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Language Wars: Can't we all just get along

First off, let me preface this post by saying that this has little to do with DNN specifically. This post is a more general programming/.net post.

As many will know from my previous blog posts (particularly my introduction: Like Father, Like Son), I am a Computing Science student. I also had a significant amount of exposure (I won't say experience, because I was a lot younger then) to programming, particularly in Microsoft technologies, before starting university. I've found that my history provides me with some unique perspectives on the academic Computing Science world as well as the software world in general. One of those is a topic I like to call "The Language Wars", and I thought I'd discuss it here.

There are so many programming languages out there that sometimes its a bit overwhelming for a newcomer. Do I learn C++ first? or should I start with Basic? Python? Java? Smalltalk?? C#? This confusion often leads to programmers picking one language and learning that one completely, ignoring almost all the others. I'm no different, I learned VB when I was 10 years old (what can I say, I'm a freak of nature ) and because of that, VB.net is a language I'm very comfortable in. When I came to university, I was basically told that I had learned a useless toy language and I should learn a "real" language like C++ or Java.

Around that time, I discovered DotNetNuke, which is coded entirely in VB.net, and I doubt anyone would argue that it is a 'toy' (its cliche, but 385112 members and growing, as of 10AM PST Jan 18, 2007 , can't be wrong). It was then that I realized that language knowledge is probably 10% (maybe even less) of programming skill. Guess what? An Integer, is an integer in any language. If statements are if statements, Classes are classes, Loops are loops. Once you understand how to program, picking up new languages is easy, and language references are always there to help. Of course, there are certain features in each language that make it special, and no one could argue that every language is exactly the same, but we shouldn't be arguing over the fact that VB's syntax is too verbose, or C# has too many semi-colons. That doesn't matter, we should focus on the real differences, and when it comes to the big Object-Oriented languages: VB.Net, C++, C#, Java, the differences are much smaller.

So, what's the point? Well, I think its time to start realizing that "Dim A as Integer" and "int A;" are just the same, and that the real differences are much more interesting. You should use the language that is most comfortable for you, and is most appropriate for the situation.

So, I'm going to try to start a little series of blog posts (no guarantees on schedule ) where I introduce langauges and the cool features that make them different. I am by no means and expert, and I haven't studied Comparative Programming Languages so this is just my opinion, but hopefully I can help to show some of the really cool language features out there so we can stop focusing on syntax.

In the book "The Pragmatic Programmer", Andrew Hunt and David Thomas tell us to "Learn at least one new [programming] language every year." (The Pragmatic Programmer). I would argue that this is only just enough, we should always be looking to expand our knowledge and that includes learning about other languages, not just other techniques.

Assuming I can get my schedule together, I'll try to post the first post in this series within a week or so. Let me know what you think, and post some suggestions for languages I should take a look at. And feel free to Digg this story if you think its interesting.

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