Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

January, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    HOPL: an interactive Roster of Programming Languages


    Thanks to a comment left earlier today I found HOPL, the History of Programming Languages which is an amazing collection of information about programming languages and their history.

    It is highly interactive and searchable with information on 8,512 different programming languages. Just to resource for the student looking to find out the who, when and most importantly why of different languages.

    Actually it makes interesting reading for anyone with an interest in programming languages. I've added it to my web browser bookmarks already.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Getting Started with XNA Game Creators Club


    Over at the XNA blog they have announced a video demonstration on how to use the XNA Game Creators Club software to get your XNA game running on your Xbox 360.

    This video demonstrates how to:

    • Download the software/tools to your Windows PC
    • Buy a membership in the XNA Creators Club
    • Get XNA Game Launcher for your Xbox 360
    • Connect your Windows PC to your Xbox 360 on your network

    The video is 11 minutes long, and there are several viewing options:

    Download a copy from the Microsoft Download Center, available in standard or high definition.

    Watch the copy on MSN Soapbox below:

    Video: Getting Started with the XNA Creators Club

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Picking Programming Languages for High School - Never Ending Story


    I see that Susan Canaga is bringing her school's discussion on programming languages looking for industry opinions. This is a topic I have addressed a number of times before (most recently here) but one which never seems to be settled. In any case if you an opinionated individual and want to put in your two cents I'm sure Susan would welcome the feedback.

    As I have said more than a few times I like Visual Basic. NET as a first language. The syntax is easier than the C based languages. Literally millions of programmers use Visual Basic to develop applications with significant user interface needs. So it does scale up to full scale professional development.

    C# would be my second choice for a first language and my first choice for a second one. I like that it is a .NET language which means that you can learn and use the .NET Framework classes. And of course C# allows students and others to easily use the XNA Game Studio Express to create video games for both Windows and the Xbox 360. I happen to think that C# is an easier language to learn than Java. Yes I am biased but I came to that conclusion years before I came to work for Microsoft. I like the way built-in types are handled in C#. I also like using properties (an option in VB as well of course) and other features. LINQ and related features that are coming (also for VB) in the near future look like they have the potentially to really simplify handling data bases and other large amounts of data easily. That has huge potential.

    C++ is a language that is not going to go away any time soon. It is still the language of choice for a lot of high performance gaming, embedded systems, and anything that absolutely has to get close to the hardware. A first language? Not if up to me. On the other hand the things one can teach using C++ makes it an important language for someone who intends to be a serious student of computer science. If it were up to me I would probably have left C++ as the language of the Advanced Placement exam. C++ is not the best way to learn object oriented programming. C#, VB and even Java are better for that. On the other hand there is power, at the cost of ease and safety of course, in C++. I like that for when it is really needed.

    But of course if it were up to me no one would take AP CS as their first programming course. That's like taking AP Calculus without having Algebra and Geometry first. It can be done but it is hardly a good idea.

    The Visual Studio Express editions are available for free in C++, C#, Visual Basic and Visual Web Developer editions so teachers and students have some great free options for all of those languages. If someone wants to make the case that Java is better than either C# or VB as a first language go ahead. (I've got my flack jacket on.) I feel sorry for AP teachers who have no choice but to teach it.


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