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The Best First Language For a Young Programmer 634

snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister questions whether Scheme, a dialect of Lisp taught as part of many first-year CS curricula and considered by some to be the 'latin of programming,' is really the best first language for a young programmer. As he sees it, the essentially write-only Scheme requires you to bore down into the source code just to figure out what a Scheme program is trying to do — excellent for teaching programming but 'lousy for a 15-year-old trying to figure out how to make a computer do stuff on his own.' And though the 'hacker ethic' may in fact be harming today's developers, McAllister still suggests we encourage the young to 'develop the innate curiosity and love of programming that lies at the heart of any really brilliant programmer' by simply encouraging them to fool around with whatever produces the most gratifying results. After all, as Jeff Atwood puts it, 'what we do is craftmanship, not engineering,' and inventing effective software solutions takes insight, inspiration, deduction, and often a sprinkling of luck. 'If that means coding in Visual Basic, so be it. Scheme can come later.'"

It is easier to change the specification to fit the program than vice versa.