Choosing a language

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mqarcus
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Choosing a language

Postby mqarcus » Tue Jun 19, 2007 7:43 pm UTC

As I don't see any other topic on this matter I would like to ask something.

I have been doing programming in BASIC and tried Python and Ruby, but I'd like to really learn a real language. The choice stands between C, C++ and C#.

C# has this con: .NET - I cannot comperhend it, what is it for? What is it's purpose, and most important: why do you keep molesting me with it?!

...uh, nevermind. Anyway, please, programmers, don't laugh - just help here. What should I choose?
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Postby Rysto » Tue Jun 19, 2007 8:11 pm UTC

.NET is basically a set of Windows-specific APIs. If you're working with C#, all of the APIs that you'll be using are defined in .NET.

I think that I vote for C++. Be warned, it's an ugly language, but probably the most useful to you. C# is nicer but I'd never recommend tying yourself to a proprietary API.

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Postby SpitValve » Tue Jun 19, 2007 8:34 pm UTC

Fortran is King.

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Postby EvanED » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:03 pm UTC

Rysto wrote:.NET is basically a set of Windows-specific APIs. If you're working with C#, all of the APIs that you'll be using are defined in .NET.


Wrong.

.NET is basically a very large set of totally platform-neutral APIs mixed in with some Windows-specific APIs. Stuff like the collection classes, XML parsers, socket stuff -- that's all platform-neutral, yet still part of .NET. Remember, Mono implements most of .NET on Linux. (They even supposedly implement Windows Forms 1.0, which I'm counting as one of the Windows-specific parts.) MS's *implementation* is Windows-specific, but that's a far cry from the APIs being Windows-specific.

.NET is the common class library for C# and VB.NET. (And C++.NET, but we don't talk about him.) It's like the Java libraries, except made by MS, not open source (except for Mono's implementation), and with the platform-specific stuff.

.NET can also refer to the .NET languages themselves (C#, VB.Net, C++.Net), the languages plus libraries, the runtime support system (.NET Virtual Machine), etc.

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Postby mqarcus » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:22 pm UTC

That sounds terribly wierd.
It's like:

C - Fun, but no one uses it anymore
C++ - Ugly, but useful
C# - Nice, but .NET
Brainfuck - Total bliss

(For those who do not know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainfuck)
Last edited by mqarcus on Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:32 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby bavardage » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:25 pm UTC

I dare you to go write a web-browser in BrainFuck...

Learn Java - like C# without the .NETness and is much prettier than C++ whilst also getting closer and closer to matching its speed.
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Postby mqarcus » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:34 pm UTC

bavardage wrote:I dare you to go write a web-browser in BrainFuck...


Pffft. I am going to write a 3D graphical INTERCAL compiler in Brainfuck, in which I will write an advanced 3D graphical Brainfuck compiler.

bavardage wrote:Learn Java - like C# without the .NETness and is much prettier than C++ whilst also getting closer and closer to matching its speed.


Hmm...

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Postby EvanED » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:35 pm UTC

bavardage wrote:I dare you to go write a web-browser in BrainFuck...

Learn Java - like C# without the .NETness and is much prettier than C++ whilst also getting closer and closer to matching its speed.


The .NETness is only a problem if you mind the non-openness, semi-proprietary nature of it. In all other respects, I like C# rather better than Java.

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Postby WhiteRabbit » Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:14 pm UTC

I use plain old C almost every day because I write a lot of embedded code for microcontrollers where you are extremely resource limited. I once used C++ for a variety of things, but now I use Python for everything that I would have once used C++ for, primarily GUIs for communicating with my controllers.

I just don't see the point of more advanced compiled languages like C++, C#, etc now that things like Java, Python and Ruby are becoming widespread.
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Postby Rysto » Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:31 pm UTC

By Windows specific, I meant available on Windows only. I phrased that badly.

And yes, I am aware that Mono exists, but my understanding is that its quality is similar to GNU Classpath -- ie ok for home use, iffy in production.

WhiteRabbit wrote:I just don't see the point of more advanced compiled languages like C++, C#, etc now that things like Java, Python and Ruby are becoming widespread.

C# is just Microsoft's version of Java.

C++ is very useful for large, performance-critical applications. I really believe that it's only inertia that have kept kernel development on C instead of C++. The story, of course, is quite different on microcontrollers.

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Postby TheSocialistAvenger » Wed Jun 20, 2007 2:16 am UTC

I say: learn 'em all.

If you're just starting programming you probably won't be doing anything real complicated for a while, so you might as well familiarize yourself with as many different ways of doing things as you can before you move into the "real world". There is no One programming language for all jobs so you'll probably need a few languages under your belt anyway and as a beginner the learning is the fun part!

As far as order goes, I learned a simpler language first (perl, though python might be a better choice), and then I learned C++, which is a helpful exercise in understanding how computers work (not as much as assembly, but that is a bit hardcore), and lately I have been working with java.
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Postby pertheusual » Wed Jun 20, 2007 2:47 am UTC

Obviously you should learn Assembly! I mean come on. It's just badass.

Or you could just go one step farther and handwrite all of the machine code yourself. I know I always loved doing that.


But to be serious, I started out programming Java, then moved on to C. I think that is was a pretty good combo, though I'd go for C++ now.

Though as a not, I only code for fun, it isn't my job or anything.

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Postby wing » Wed Jun 20, 2007 3:19 am UTC

Personally, I'd say start with Java. Java has very well developed API documentation and a nearly PERFECTLY neutral syntax. Once you've learned the Java syntax and how to work with the documentation to figure out how to do what you need to do, you can learn any other OO language in mere hours, because the API structure is prettymuch the same, and the syntax is only slightly different. You can then backtrace a step from C++ to C, and have that under your belt as well.

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Postby adlaiff6 » Wed Jun 20, 2007 3:51 am UTC

Learn python first, then Java, then C, then C++.

Rationale:
Python will teach you how to think like a computer, Java will take that and force you to think like objects modeled on a computer, C will teach you everything you never wanted to know about the computer when you were programming in Java, and then C++ will put it all together in a syntactically ugly but universally useful bundle.

EDIT: @wing: Learning C before C++ I think is better, because if you learn all the weird caveats and keywords you have to know for C++, then when you're trying to program in C, you'll be afraid of doing the things C++ taught you not to do (like using #define) but which you actually do need to do. Going the other way, if you learn all the bad habits in C, it's easy to get rid of them when you learn C++ because you probably already felt dirty doing them anyway.
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Postby EvanED » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:00 am UTC

Rysto wrote:
WhiteRabbit wrote:I just don't see the point of more advanced compiled languages like C++, C#, etc now that things like Java, Python and Ruby are becoming widespread.

C# is just Microsoft's version of Java.


[opinion]A rather improved version of Java in almost all respects except portability.[/opinion]

(Then again, I'm a C++ person. Java... leaves too much stuff out for me to like it. C# is somewhat closer, solving a number of uglies with C++ in a very nice way that Java just chooses to drop entirely.)

[opinion]C++ is very useful for large, performance-critical applications. I really believe that it's only inertia that have kept kernel development on C instead of C++. The story, of course, is quite different on microcontrollers.[/quote]

Inertia, and for a long time compiler support. It's only in the last few years that C++ compilers have actually started being even remotely compatible.

I have said a few times that if I had a spare year, I think it would be interesting to port Linux to C++. Mostly to prove Linus "writing kernel code in C++ is a bloody stupid idea" Torvolds wrong. ;-)

I'm undecided if you would want the full power of C++ or would want to exclude some things like exceptions.

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Postby iw » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:18 am UTC

I would say start with C simply because learning C after you learn something like Python might just piss you off (for loops? WTF?), and you should learn C before C++ because learning pointers is hard enough, let alone stuff like templates than can get pretty hairy. So a good order I think is:
1. C
2. Python
3. C++/Java
4. Scheme
5. Haskell

Those get you a lot of different programming paradigms. I would also suggest learning other languages along the way: see if you like Perl or PHP or C# or whatever.

I would also suggest learning stuff almost in tandem. If you get bored with one, move on to another and come back to it later.

Oh to answer your question: Ostensibly, .NET is about solving the problem of getting different languages to talk to one another, but some of it is about good old-fashioned Microsoft lock-in :)

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Postby mqarcus » Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:11 am UTC

iw wrote:I would say start with C simply because learning C after you learn something like Python might just piss you off (for loops? WTF?), and you should learn C before C++ because learning pointers is hard enough, let alone stuff like templates than can get pretty hairy. So a good order I think is:
1. C
2. Python
3. C++/Java
4. Scheme
5. Haskell

Those get you a lot of different programming paradigms. I would also suggest learning other languages along the way: see if you like Perl or PHP or C# or whatever.

I would also suggest learning stuff almost in tandem. If you get bored with one, move on to another and come back to it later.

Oh to answer your question: Ostensibly, .NET is about solving the problem of getting different languages to talk to one another, but some of it is about good old-fashioned Microsoft lock-in :)


Hmm, I'd "quote 'em all", like a famous person once said, but that'd be too much.

Anyway(s), that seems like an interesting idea. I ordered two books - one on C and one on C++, which I think may help. See, I am ready to really learn this time, have patience (which probably will be needed as hell). This forums seems to have really good people who know thair thing.

I will take your advice and start out with C. :)

Thanks!

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Postby thebeanie » Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:17 am UTC

I like to do a lot of scripting and stuff, so I mainly use Python, with bits of Perl. Ruby is also down the line somewhere.

As with the choice, I'd say that learning C before C++ would be a better idea. Of course, I wouldn't know.

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Postby djn » Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:49 am UTC

Do try and get a copy of "The C Programming Language".

However, you can actually start fiddling with C just given what you find on the 'net, the basic examples aren't that hard, and getting used to how to compile/run things is a good first step. If you get as far as understanding e.g. the pointer rules (it boils down to "a pointer is the address of a value"), the rest is *cough* trivial.

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Postby Nab » Wed Jun 20, 2007 1:55 pm UTC

Learn J.
Otherwise learn Assembly.

Although I suppose Java, C and C++ could be better...

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Postby Aglet » Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:31 am UTC

You said you've already learned Python, which is an excellent start. C is a nice introduction to regularly-used languages without object-oriented programming.

For learning OOP, I too would suggest Java, not C++ (before I caught myself, I ended that sentence with a semicolon. That's obsession). It's a language built around OOP, as opposed to C++, which is more like an OOP extension to C.
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Postby Rysto » Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:49 am UTC

Aglet wrote: It's a language built around OOP, as opposed to C++, which is more like an OOP extension to C.

The best description I've ever heard of C++ is that it's C with objects bolted onto the side.

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Postby Jach » Thu Jun 21, 2007 4:24 am UTC

Python and Ruby aren't real languages now? o.o; My first suggestion would be to stick with Python.

Second, try learning Java. Third, C or C++. Choosing between C or C++ is really quite easy: if you want to learn OOP, learn C++; otherwise, stick with C.

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Postby adlaiff6 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 5:47 am UTC

Python and Ruby are plenty real. They are scripting languages, so you can play with a command line that interprets them, but you can save source files, have them refer to each other, and even "compile" them into bytecode.
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Postby mqarcus » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:09 am UTC

Ok, so I bought some books on C and C++, and started out with C.

I feel like a 12-year old girl who just met Justin Timberlake :)
C is great :D

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Postby evilbeanfiend » Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:00 pm UTC

mqarcus wrote:Ok, so I bought some books on C and C++, and started out with C.

I feel like a 12-year old girl who just met Justin Timberlake :)
C is great :D


wait till you first spend hours debugging something that accidentally overwrites some random bit of memory then decide if you still like it :wink:
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Postby mqarcus » Thu Jun 21, 2007 10:21 pm UTC

We'll see. Right now I'm determined to learn it, at least the basics.
I'm taking notes and all that stuff, and I like it. It feels... Like school, but fun. :)

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Postby ubergeek42 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 10:32 pm UTC

evilbeanfiend wrote:wait till you first spend hours debugging something that accidentally overwrites some random bit of memory then decide if you still like it :wink:

I still love c after encountering that situation many times, except I program c on a ps2, where debugging consists of printf's. With visual studio, debugging is trivial(for the most part)

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Postby adlaiff6 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:34 am UTC

evilbeanfiend wrote:wait till you first spend hours debugging something that accidentally overwrites some random bit of memory then decide if you still like it :wink:

Well, if you just wrote flawless code in the first place, that wouldn't be an issue, now would it? :wink:

ubergeek42: Before you get _too_ ingrained into that mode of thinking, remember that printf messes with the stack quite a bit, so bugs in a specific class will be impossible to debug consistently with printf. It's not a common issue, just keep it in mind.
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Re: Choosing a language

Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:37 am UTC

People seem to have a lot of misconceptions about C++ here. Ignore them.

C++ is not an "object oriented programming language"--it's a multi-paradigm programming language. C++, fully utilized, will make liberal use of functions, OOP, and generic programming in any non-trivial program (there may be a major focus in one of these areas, but to ignore the other areas is to limit yourself). The OO support in C++ itself is very rich; C++ is definitely not a toy.

Furthermore, if you want to learn C++ right, it's probably best to start with C++, then go back and learn C. Learning C first has a nasty tendency of "corrupting" people into the habits of C, and many who take this path do nothing with C++ more than "C with objects". (Not bothering with C is even worse--you'll inevitably run into the wall known as the Law of Leaky Abstractions). For what it's worth, a lot of people (myself included) who sing this song did indeed fall into this trap.

The major issues with C++ include the fact that the core language itself is fairly complex (but this is also a benefit), and that there are a lot of subtle, sneaky traps to avoid (a lot of which are inherited from C). Professional users, however, learn how to avoid these traps eventually, and can take advantage of C++'s power. The biggest benefits for C++ are its static nature, a fairly rich expressive power, a high degree of control over the machine, and the general success of the language.

There are arguments to learning other languages, but my main goal is to clear up misconceptions about C++.

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Postby ubergeek42 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:18 pm UTC

adlaiff6 wrote:ubergeek42: Before you get _too_ ingrained into that mode of thinking, remember that printf messes with the stack quite a bit, so bugs in a specific class will be impossible to debug consistently with printf. It's not a common issue, just keep it in mind.

c doesn't have classes.

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Postby bitwiseshiftleft » Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:27 pm UTC

ubergeek42 wrote:
adlaiff6 wrote:ubergeek42: Before you get _too_ ingrained into that mode of thinking, remember that printf messes with the stack quite a bit, so bugs in a specific class will be impossible to debug consistently with printf. It's not a common issue, just keep it in mind.

c doesn't have classes.


I think he means a kind of bugs, not c++ classes.

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Postby sillybear25 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:31 pm UTC

I'm kind of wondering which language I should try learning. I already know some BASIC (enough to write useful programs on a TI-83/84 calculator or write stupid ones on the old Commodore 64 I have in the basement) and was wondering where to go from there. I've heard that BASIC is good for learning to code, but teaches you bad habits, and that the next one I should try is Python, because it's closer to more commonly used programming languages. Any thoughts?
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Postby Torn Apart By Dingos » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:19 pm UTC

sillybear25 wrote:I'm kind of wondering which language I should try learning. I already know some BASIC (enough to write useful programs on a TI-83/84 calculator or write stupid ones on the old Commodore 64 I have in the basement) and was wondering where to go from there. I've heard that BASIC is good for learning to code, but teaches you bad habits, and that the next one I should try is Python, because it's closer to more commonly used programming languages. Any thoughts?
TI-BASIC and Basic/VB are NOT related. On that note, neither are Javascript and Java.

That said, Python is great. Go for it.

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Postby sillybear25 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:33 pm UTC

thanks for the advice. And I know that TI-BASIC and Basic/VB are different. The syntax is pretty similar, though. On a different note, where should I start with learning Python?
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Postby sillybear25 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:33 pm UTC

oops, double post...
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Postby djn » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:57 pm UTC

One option is to skim the tutorial.

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Postby EvanED » Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:35 am UTC

Torn Apart By Dingos wrote:
sillybear25 wrote:I'm kind of wondering which language I should try learning. I already know some BASIC (enough to write useful programs on a TI-83/84 calculator or write stupid ones on the old Commodore 64 I have in the basement) and was wondering where to go from there. I've heard that BASIC is good for learning to code, but teaches you bad habits, and that the next one I should try is Python, because it's closer to more commonly used programming languages. Any thoughts?
TI-BASIC and Basic/VB are NOT related. On that note, neither are Javascript and Java.


And on that note, Basic and VB really shouldn't be grouped together either, because they are further apart than Basic and TI-Basic are.

There is also this great quote from Dijkstra: "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."

I hope that this isn't true, as it means that I will never be unmutilated. ;-)

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Re: Choosing a language

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:13 am UTC

I really can't believe only one person has commented on this...
mqarcus wrote:I have been doing programming in BASIC and tried Python and Ruby, but I'd like to really learn a real language. The choice stands between C, C++ and C#.

Since when does the C family qualify as the 'real' languages? Python and Ruby aren't real?

If you want to learn how to code, learn Common Lisp. Simple as that. It has every paradigm you could want. It's a compiled language (if that's what you meant by 'real'), and is very fast in modern implementations. Seriously, properly declared Lisp code can actually beat C in numerical computations! See this article for a discussion of the "C is efficient" fallacy. (And it's not lisp-centric at all, so there's not any fanboyism going on.)

Of course, if you're just hacking windows applications, you probably just want to learn c# or java. Use the tool for the job, after all. Windows was built on C, so C is often easiest to work with it. Of course, then you run into all the problems that a bare pointer-based language has, such as overflows. >_<

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Postby Rysto » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:29 am UTC

I have to say, to call C's efficiency a "myth" based on its performance in numeric and scientific computation is rather disingenuous. Numerical computation is hardly C's forte.

I'd say that one realistic definition of a "real language" would be one that's widely used in commercial software projects. By that measure, the C family would most definitely quality, while I doubt that Python or Ruby wouldn't.


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