Subject: Re:
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 23:34:22 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Gabe Garza <>
| I'll post a point-by-point response here to let other people
| modify-it/flame-me/agree/disagree as necessary.  I'm far to frightened of
| being perceived as trying to represent Lisp (and it's community) to just
| mail one.  ;) I only speak for myself. I'd also be grateful if someone
| with more knowledge then me could briefly compare the condition systems
| of the two languages....

  Nice preamble.

| Because Lisp's syntax is radically different from all other mainstream
| programming languages, it is easy to categorize it has being "hard to
| learn."

  That depends on what people mean by "learn".  That issue has surprisingly
  much to say about how people approach programming in the first place.
  Learning to read and write is probably one of the hardest learning tasks
  given to children today (regardless of language).  Most people learn only
  one alphabet, and yet it seems fairly obvious that all alphabets are
  equally hard to learn.  (Ideographic languages appear to take longer to
  learn for their native users, so I confine this argument to alphabets.)
  Now, how hard is it to learn the Greek alphabet?  It _should_ be obvious
  that it is far harder to learn your first alphabet than your second, but
  most people seem to fear that the pain of learning the first will just be
  repeated unchanged with the second, that learning an alphabet has a fixed
  cost regardless of how many you know or when you learn it, and so many
  people simply refrain from learning the Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, etc,
  alphabets.  This leads to such pathetic things as transliterations that
  lose a lot of information, tiny coded character set standards, massive
  failure of the requirements of "localization" and "internationalization"
  to get across to programmers, etc.

  New things are fairly obviously easier to learn when you learned the old
  things right.  If you only acquire motor skills without understanding, it
  will be harder to learn new things than old, because motor skills are
  based on repetition of non-conscious physical action.  So when someone
  tells you that learning something new is "hard to learn" when it is just
  as easy to learn as the _first_ such thing as what he already knows, you
  should gently inform him of the fifth amendment.  Programming should not
  be non-conscious motor skills -- but fast, error-free typing should.
  Still, if you cannot reprogram yourself and your keyboard so you become
  more productive with fewer shifted keys, there is something wrong with
  your ability to program yourself and you should be hesitant to program
  anything else until you have fixed that.  Syntax is not, however, about
  hitting keys in the right order more than operating anything else is a
  matter of "remembering" the sequence of simpler tasks.  I think of people
  who have problems with new syntaxes as people who write down how to
  perform a complex task like taping a TV program on a VCR or making the
  alarm clock wake them up at the right time (although I think alarm clocks
  are instruments of torture and should be probibited by law, they are
  unfortunately not hard to "program"), in a step-by-step order and who get
  completely lost if they miss a step or the object was not in the right
  initial state when they started.  I make an exception for Perl, though.
  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.

  70 percent of American adults do not understand the scientific process.