Daniel Yoo dyoo@hkn.EECS.Berkeley.EDU
Mon, 24 Jul 2000 01:41:11 -0700 (PDT)

On Sun, 23 Jul 2000, Joseph Taylor wrote:

> Hello everyone, I am a true novice to the world of
> programming. Can anyone direct me to the "correct"
> starting point. I have one of the many things I assume

Nice to have you with us!  I can't say there's a _correct_ way to start
things off.  Rather, it's more rewarding in finding a _fun_ way to learn
programming.  We'll do what we can to make things easier for you.

From personal, purely subjective anecdode, Perl is an advanced language,
with many rewards; it's the design of a linguist, Larry Wall, so it mimics
many of the quirky conventions of language.  It's very powerful, but also
very tricky at times.  You can learn it as your first programming
language, yes, but it might hurt at times.  At the same time, you'll be
powerful.  *grin*

Python, I think, focuses on the simplicity of the language as well as the
expressive power.  It's designed by Guido van Rossum, who designed the
language with easy-of-learning in mind; I personally like Python because
it's "cleaner".  It doesn't have as many quirks, and I find it a lot of
fun to program in.  It, too, is powerful.

Both are much nicer compared to the alternatives: C/C++/Java, which are
like spiked straitjackets.  Not to say that spiked straitjackets are not
cool --- but they must be uncomfortable.  Do not learn Pascal, COBOL, or
FORTRAN.  Consider those dead languages, unless you need to do something
like graduate school.  Also, there are alternative languages like Scheme
or Common Lisp, which are quite nice, but you'll probably find it harder
to find mainstream support for these.

You can get the tools to download Perl and Python freely.  Perl can be
found at:


and Python can be found at:


(You'll want to get Python 1.52; 1.6 is still under development)

Because this is a Python-based mailing list, I better start focusing on
Python, else I'll incur much wrath.  You can find a lot of Python
tutorials on the web; here are links to a few of them:

The official tutorial (by Guido van Rossum):

Non-Programmers Tutorial for Python (by Josh Cogliati):

Learning to Program (by Alan Gauld):

Finally, if ever you get stuck with problems, there's a support network of
volunteers.  You can always contact us through tutor@python.org if you
have Python questions.  (As for Perl questions... you can find stuff at
http://www.perl.com)  Good luck!