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- Subject: Re: OFF TOPIC -- Starter programming language for a brilliant child
- From: Greg Lewin <greg.lewin@...>
- Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 02:21:38 +0000
On 26 March 2013 19:19, Matthias Kluwe <email@example.com> wrote:
> 2013/3/25 marbux <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
>> About a year ago or so, there was a discussion of whether Lua was the
>> best language for a beginner. As I recall the consensus was "no" but
>> some suggestions were made for other languages. One of them caught my
>> eye as especially appropriate for children and I thought I had
>> bookmarked it, but either the bookmark or the discussion in the
>> archives. Does anyone remember enough of it to find the thread again?
>> The reason I am asking is that about a week ago I met an 8-year-old
>> girl named Hunter whose obvious brilliance very simply rocked me on my
>> heels. (I'm going on 67 years old and this was the first time I'd had
>> such an experience.) She has no computer. So with her mother's
>> permission I am buying her a used laptop. I'd like to equip the laptop
>> with that programming language's interpreter and its tutorials. (I'm
>> also going to bring her to the attention of some people I know who
>> work with gifted children.)
> I don't think children need a programming language especially
> appropiate for children. If they find the topic interesting, almost
> anything will do. If they don't, well...
> It does not damage your brain to get started with programming using
> some BASIC dialect and 6502 assembler afterwards, even when you're
> under ten years old, as an example of former times.
BASIC and assembler probably aren't the best use of anyone's time now
though, not even for a beginner - BASIC was about the best (or most
easily) available 30 years ago, there are many much much better
options around now.
BASIC is a very limited and limiting language, and may actually stunt
one's growth as suggested by Dijkstra: (I think it really may have
"A programming language, originally designed for Dartmouth's
experimental timesharing system in the early 1960s, which for many
years was the leading cause of brain damage in proto-hackers. Edsger
W. Dijkstra observed in Selected Writings on Computing: A Personal
Perspective that “It is practically impossible to teach good
programming style to students that have had prior exposure to BASIC:
as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of
regeneration.” This is another case (like Pascal) of the cascading
lossage that happens when a language deliberately designed as an
educational toy gets taken too seriously. A novice can write short
BASIC programs (on the order of 10-20 lines) very easily; writing
anything longer (a) is very painful, and (b) encourages bad habits
that will make it harder to use more powerful languages well. This
wouldn't be so bad if historical accidents hadn't made BASIC so common
on low-end micros in the 1980s. As it is, it probably ruined tens of
thousands of potential wizards."
his view of BASIC is very dim indeed, though he seems to have been a
grumpy old bugger about several other languages too :
he seems to have liked lisp, but nobody has suggested that for a
bright kid yet (maybe SICP and Scheme would be right for her ! ) ...
for a really brilliant kid, it may not matter what you do as long as
they have the machine to play with.
Assembler would be best reserved for a little later once the
elementary concepts are known.
I still go with Squeak! Fun is crucial.