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"Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)" <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 1 Dec 1999 15:21:21 -0700
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I'm struck by my apparent lack of understanding of today's college degree,
and it hasn't been that long since I graduated. I don't recall "fun" being a
requirement (well, maybe after class!). I certainly didn't have any
profeesors that worried whether we were having fun or not, they only cared
if we learned the material. Besides, how much fun is it to work 60+ hours a
week trying to beat a deadline because your requirements changed at the last
minute? Or that COTS device driver doesn't quite work at all with two days
to go?

I was there to learn my engineering skills so I could go out into the real
world, get a job, and be productive. I'm a EE not a CS, so maybe that's the
difference, I don't know. But in the process of interviewing CS students
recently I've noticed a trend, most of them have done nothing but Visual
"this or that". That may be read as "they don't know anything!" I've even
been asked how it's possible to write code without MFC or a GUI interface.
When I hear things like this from "the next generation" it terrifies me. My
windows machines need to be rebooted 2-3 times a day, anything that's not
from M$ will cause errors, and the stupid M$word spell checker continually
says my last name is misspelled but won't let me add it to the dictionary!
This is not the type of software that will take us to the moon or mars, it
is the type to leave naval vessels and space probes adrift at inopportune

If people are more concerned with having fun than they are with doing a good
job then I have no need for them. There is room for both (those of you who
know me know this is true!), but you cannot sacrifice quality and knowledge
for "fun". Most engineers will say they have a lot of fun working in their
chosen field, but I think most will also agree that to do a good job is a
lot of hard work, learning, and application of knowledge.

Why not start out teaching these kids what programming really is? They will
either like it or not, and if they don't then they won't be wasting their
time. The real world does not resemble VB as far as I can tell. VB isn't
about requirements, design, or development, RTOSs, or embedded processors;
it's about quick and dirty prototypes. People are in school to learn, they
should be taught what is right from the beginning.

But maybe I'm wrong, why not teach kids to drive with a simulator like
"Redneck Rampage." Once they think driving is fun we can explain why its bad
to run over pedestrians and drive on the curb while shooting out the window
and drinking scotch....

An extreme example to be sure, but I don't see it as being that different in

John T Apa                              [log in to unmask]
L-3 CSW                                 (801) 594-3382
PO Box 16850                            Fax: (801) 594-2195
640 North 2200 West                     Salt Lake City, UT. 84116-0850

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Richard L. Conn [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 1:02 PM
> To:   [log in to unmask]
> Subject:      Re: What the competition looks like
> William,
> I really have to disagree with your statement about
> VB.  We are talking about teaching Freshmen, not
> Juniors or Seniors.  In a very practical sense, if you
> try to tell Freshmen how great generics, inheritance,
> etc., are, it's likely that those who don't quit after
> the first two weeks will have not done so because they
> fell asleep and did not wake up in time ;-).  I used
> to think Ada for Freshmen was the way to go as well
> until I actually started teaching Freshmen (all my
> previous courses were graduate level or industry).
> Now that I've dealt on this level, being able to teach
> a fun, visual language where they can have a running
> program at the end of a three-hour lecture/lab on the
> first day that displays full-color glossey pictures
> and has push buttons and dialog boxes is a whole
> different level than just having a program that prints
> "Hello, World."  Then, having later discussions about
> how it is not cool to have Windows crash while your
> airplane it flying with it rings home.  And when
> objects and classes become so natural that when they
> look at other languages and don't immediately see them,
> they ask why the objects aren't there, I think we have
> a good thing.
> Different languages for different purposes is a theme
> from day one.  In the meantime, programming at least
> starts out by being fun, and that's the hook you want
> for these people.
> So, no, you did not convince me.  VB is for the
> beginners.
> Rick
> ----------------------------------
> Richard Conn, ASE and PAL Manager
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)
> > [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Borgia, William M.
> > Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 1:46 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: What the competition looks like
> >
> >
> >         Rick Conn wrote:
> >         > You raise some very good concerns.  I'm glad to say
> >         > that VB is not the only language the CS dept uses.
> >         > The approach I'm taking with my Freshmen is that VB
> >         > is fun, easy to learn, and there is a lot of object
> >         > orientation there.  You can see my course slides
> >         > on my University website for the objects and classes
> >         > part of the course.  VB is kind of like a hook in
> >         > this case.  I also talk about Ada, by the way, in the
> >         > VB class.
> >
> >         > I'm a firm believer in building in the students an
> >         > infrastructure they can use to move in any direction,
> >         > regardless of language or technology change.
> >
> >
> >         [Borgia:]
> >
> >         Of those three languages (VB, Ada and C++), VB is perhaps
> > the worst
> > choice for an introductory course.  Sure, your statement about
> > infrastructure is correct, but consider the stronger
> > infrastructure that the
> > students would likely develop with Ada as the introductory language.
> >
> >         We don't need to start the whole argument again, but VB (and
> often
> > C++ and usually Java too) lacks some important characteristics inherent
> in
> > Ada.  These include strong enumerations, subtyping and ranging,
> generics,
> > meaningful parameter modes, tasking and a safe and elegant
> > implementation of
> > pointers, to name a few.
> >
> >         VB shines in how well Microsoft has integrated it into its
> Office
> > suite.  By the way, have they improved on error handling since the days
> of
> > "on error goto?"
> >
> >         VB and C++ often teach introductory students bad habits.  An
> > instructor who exploits the best features of Ada will help ward off
> these
> > bad habits in the future.  Having this "infrastructure," the
> > students would
> > be more likely to develop better applications in C++, Java, VB or
> whatever
> > when the time comes.  The converse is much less likely to happen.
> >
> >         Bill Borgia