Why Learn another programming Language?

Python is a nice language for beginning programming for several reasons. First the syntax is sparse, and clear. Second, the underlying model of how objects and variables work is very consistent. Third, you can write powerful and interesting programs without a lot of work. However, Python is representative of one kind of language, called a dynamic language. You might think of Python as being fairly informal. There are other languages, like Java and C++ that are more formal.

These languages have some advantages of their own. First, is speed: For very large programs Java and C++ are going to give you the best performance. Second is their maintainability. A lot of what makes Python easy to use is that you must remember certain things. For example if you set variable x to reference a turtle, and forget later that x is a turtle but try to invoke a string method on it, you will get an error. Java and C++ protect you by forcing you to be upfront and formal about the kind of object each variable is going to refer to.

In one sense Python is representative of a whole class of languages, sometimes referred to as “scripting languages.” Other languages in the same category as Python are Ruby and Perl. Java is representative of what I will call industrial strength languages. Industrial strength languages are good for projects with several people working on the project where being formal and careful about what you do may impact lots of other people. Languages in this category include C++, C, C# and Ada.

Programming languages will always change. As the field of computer science advances there will be new programming languages and you will need to learn them. It is important to learn several programming languages so that you know what to expect. There are certain features that most programming languages have in common; variables, loops, conditionals, functions. And there are some features that are unique. If you know what is common in languages that is a good place to start.

Why Learn Java? Why not C or C++?

  • Java is the most widely taught programming language.

  • Java is more popular

  • Java is industrial strength and used for large systems by large groups of people

  • If you know Java, learning C++ is easy.

Java is an enormous language. There are over 3,700 different classes included in the Java 6 Standard Edition. We could not begin to scratch the surface of these classes even if we devoted all 2,700 minutes of class time that we have in a semester. However, Java is very powerful and we will write some very powerful programs this semester.

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