Academics slam Java

Bryan Sant bryan.sant at gmail.com
Mon Jan 14 14:51:17 MST 2008


On Jan 14, 2008 11:33 AM, Levi Pearson <levi at cold.org> wrote:
> The article could have been worded better in its introduction, but
> what it's really arguing for is not the elimination of Java.  Java
> just happens to be what a lot of schools use nearly exclusively.  If
> they were using Python nearly exclusively, they'd have used Python as
> their primary target.  It doesn't make sense to argue against
> something that isn't currently happening, though, so they used Java.
> I'm sorry that you get offended whenever Java is mentioned in a less
> than perfect light, but you're going to have to learn to deal with
> that eventually.

I don't get offended.  I just try to inject an alternative perspective
to a group that is intuitively hostile towards Java.

> They simply want greater emphasis on how computers actually work,
> systems software skills, and some understanding of math and formal
> methods.  These are hard topics, and they're somewhat expensive to
> apply, but if they're not taught in the universities, then where will
> they be taught?  Trade schools, task-specific training facilities,
> etc. are well suited to teaching people how to use software tools and
> techniques.  Universities are not, but they are well-suited to
> teaching hard stuff like math and formal methods.  These guys are
> calling for universities to take back their proper role so that in the
> future, we'll have people that understand the hard stuff so that we
> can continue to build airplanes and stuff after the current
> programmers retire.

Unfortunately, they may have to wait for a portion of that workforce
to retire before the job demand (and thus salaries) will drive schools
and students towards more systems development.

> I think you underestimate the size and complexity of these kinds of
> projects.  And, on the contrary, I think Ada's strict nature enables
> complex systems designed an implemented by large teams rather than
> crippling them.  There just aren't enough Ada programmers to pick
> from, and they're all going to work for Gov't contract shops right
> now, and Java works well for business support systems.

Careful now.  You're surrounded by scripting language enthusiasts.  If
they detect that you're advocating type safety and design-by-contract
even further than the level provided by Java/C++, then you may get
lynched.

> Anyway, my point (and the point of the article) is not so much to
> trumpet the virtues of Ada or to demonize Java, but to point out some
> weaknesses in the currently recommended CS curriculum.  "A Real
> Programmer Can Write In Any Language," says one of the article
> subheadings, and when a graduate can only write code in Java or a very
> similar language, something is wrong.  When a graduate can't write a
> simple device driver for an RTOS in C, C++, or Ada, etc. something is
> wrong.  Being able to write a cool app in Java is a great thing, but
> it's not the *only* thing one should learn.

I completely agree.  You're summarizing it in a sensible way.
However, the sensationalized article title didn't reflect the common
sense you're expressing.

-Bryan



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