which was DoD's Ada. Very few people will ever believe
> something like that again ;-)
> > > I should as well like to discuss your aspect of programmer's
> productivity.
> > > This is an important  factor. However all investigations show that
> > > programmer's productivity is an unmeasurable quantity.
> >
> > How would an empirical investigation show such a thing?
> Alex gave a hint to a German study. I think he was refering to:
> http://www.ipd.uka.de/~prechelt/Biblio/jccpprtTR.pdf

(That was probably the one I was thinking of in another paragraph in
my reply) I don't see how such a study could show that "programmer's
productivity is an unmeasurable quantity".  It's obvious that
variations between individuals make differences due to languages hard
to measure, but that doesn't make it impossible.


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