Fri, 10 Mar 2000 14:26:26 -0800
From: Bob Leif, Ph.D.
Although I totally agree with Richard Riehle on software education, the
present state of knowledge concerning the relative utility of programming
languages is a disgrace. A field that employs sophisticated tools, such as
compilers, that either has no means to measure their relative utility or has
not made the effort to do so should not be referred to as science or
engineering. Traditional folk-art or trend-driven would be appropriate.
In the USA, we are seeing newspaper articles describing the need to grant
work visas because we do not have enough endogenous programmers. I suspect
that we do not have enough competent technology managers. Research
concerning software education and productivity should be a priority for the
US National Science Foundation.
I might note that an accurate study will require that the same faculty
members teach both languages. Otherwise, the study will also measure
teaching ability. The relative bias of faculty members for a given language
can be compensated to some extent by finding a teacher who knows both Java
and Ada and prefers Java. We can supply the Ada enthusiasts. There will be a
secondary effect, which can not be compensated. There probably is
correlation in efficacy as a teacher and taste in computer languages.
I do not wish to disparage anyone's previous work. However, all of the data
that I have heard would be described as anecdotal or perhaps equivalent to a
Phase 1 clinical trial. A new drug has to go through three clinical trials.
After Phase 3, the US FDA is sent a report, which consists of at least a
truck-load equivalent of paper.