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Re: [vox] [OT] Learning to program
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Re: [vox] [OT] Learning to program

On Mon, Aug 26, 2002 at 12:13:25AM -0700, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:
> begin Matthew Johnson <matthew@psychohorse.com> 
> > On Sunday 25 August 2002 13:38, Micah Cowan wrote:
> > > matthew johnson writes:
> > >  > Found that very interesting too :).
> > >  >
> > >  > Thanks for sharing!
> > >  >
> > >  > To learn to programming, which is the best way? I'm an OK learner by
> > >  > myself, but not the best (find it better and easier to have a teacher
> > >  > who knows his or her stuff to ask the annoying questions to).
> > >
> > > It's cheapest to learn on your own - but effective *only* with the
> > > proper materials. You may find it best to do this, and have people on
> > > hand who are knowledgeable for just answering questions.
> > >
> > 
> > Sounds great, but how does that compare to someone who learnt to program 
> > whilst studying as part of a degree? I did try one of those courses that you 
> > can sign up just to do programming, but it lacked any real depth, plus they 
> > kept going over the same ground again and again (how many times can you write 
> > the same program in class, sure glad I emigrated out of there before getting 
> > hit with a large bill lol) . 
> i guess i'm the poster child for doing it yourself.  never took a CS
> class in my life.

When would a tree data structure be better than a hashed data structure?
It is possible that you know, but that may not be the case of everyone
that teaches themselves to program.  There is more to programming then
getting something to work, selecting the right algorithms and making
the right design decisions early in the development can avoid starting 
good portions of your code from scratch because they don't scale.

To be fair, many people that do the minimum to graduate from a CS 
program may be no better off than someone that applies themselves to
a self taught course.  That an some things are a function of programming
experience that you really only get by doing.

> ok, well when my mom learned that i was programming in assembly language
> at 13, she thought it would be a good idea to sign me up for a class on
> LOGO offered by the local college(!).

Learning assembly gives a strong intuitive understanding for how a
computer really works.  I consider it a _very_ important skill, though
I may be biased because I use it nearly every day as part of my work.

> don't laugh.  nobody knew anything back then.  she had no idea what she
> was doing, and i greatly appreciate the sentiment even though i begged
> her not to sign me up for the class.  i ended up spending the whole day
> drawing naughty pictures with the turtle.

My first language was LOGO on the Atari in High School.  We did some
BASIC.  I learned assembly from looking at the copy protection methods
of PC games.  I then learned C/C++ at the community college.  At the
point I came up to Davis I had been doing business programming for
a couple of years, but the courses that I took at Davis really help
hone my skills.  School isn't for everyone, but I think that it was
the best course for me.

> that was the only CS "class" i ever took.
> > > USENET can be a *humongous* educational asset - but you need to adapt
> > > to its bizarre culture. In particular, newsgroups like comp.lang.c are
> > > *incredibly* helpful, but also hold to the older style of newsgroup
> > > interactions - they stick to a lot of the "standard" USENET rules
> > > which have been abandoned by many newcomer USENET groups. It is
> > > necessary to read all FAQs before attempting to post to USENET, and
> > > always read the group for at least a couple weeks before attempting to
> > > participate.
> > >
> > 
> > You mean RTFM...I know some older USENET people can get crusty :).
> don't underestimate the power of usenet.
> if ALL sources of linux documentation were to disappear off the face of
> the earth -- websites, HOWTO's, books, papers, etc, and i had to pick
> just one source for all my linux documentation needs, i'd pick google
> groups (usenet archives).
> > Algorithms? How important is math to programming? Actually...Can you learn 
> > good math whilst programming?
> no.  good math comes from studying math.   good algorithms come from
> studying good algorithms (or by really dissecting code and having long
> conversations with knowledgable friends).
> besides, there are so many kinds of programming that even if someone
> disagreed with my sentiment would have to at least agree with "it
> depends".

I think there are two reasons that they emphasize math in a CS 
course.  First, many of the older CS professors came from a 
math or physics background so they stress what is important to

The second reason that teaching math is important is because it
teaches problem solving and abstraction skills which are important
to a programmer.

> matt, programming is like motorcycles.
> some people (like me) love it and couldn't live without it.  i may never
> be a jeff newmiller, but frankly, that's not my goal.  my goal is to
> enjoy myself and, if possible, write things which my friends and i find
> cool.
> some simply don't find the need to do it.  they can take it or leave it.
> if you find yourself with no motivation to get a good book, read it and
> experiment with new found knowledge, then you might be in this category.
> there's no crime in this.   programming isn't some +5 holy avenger. 
> it's a past time for some.  it's the daily grind for others.   just go
> with the flow.

definite wisdom.  Matt if your goal it to program past the 
visual basic level as a job, I would suggest that a degree
is CS is a good idea.  You will probably be able to get a
job without one, but you may not have as many choices because
a BS is becoming a basic qualification for many programming

If you are doing it for fun, you can either learn on your
own or take a couple of community college classes.  The
three that I would take are a course that teaches C, one 
that teaches assembly, and one that teaches data structures.


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