[OPINION] - does language really matter if they all do the same thing?

Hans Nowak hans at zephyrfalcon.org
Fri Jan 23 20:10:38 CET 2004

Python Baby wrote:
> Are programming languages like spoken languages, in the sense
> that they all say the same things, just using different words?

Some people think so.  I do not agree.

It depends where you're coming from, I guess.  E.g. if all you do is build 
business applications, and you spend most of you time in a GUI builder and 
calling methods on pre-made objects, then it may seem that the language doesn't 
matter.  After all, all this functionality is available in Java, VB, Delphi, 
VC++, etc.

Also, "problem X" can probably be solved in most languages, whether it be C, 
Python, Ruby, Perl, COBOL, PHP, you name it.

However, there are important differences in *how* these problems are solved. 
Creating a dictionary with a few names and phone numbers, for example, can be a 
one-liner in Python (and other high level languages), but it won't be in C.

The "level" of languages is just one aspect, though.  Programming languages are 
designed with different philosophies in mind.  For example, Python was designed 
to be very readable.  Not all languages share this design goal. :)  Other 
languages were designed to do system programming, text processing, web 
programming, to enforce "good" programming behavior, to offer programmers 
endless choices, etc.

In other words, there are many reasons to choose language X over Y, depending 
on your preferences, and on the situation at hand.  (Although there are also 
more or less objective criteria... some languages are demonstrably more concise 
and/or readable than others, others have better performance or are better 
suited to a certain task, etc.)

Personally, I've come to believe that the choice of language is *very* 
important, and not something trivial.  (I am also convinced that management 
should not impose a language on programmers, aside...)

> As I've fretted over this for way too many hours, I started wondering:
> Can Ruby do something (important) that Python can't?
> Can Python do something (important) that PHP can't?
> Can PHP do something (important) that Ruby or Python can't?
> Are they all just the same, and it's just a matter of taste?

I don't know enough about Ruby or PHP to make an informed statement about what 
they can do that the others cannot, but it's definitely not just a matter of 

Hans (hans at zephyrfalcon.org)

More information about the Python-list mailing list