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Comparing Programming Languages

Posted By Tyler On 7th March 2006 @ 22:52 In USOE, Tech | No Comments

Hello World!Today our entire LAN team went out to lunch and we talked a little bit about some differences in programming between two departments in our building; namely District Computer Services and Agency Computer Services. Agency Computer Services employees are currently programming in PowerBuilder (Sybase) and District Computer Services are writing in Visual Basic. We discussed how there is a possibility that Agency Computer Services may decide to conform with a building standard. Standardizing would be beneficial, the question is, what should be the standard?

[1] Side-by-side comparison between PowerBuilder and Visual Basic [woodger.ca] are actually not as different as I would have thought. The major differences seem to be the learning curve (PowerBuilder has a higher learning curve), “openness” and diversity (PowerBuilder remains “open” so that it can be implemented on a much wider range of platforms) and cost.

I don’t really care what they choose, although it is more likely that they’ll choose Visual Basic based on its popularity and short learning curve. The programmers in Agency Computer Services could pick up VB easily enough.

Interestingly enough, there was a Slashdot article today along the lines of our lunch conversation entitled “[2] Is Visual Basic a Good Beginner’s Language?” [slashdot.org]. I don’t have any experience in Visual Basic, but based on many of the comments made on Slashdot, I would tend to agree that it may not be the best beginner’s language, but not for the reasons you might think.

My experience is based entirely what I learned in college, so I am definitely not the expert. However, I started out with a C++ class (without concentrating on OO to start with) and then an advanced C++ class that taught us all about the Object Oriented nature of the language.

The entire time I wished that I knew what the computer was doing with the programs I was writing. I was very happy when I finally had my assembly language class, although admittedly, it didn’t make me a better programmer; it just shed some light on the process.

When I took my COBOL class, it was a completely different experience. COBOL was pretty straight forward compared to C++, but very verbose! It was very format specific and the only good thing about it was that it was extremely easy to tell what the program was doing.

Finally, I used Java in my graphics class which was pretty satisfying for me. Despite having to get past the fact that I had never formally learned Java, I really enjoyed writing programs whose output was so much more then just lines of text; they were moving, interactive, and clickable.

I like the idea of knowing how to program. If I ever did it as a job, I would need some major refresher courses, but I think I could pick it up again easily enough. One of the arguments made at lunch today was that many of the programmers want to use C# or .NET primarily because by learning those languages they would be more marketable if they ever decided to leave. I tend to agree, I would rather learn something that is more widely used and that teaches you more. Visual Basic from what I’ve read, really doesn’t make you a better programmer. From Wikipedia:

Many critics of Visual Basic explain that the simple nature of Visual Basic is harmful in the long run. Many people have learned VB on their own without learning good programming practices. Even when VB is learned in a formal classroom, the student may not be introduced to many fundamental programming techniques and constructs, since much of the functionality is contained within the individual components and not visible to the programmer. Since it is possible to learn how to use VB without learning standard programming practices, this often leads to unintelligible code and workarounds.

Of course, everybody has their comfort zones and background, so you tend to like what you’re comfortable with. Since I’m no longer comfortable with anything, it really wouldn’t matter to me, but I would prefer to learn something that will help me in more areas than just my current job. Seeing as how I work on the network side of things, it really doesn’t make a difference what I think. I don’t have to deal with programming at all in my current job, but I’m still quite interested in programming. I think if I ever find the time, I’ll learn the latest web development craze of the last year, [3] Ruby on Rails [rubyonrails.org].

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URL to article: http://www.utahadventurevideos.com/blog/archives/2006/03/07/comparing-programming-languages/

URLs in this post:
[1] Side-by-side comparison between PowerBuilder and Visual Basic: http://www.woodger.ca/vbpb.htm
[2] Is Visual Basic a Good Beginner’s Language?: http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/07/2046258&from=rss
[3] Ruby on Rails: http://www.rubyonrails.org/

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