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Re: Parens Shock

I tend to agree with Kevin, although I see the point that Perry is making.
I find that I learn new languages faster now than when I was 20ish, mainly
because I have a base of a lot of other languages to draw on ("oh, this is
just like lisp's closures, and this here is like java's objects...").  But
obviously this only works if you have such a base, and most people don't
(this list being wildly unrepresentative).  Also, I think there is an issue
of natural aptitude for learning computer languages, just like some people
have a natural aptitude for learning human languages.  I've known brilliant
research scientists who were apparently unable to program in anything but
Fortran ("I've been struggling to learn C for the last year, but I just
don't get it.").  I imagine they lack this aptitude, which makes learning a
new computer language a much bigger time investment than it would be for
the people on this list.

Another point is that it's much easier to learn a new syntax (even if
you're not a language aficionado) than a new paradigm.  That's really hard,
and this says a lot about why languages are so conservative.  Of course,
that's also the really fun part ;-)


> From: "Kevin S. Millikin" <kmillikin@atcorp.com>
> Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 12:33:48 -0500
> On Friday, August 22, 2003 10:31 AM, Peter J. Wasilko, Esq. 
> [SMTP:futurist@cloud9.net] wrote:
> > > It isn't superficial. When you're 15 or 16, you can learn any new
> > > programming language in hours. When you're, say, 25 or 35 or 45,
> > > the
> > > brain starts to slow down, habits become entrenched, and things are
> > > not remembered with the sponge-like rapidity that you used to
> > > have.
> >     What an excellent analysis!
> But I'm not sure if it's really true.  Obviously, it's pretty 
> subjective, but I don't think that the analogy to natural languages 
> hold up.
> That is, I am much more able to learn new programming languages *now* 
> that I have more programming "maturity", than I would have been at 15, 
> before I really understood the lambda nature.  I don't think that I 
> could have really learned Icon or Haskell or Forth or Prolog in a few 
> hours when I was still in high school, though I did learn several of 
> those languages in nearly a few hours in my late twenties.
> I was exposed to Scheme and Lisp a couple of times before I was twenty, 
> and it just didn't take.  Then, I got to grad school a dyed in the wool 
> C++ programmer, and finally figured out how things really work.  It 
> helped that I had instructors named Friedman and Dybvig, and that I was 
> surrounded by colleagues doing cool things with Scheme.  The real 
> difference, though, was that I was more mature---more prepared to 
> understand radical ideas than I would have been when I was younger and 
> more able to see a good thing because of so much prolonged exposure to 
> all those bad things.
> (Also, though the thirty-something has the wife, friends, and kids; the 
> teen has his or her own distractions.)
> ----
> Kevin S. Millikin           Architecture Technology Corporation
> Research Scientist          Specialists in Computer Architecture
> (952)829-5864 x162          http://www.atcorp.com