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Exam Board Deletes C and PHP From CompSci A-Levels

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the who-needs-them dept.

Education 663

VitaminB52 writes "A-level computer science students will no longer be taught C, C#, or PHP from next year following a decision to withdraw the languages by the largest UK exam board. Schools teaching the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance's (AQA) COMP1 syllabus have been asked to use one of its other approved languages — Java, Pascal/Delphi, Python 2.6, Python 3.1, Visual Basic 6, and VB.Net 2008. Pascal/Delphi is 'highly recommended' by the exam board because it is stable and was designed to teach programming and problem-solving."

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Maybe I'm missing something (4, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190686)

But, so what?

If you understand programming, picking up any given language is straightforward.

If you don't understand programming, it doesn't really matter what languages you know.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190758)

If picking up any given language is straightforward, then why does everyone list the languages they know on their resume?

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (5, Insightful)

DangerFace (1315417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190798)

Maybe because resumes get sent to HR and management, not experienced programmers?

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (5, Informative)

MrZilla (682337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190848)

Maybe because resumes get sent to HR and management, not experienced programmers?

Exactly. When a manager is looking to hire a person, knowing that "we create our software using C", he expects to see "Knowledge of the C language" on the resume he gets.

Trying to argue that you extensive knowledge of Pascal, JAVA and Assembly for the given platform means you will be able to work efficiently anyways, since you'll very quickly pick up the C knowledge needed, probably won't get you hired, even if it is true.

Of course, there might be the special case where an intimate knowledge of setjump or the structure of the stack during a function call might be needed, but I think those cases are somewhat rare.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190892)

And if you can't program C by the end of your studies (what's that supposed to mean, end of studies?), it's your own damn fault. Nobody will hire anybody on the expectation that they'll quickly learn what they need to know. If you want a job which requires C programming, you better know C, and not just the reserved words: idioms and APIs too. None of that is relevant when you're introduced to programming. The concepts transcend languages. What you do with the gained understanding is your own responsibility.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (1, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190940)

Trying to argue that you extensive knowledge of Pascal, JAVA and Assembly for the given platform means you will be able to work efficiently anyways, since you'll very quickly pick up the C knowledge needed, probably won't get you hired, even if it is true.

Only it's not true. A programmer who doesn't know C is either very lazy or, given the relative [google.com] abundance [google.com] of each language [google.com] suffers from some weird form of autism.

There's no denying it, C is the basis of everything in computing. Anyone who has studied or done any professional work in computing has had contact with the C language at some time. A programmer who never had at least the curiosity to learn C, if only to understand some function he downloaded from the web, will never, ever, be a competent programmer.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190980)

Right. I've been a professional developer for 15 years now (as in, it's paid all my bills for all that time). Last time I touched C was back in school.

There's a freakin' forest of languages out there, and C is not some holy grail that sucks all into its gravity well.

If I should ever actually need it, I'll pick it up. Just as with any other language I've learned through the years.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191028)

The C programming language can be hard if you don't have a solid understanding of computers. It's easier to learn after you've got an understanding of other areas. Pointers, for example, make a lot more sense when you know they represent memory addresses. Personally I think that if you're teaching programming, you should stick with a more abstract language. That way, you can concentrate just on programming: Loops, conditional executions, etc.. Things like preprocessors, compilers and linkers, which you will need to know about to some extent to code in C, are probably best left to a separate courses.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (5, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190802)

I guess it depends if we expect the exams to be about learning the foundations, or actually learning practical skills. If it's the former, the language isn't so important as they'll need to do a fair amount of learning on the job, if it's the latter then the language could be valuable experience prior to their first role. From personal experience, I'd rather universities taught the foundations and didn't try to instill a sense of practical knowledge, because most of the university graduates I interview who do have practical knowledge tend to have been taught bad or very outdated practice, and it's much harder to break them out of those practices and teach the right way than it is to teach someone who knows the underlying principles the right way from scratch. Until universities can keep up with the fast pace of "web languages", they should stick to ensuring students unerstand the theory above all.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190828)

Partly because it's straightforward in principle, but takes some time in practice. There are at least two levels of language knowledge: having some idea of how to write things in the language, and knowing the languages's quirks, best practices, pitfalls, and, generally, pragmatics. The first is the stuff that anyone with a strong CS background should be able to pick up. But the latter requires just a lot of experience. If you take a complex language like C++, how does one learn which of the (many) features interact subtly with each other, and where the (many) pitfalls lie? More or less, through experience. If someone on your C++ team is a smart person with a strong CS background but has programmed C++ for less than 6 months, you should suspect they haven't yet picked up all the pragmatics, no matter how smart they are. That's just how things work.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (2, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190922)

I would agree with this based on my experience learning Java. With many years C++ experience, learning the Java syntax was half a day with a book, and being able to write reasonably good code wehich did what I expected was about two days. But, reckoning by hindsight, it was about eighteen months before I was a good Java programmer with all the language idioms at my fingertips and a good knowledge of all the pitfalls. And that is with a clean, well designed, language. With a hybrid, lower level, and sprawling language like C++, I reckon that it will take even longer to reach that level. I doubt that more than a few percent of C++ programmers are really masters of all aspects of the language. I have to say that, while I call myself a good C++ programmer, I approach writing templates, other than the most trivial, with fear and trembling. And templated overloaded operators need even more care.

Which, to return to the subject, means that if you are teaching "vocationally", the sooner you get students started on their target language the better. Whereas if you are teaching theoretically, you want the cleanest and simplest example of each class of language. Java and Python fill both needs, Pascal/Delphi is clean but has little industry use. VB is the odd one out: widely used, but not particularly clean and simple.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191008)

ell, there are those who know the language, and those who knows how the language works. I've disassembled c, c++, java, to see what construct did what. static java inner classes: how do they get their values? nested classes, why passed parameters have to be final? I know, because I've seem how they're used. This is what I mean what I say that I know Java. Everything less is I use java to some proficiency.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191052)

I've disassembled c, c++, java,

Z
Why, if there are OSS implementations of those compilers/VMs/libraries?

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (4, Insightful)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190882)

I find that knowing the language syntax is only half the battle. Learning how to use the libraries properly (standard or not) takes much, much longer.

My education in programming has largely been in Java since late high school and all the way through university, with deviations along the way into VB, C, PHP and PROLOG. Recently at work, I've had to pick up C++ in order to do some Symbian development.

Picking up what I needed to know of C++ was the easiest part. Learning how to use the Symbian C++ libraries, on the other hand, has been a monumental task, and one that has largely been ditched in favour of Qt for Symbian, which is much, much easier to get to grips with.

In theory I can now put 'knows C++' on my CV. I don't really. I've hardly used the standard libraries. I'm pretty confident I could write a Qt-based C++ app without too much trouble, either on the desktop or on Symbian. But I wouldn't have the first clue where to start if I was asked to write a Windows app, without a decent bit of learning and training. And I would avoid native Symbian like the plague.

I'm no expert in CV writing (I'm still in my first proper job after leaving uni), but I think that listing the things that you have done, and then mentioning the languages and environments that they were done in, is better than simply listing the languages that you know.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191020)

Ouch! Accidentally moderated this Redundant when I was going for Insightful. Please fix!

Yes, and no (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190772)

When I took the introductory course to computer programming in college, we actually were exposed to other programming paradigms than the standard industry ones. It included Prolog and SNOBOL, for example. Even though I would agree that neither of those languages has any practical application in industry today, I still think that it was an important part of my education to see these kinds of extremes (no, that doesn't mean I think that the brainfuck language [wikipedia.org] should be taught to high school students --- anyway, because of its name, that would be impossible in the US).

Then why not C? (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190842)

If you understand programming, picking up any given language is straightforward.

How can you understand programming if you don't understand how it works under the hood?

Teaching assembly (which CPU?) wouldn't be practical but C is the next best thing. I agree with you that any programmer should be able to pick up a new language without too much effort, but unless you know how the internal structures of the programs work you will never be able to write good code, at best your code will be painfully slow, at worst it will be outright dangerous.

If only one language is taught, then it should be C for anyone who expects to be a professional programmer, knowing C they can easily pick up any other procedural language. A programmer who doesn't know C is like a doctor who doesn't know anatomy.

Re:Then why not C? (2, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190954)

If only one language is taught, then it should be C for anyone who expects to be a professional programmer, knowing C they can easily pick up any other procedural language. A programmer who doesn't know C is like a doctor who doesn't know anatomy.

I think you could say the same about Delphi-style Pascal. You can go as low level as in C there (and believe me, many people do, which is a pain if you develop a cross-platform Delphi-compatible compiler), and as a bonus you also learn an object model that's pretty much identical to Java's.

Re:Then why not C? (4, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190988)

First of all, I believe they're talking about a U.S. high school level course. Second, having learned on BASIC and Pascal myself, I can assure you that you can learn fundamentals and internal operations using those languages.

Re:Then why not C? (1)

Kensai7 (1005287) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191034)

A programmer who doesn't know C is like a doctor who doesn't know anatomy.

Exactly. But if they want to teach high-level concepts for A-Level they should stick to an academic language, purpose-built to investigate new ideas... solething like Scala.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (2, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190858)

If you understand programming, picking up any given language is straightforward.

Indeed. But it probably helps if you start by learning a fairly well-structured language. Preferably a couple of quite different languages. My first two were Fortran-66 and APL/360, which are almost as different as you can get (and which also reveal my age). The next few languages were PL/I, Focal, C, Basic, and LaTeX, and these have been followed by numerous others.

Adding Pascal/Delphi to the list is a good idea, but dropping C and PHP while retaining VB and VB.net is beyond any sane comprehension.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (1)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190924)

But, so what?

If you understand programming, picking up any given language is straightforward.

If you don't understand programming, it doesn't really matter what languages you know.

this is true but every language has its way to do stuff and experience is important, for example most of these languages don't allow the use of pointers so they probably won't even know about them

also it's good that they choose python but why pascal or visual basic? it's not like those students will use them when they get out in the real world, imho it's better to stick with a useful set of languages instead of switching later "since they are all the same"

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (2, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191038)

If you know Java, pointers in C will be black magic to you.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191046)

One of the first software companies I worked for after graduation required a C test (the programmers in the company wrote) before you ever interviewed with the programming department. While talking with one of the original programmers, he told me after they first came up with it they thought it might have been to hard because ever applicant was failing it. He also told me all of the code used in the questions was pulled right from the source code.

So while I agree that foundation is the most important, there are plenty of companies out there that still use C in there base product. IMHO, I think most graduates will be in for a shock upon graduating and the school is doing them a disservice by dropping C.

C is key (4, Insightful)

nailchipper (461706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190688)

What a shame. C is an important foundation.

Re:C is key (4, Insightful)

16Chapel (998683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190752)

Quite. And VB is a horrible abomination.

In all seriousness, if you learn a C-based language it gives you a huge headstart towards learning the other C-based languages, and there are far more of those out there than Basic-type languages.

Re:C is key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190774)

other C-based languages, and there are far more of those out there than Basic-type languages.

ORLY? [wikipedia.org]

Re:C is key (1)

16Chapel (998683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191040)

Hmmm.... perhaps I should have qualified that, by 'out there' I meant 'in current use'.

Unless you're really telling us that, e.g. "Atari 2600 Basic Programming" is alive and well.

Re:C is key (2, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190770)

Look on the bright side - people can now learn VB6 instead...

Re:C is key (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190948)

The Computing A Level isn't designed to teach you specific languages, it is designed to give a broad spread of (pre-degree level) computer science knowledge, part of which is programming. It is the programming concepts that matter most, and they can be learned with Java, Pascal or Python quite well. I did Pascal when I did my A Levels um, 16 years ago.

Getting rid of PHP is good, in my opinion.

Anyway, most UK Computer Science degrees say they would rather no A Level Computing because they have to spend time un-teaching bad habits. Looking at the VB6 option, I can see why.

Re:C is key (5, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191018)

I'm not a CS major, I'm a mechanical engineering major and I just wanted to learn how to program as a hobby. I found it a lot easier to learn C than anything else I tried.

I'm not going to pretend to know how to program very well but I thought that because C didn't do very much for you that it gave a better foundation for learning other languages. I did learn a bit of python, but it was easier after learning C because you know what's going on "behind the scenes" so to speak.

For example, I had this weird ass problem in python where, for some reason, it was treating an integer value as a string. In C you have to specify variable types when you declare them. Because I knew about different variable types I knew that I had to look up how to explicitly declare variables as certain types in python. In C, you have to learn things like variable types, casting, pointers, etc. just to make a program that does anything at all. Languages like python are taught such that you completely gloss over these subjects and just assume that the computer magically knows what you're trying to tell it to do. When you run into a problem you can't fix it because you don't know what's actually going on.

I suggest that introductory programming classes use C rather than other things. The counter argument I generally get is "We want the students to make a program that actually does something so that they can write some programs after only a couple lectures". This loosely translates to "we want to entertain the students rather than teach them."

Although perhaps there's a middle ground. For non-CS majors, teach a language like python. Python allows for quick programs that, while not amazingly efficient, don't really need to be. For example, formatting a file with a shitload of data from a strain gauge. This might have to be done a total of, say, two times and thus efficiency really isn't an issue. Furthermore, non-CS majors (like mechanical and electrical engineers) don't have to understand the very basics of programming, they don't have much relevance to their field.
For CS majors, start off with languages like C because their job is to understand the very very basics.

So what? (2, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190690)

What's the big deal? One programming language is like the other, at least within the same paradigm. If you can program in Pascal, you can program in C. If you can't you learned a syntax and not "how to program". Basically, when I was a computer science student, we got one language taught for the concepts and the rest was just "swim or sink". That's the way it should be. I really have a problem with programmers who have problems switching from their preferred-language to another because it's unfamiliar. Well, no, it's not... It's the damned same thing with diverging syntax.

Basically, the premise of the Exam Board is quite right: the goal of programming is to have problem solving skills. Whatever language conveys that is completely uninteresting to me.

Oh, and just for the record: programming is just a small part of the computer science curriculum... or at least it should be.

Re:So what? (2, Insightful)

Anzya (464805) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190706)

That might be the case but your chances of getting hired is greater if you have C on you resume than pascal.
If they wanted a language that is simple to learn they could have chosen python instead. It's just as easy as pascal but has the benefit that it is actually used in the industry.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190852)

If they wanted a language that is simple to learn they could have chosen python instead.

Are you sure you're posting to the right story?

From the summary:

Schools teaching the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance's (AQA) COMP1 syllabus have been asked to use one of its other approved languages — Java, Pascal/Delphi, Python 2.6, Python 3.1,...

Re:So what? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190942)

We're talking about A Levels here, two years of education between 16 and 18. To get hired into a serious position as a programmer a Computer Science degree is usually required.

Disclaimer: I learnt Pascal during my Computing A Level and it didn't do me any harm!

Re:So what? (2, Insightful)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190780)

If you can program in Pascal, you can program in C

But if you can program in C you are wasting your time with Pascal.

Re:So what? (1)

burni2 (1643061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190832)

But if you can program in Pascal you will fairly easy learn FORTRAN which is still used to date mostly in HPC.

Re:So what? (1, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190866)

But if you can program in C you are wasting your time with Pascal.

Explain that to the programmers that went from Pascal to C, said "WTF THIS SUCKS", and moved back to Pascal and then on to Delphi when it hit the shelves.

Re:So what? (2, Interesting)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190916)

But if you can program in C you are wasting your time with Pascal.

Explain that to the programmers

Linux, Windows, (Open)Office, Firefox, Nethack, Doom, etc, etc, etc.

Re:So what? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190970)

Pascal would be much better compared to C++ than C.. I'd take Pascal over C unless the concern was raw speed.

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

Matthew Dunn (864338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190818)

What's the big deal? One programming language is like the other, at least within the same paradigm. If you can program in Pascal, you can program in C. If you can't you learned a syntax and not "how to program". Basically, when I was a computer science student, we got one language taught for the concepts and the rest was just "swim or sink". That's the way it should be. I really have a problem with programmers who have problems switching from their preferred-language to another because it's unfamiliar. Well, no, it's not... It's the damned same thing with diverging syntax.

Basically, the premise of the Exam Board is quite right: the goal of programming is to have problem solving skills. Whatever language conveys that is completely uninteresting to me.

Oh, and just for the record: programming is just a small part of the computer science curriculum... or at least it should be.

There's a lot more that goes along with a language Sure, if you know how to code OO, use iterators, understand switch statements and other language-related elements you can change languages and write an algorithm or two But Do I know best practice for everything? If I'm a c# programmer. Do I know important differences between Ruby 1.7, 1.8. 1.9? Do I know what the best inversion of control framework is? Or what the best ORM to use is? Am I familiar with how to use it? If I'm a Ruby developer am I aware that in a .NET language if I add two strings together in c# "Hello" + "World" It constructs a new immutable string. But if I do String.Format("{0}{1}","Hello","World" it is much faster and uses less memory? Will I know all the proper coding conventions, casing, tabbing, indenting styles. There are hundreds if not thousands of useful pieces of language, compiler, and environment specific knowledge which is useful and can be pretty obvious if you do not have it. I've been playing with c#, ruby, gcc. For around ten years commercially and I still need to invest significant re-education if I swap from say ruby to gcc or ruby to c# after a year.. There is a reason that people tend to stick with one or two primary languages.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190898)

Disagree. Please talk to people who come from C background and try to program in C++. Complete mess!
There is a great paradigm shift between procedural and object oriented languages. I think the Universities should concentrate on the concepts of object oriented programming than go back to the old days when procedural was the norm

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191030)

Eh. While it's true that learning concepts will get you far, any time you change languages with different conceptual constructs than those which you're used to, there's going to be problems. What rather upsets me about taking C off of the list is that now it's all just strictly higher level languages. C can be good to teach you a lot of underlying things that the others handle for you. And I really don't care what anyone says--those things that C (and more so ASM) taught me *do* make me a better coder with higher level languages. I started with a couple dialogs of VB, using VB6 last just before .NET came out. Then I briefly switched to C++ before deciding to take some time coding several algorithms in ASM and then C. When I felt a grasp on that, I returned to C++, relearned all of the OOP, and that's where I've chosen to stay for my hobby programming purposes (coding mostly nothing but little tools that I use throughout my own personal computers for several tasks, or just fun little programs). I'm biased, but I think I can code cleanly in C or C++, knowing what to take advantage of in each. Of course, I also have a side job as an independent consultant coding in a VBA-like language, which I still highly value my ASM, C, and C++ experience for--as simple as VBA is, there's things I understand that make it nothing but utterly painful for me to watch those I work for attempt to figure out what their doing with even the simplest of VBA code, and some of these people have had a number of computer programming courses in college, learning BASIC.

Ah, Memories. (3, Funny)

daitengu (172781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190696)

This warms my heart, the first language I learned was TurboPascal just so I could program Door Games for my BBS. I still run a BBS I still haven't written any door games.

Insider information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190724)

I'm doing this course currently (finishing it in a few months) and was "taught" Pascal and Delphi. There were numerous problems with Borland (the company who produce the Delphi IDE) removing the free download links for an older version of the software, leaving pupils without access and unable to complete coursework during school holidays, etc.
I personally did my coursework in Python (with GTK) but I really can't see how some of my classmates would be able to get their head around box-packing or object oriented programming, for that matter - they seem to find the concept of functions and passing variables challenging enough.
I understand why they've removed C really, though it saddens me and I'm glad that they've removed C#. PHP surprises me though perhaps the kids find writing an interface in HTML too challenging?

Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (4, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190726)

to teach them hypothetical skills in watered down, obscure platforms so they can curse you for the rest of their lives when they start working in the industry.

i was taught fortran and pascal. i dont remember shit, and i dont think i gained much from them.

programming can be taught with any language. problem solving can be taught with any language. it is better to teach these using a language they WILL use when they actually get into industry, than with stuff they may rarely come up against.

uk was going down the drain for some years. i see this as another absurd jacobinism.

Re:Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (1)

giuseppemag (1100721) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190764)

I don't really think VB.Net, Java or Python can be dubbed as "watered down, obscure platforms". On a side note, trying to teach abstract reasoning without declarative (logic/functional) programming sounds a tad contradictory...

Re:Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (1)

patch0 (1339585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190836)

In my A-Level in electronics we had to learn to program in machine code. Rather than teach us a real instruction set they made one up so as not to 'give unfair advantage to a student who might know an existing instruction set'... what crap. How many 17 year olds you know are gonna be overly familiar with a particular instruction set?

Re:Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (2, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190872)

When I was 17, that would have been me.

By that time, 6502 and 8086.

Re:Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (4, Insightful)

RegularFry (137639) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190908)

Alternatively, if the first thing they learn is that they *will* have to learn new languages, and that they can't rely on a single skill-set to carry them through their career, that's got to be a good thing.

Re:Oh yea. Teach them non mainstream stuff (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190944)

it is better to teach these using a language they WILL use when they actually get into industry, than with stuff they may rarely come up against.

You sound as if you believe that they will be using C and PHP in the industry.

While both C and PHP have strong roles in the industry, they have become narrow use languages. The overlap with other languages favors those other languages in nearly every case. For example, I don't look for a C programmer when I need database work done, even though C is certainly more than capable.

Serious applications are still written in Delphi (0, Troll)

ZP-Blight (827688) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190734)

We've been using Delphi to develop our project (see sig) for years and we find it very intuitive and friendly to design user-interface based Win32 applications. I personally feel that Pascal's syntax is much clearer than most languages and yet flexible and powerful enough to develop major projects, making it ideal for teaching client-side programming to newcomers.

The only sad thing about Delphi (which I hope will be rectified) is:
1. No 64bit compiler.
2. No mobile platform support (except maybe .NET for WinCE devices, but those are dying out due to iPhone/BB/Android and even WinMo7 which is turning into an even more simplified iPhoneish design).

Re:Serious applications are still written in Delph (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190822)

I've used Borland C++ Builder for many years, which shares the whole RAD thing (VCL) with Delphi.
One thing I LOVE about this is that it is very easy to quickly put together a working GUI.
One thing I HATE about this is that is it very convoluted and dirty to put together a good GUI.

Re:Serious applications are still written in Delph (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190964)

Hmm, anything that can compile to .NET's MSIL should support 64-bit. I suspect the problem isn't a lack of a 64-bit compiler, that its instead a lack of a 64-bit standard library.

Maybe someone more in tune with the issue can chime in.

Re:Serious applications are still written in Delph (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190972)

We've been using Delphi to develop our project [but]
1. No 64bit compiler.
2. No mobile platform support (except maybe .NET for WinCE devices, but those are dying out due to iPhone/BB/Android and even WinMo7 which is turning into an even more simplified iPhoneish design).

According to Wikipedia, Free Pascal [freepascal.org] seems to have 64 support on Linux, OSX, and Windows.

As for mobile platforms, Free Pascal appears to be able to target the iPhone, but Jobs squashed any chance for fun there, eh? WinCE is supported (no idea on WinMo), and with Linux support you should be able to target Maemo/Meego devices with very little extra effort.

Android, WebOS, and Symbian? No idea there... but probably too much pain to be worth it to write something.

I guess a bigger question would be why one would want to target the mobile platforms with Pascal/Delphi at all. I did a little Pascal programming back in the day and didn't really see too much to love when compared to other environments.

But in the end, I guess it doesn't really matter, especially if general-purpose Linux-based OSes like Meego actually take off on mobile phones. Then all you have to do is target a Linux-based stack, add a couple of different front-ends for your application (one mouse/keyboard based, one touch-based), and you're off to the races.

Visual Basic? (4, Insightful)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190744)

Why are they accepting Visual Basic 6, but not C++, Ruby, or even LISP?

Re:Visual Basic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190894)

Anyone promoting Visual Basic should be shot. What a horrible language. We're forced to use that crap at work and spend our time translating help and support answers from C#.

We wouldn't be stuck with BASIC anymore if it hadn't been Microsoft's first product. They've been forcing that junk down our throats for 35 years.

Re:Visual Basic? (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190938)

Look at it from this way: The industry is full of crap programmers.

Awesome programmers will teach themselve C and/or C++, while crappy programmers won't realy teach themselves VB that well...

If programmers with a brain can learn C on their own (they probably already know the most of CS before they even attend) why not teach stupid people (ending up doind MS shit anyway) how to at least do it right.

You do not want self-taught crap languages being performed by idiots. You want that idiots use the crap languages in such a way that it doesn't suck extremely.

Right?

University... (2, Insightful)

unts (754160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190748)

This is why we can't really use sixth-form qualifications in this area as an indicator of a candidate's ability to program - we have to assume they know nothing, and look to Maths & Science qualifications for indication of their skills.

I learnt Pascal and VB6 back when I was at sixth form. Then I went to uni, was taught C and thought to myself "why didn't they teach us this!? I know NOTHING".

Real world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190754)

I did Pascal for A-level may moons ago. Pascal teaches you to expect suckage, and you will not be disappointed in your later programming career.

Teaching logic, structures and algorithms I hope? (3, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190782)

I hope these courses are all about teaching the way to construct programming logic, to think about algorithms, to apply data structures correctly because that can be done in any language (depending on the paradigm that they choose to teach of-course, and it looks they are going with the most common, imperative one, of-course the choice of languages also shows that they are not going into declarative stuff.)

Any one of these language can be used to teach normal structured programming with normal process flows, data structures. Object oriented stuff should not be taught until the students have basic understanding of the principles of programming.

But it is too bad they are not including at least some Assembly and C. Actually they should do an overview of different languages and explain that there are different ways to program, they should explain the differences between paradigms, approaches, languages, they should explain computer organization as in how a machine sees the code, how does the code interact with the memory, processor, peripherals. I think it is important at least to know OF these things, if not actually completely knowing how to use them.

I think before you teach anyone actual programming logic, structures, you explain how a machine executes the commands, so computer organization (state machines, memory, processors) + Assembly, even if only for a few hours this should be done first.

Dumbing Down (5, Informative)

bhunachchicken (834243) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190796)

"The board "highly recommended" switching to Pascal/Delphi because it is stable and was designed to teach programming and problem solving. Teachers planning to use Java are warned that many universities are considering dropping it from their first year computer science programmes, "as has happened in the US"."

Okay, seriously - in London, where I work, I don't think any of these guys would be able to get a job once they had graduated. Job listings I have looked at demand the following skills:

Java (with Spring, Hibernate, Multi-threading, low latency, Swing, Junit)
C#
C/C++ (financial organizations still turn to C for high volume number crunching)
Unix / Linux (are they going to drop this next???)
SQL (Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server)
Subversion, Clearcase, CVS

None of this stuff can be picked up quickly, so the earlier you start, the better. And, no offense, but I rarely - if ever - see a job listing requesting Pascal/Delphi.

Is this a case of dumbing down or are students just becoming lazy(-er)..?

Re:Dumbing Down (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190844)

Is this a case of dumbing down or are students just becoming lazy(-er)..?

Maybe this [theregister.co.uk] can shed some light on the matter?

Something is dumbed down and I don't think it is the students.

Re:Dumbing Down (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190890)

We work with a local university with internships. It's amazing when we get third year students and the first thing we have to teach them is source control management with SVN followed by a crash course in SQL. (Specifically PostgreSQL). Now we generally bring in interns and start them off in the Java group their Junior year as they've had 4 semesters of Java at the point. Even then it seems like they spend the first two months really learning Java. If things work out well, we're moving them over to the web development group where they learn Perl (our API & backend is Perl) or PHP and Javascript (Front end stuff). Over the Summer. By the time they take their 4th year database classes, things are pretty much a breeze. Generally they know SQL better than their instructors and have already mastered everything they teach in the "web programming" course.
 

Re:Dumbing Down (4, Insightful)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190914)

Is this so surprising? There was a time when a University degree was supposed to be about learning concepts and theory, not specific skills. Skills were to be got as an apprentice at a company, companies used to train their new recruits. It seems that employers now just expect a University graduate to emerge with all the skills they need in their particular field and have to do no training. I can't help feeling extremely cynical when I hear companies complain about the quality of graduates when they've rescinded on their part of the bargain pretty completely.

Re:Dumbing Down (1)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190934)

Job listings I have looked at demand the following skills:

Yeah... but not for a graduate. Or no sane advert that is willing to consider a graduate would ask for most of those. And *especially* if the level we're talking about is A-level and therefore pre-University (18). I think they should use the language most suited for teaching programming concepts, not the one most common on job adverts.

Re:Dumbing Down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190956)

A-levels are exams at the end of high school, not university...

Re:Dumbing Down (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190958)

Er, we're talking about A level Computer Science. No-one is going to get a programming job in London after "graduating" from that unless they already know how to program.

Anyway, Computer Science is not a vocational subject. The importance is to use a language which allows you to focus on the bits you *want* to teach, rather than getting embroiled in a bunch of irrelevant pointer arithmetic or boilerplate class hierarchy bullshit.

There are then a bunch of companies who will employ you and train you how to program *in a team* on the basis that you're a smart computer scientist. And it's the *in a team* bit that requires Java or whatever.

But jobs that require knowledge of a specific source-control system are best avoided. Those kinds of jobs are looking for idiots who will barely pass muster, and they'll be dead-ends.

Re:Dumbing Down (2, Insightful)

beh (4759) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191056)

Sorry, but I'm going to disagree with you on your assessment:

Yes, you are right that most job posts now demand the skills you mention.

Yes, you are right that there is probably no Pascal/Delphi job post.

Like you, I don't agree with their offered choices.

But - you are forgetting a few things here:

a) There are no Delphi job posts in part because there is no real supply of delphi developers - C/C++, C#, Java, SQL developers are a dime a dozen by comparison. Companies won't start large scale Delphi developments, if they feel it will be difficult to scale up teams for it due to the lack of candidates.

b) It doesn't matter whether they're offering Java, C, OR Pascal, because they are teaching programming, not development. And that's my main problem with it - teaching some kid programming (as in the syntax of a language and very basic development skills) is no real help for them in the long term. A good developer can pick up new languages reasonably quickly - as long as the concepts behind the languages are well understood - after that, picking up a new language is primarily about the syntax and the libraries - still a potentially steep learning curve, but less so, than some kid who can program a very simple app in Pascal but has no clue about what else is involved - has no understanding of development patterns, of typing concepts, the differences between functional, OO, plain old structured programming languages, stack based systems (like machine code), ... Also, without an idea of those concepts, you may very quickly end up with a virtually unmaintainable piece of code - not there isn't enough of that out there already.

c) Starting them off on a 'teaching' language like Pascal has the big advantage that it's something they can get the hang of programming on first - and if they feel that's their thing and then go on to start on a development career, they will learn a language actually used out there at the same time when they get taught about other aspects of development that would be way too much for an A-level course.

Personally, the first languages I learnt were Basic (on a ZX Spectrum at home), and Logo (yes, the turtle graphics thing) at school (in ~85/86). I don't really want to picture the kind of code I would have written had I learnt C BEFORE learning about some more development constructs.

I would compare it a bit to learning 10-finger typing - if you have been using a computer before, you probably learnt to type reasonably quickly using your index fingers and the thumbs for the space bar. If you then start being taught proper 10-finger typing, you start of being at the top of the class in terms of speed in the beginning - but are more likely nearer the bottom of the course at the end of the training because you're still mainly falling back to your index fingers most of the time. Personally, it took me several years after a typing course at school before I could type 'blindly' using 10 fingers. It took me that long to 'unlearn' the 2-finger typing methods. By choosing a 'throw-away' language you're not really going to use in your later career, you provide the opportunity for a clean break into a new language once you begin understanding things like time complexity, memory management/requirements, algorithms, etc.

So, when it comes to teaching a programming language at school - I will gladly support teaching a 'teaching language' as opposed to a 'real world' language.

Functional programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190804)

Around here they teach functional programming in the introductory course at many schools. Functional programming makes you think a bit differently from the start, and since most students with prior programming experience don't have experience with functional programming, everybody gets to learn something new.

That's a travesty (2, Insightful)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190806)

They should have dropped VB and PHP, maybe also drop delphi and introduce Ruby.

Re:That's a travesty (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190998)

VB I agree with as we see it replaced with HTML/JS/Scripting Language of Choice for most form apps. Ruby, I still fail to see the allure. We had developers swearing it was the NEXT BIG THING and wanting to use it for everything a couple years ago. We stuck with Java, Perl and PHP and I don't even hear Ruby brought up much in development meetings anymore. Our interns had no problems finding jobs after graduating. Those that took internships & jobs at the two "Ruby Shops" in town had problems after graduating.. (In fact those Ruby Shops are now defunct and out of business). I don't think it's a problem with Ruby per sue, but those shops were always "look at this cool new shiny project we're doing" and always seemed to run into problems when it came time to scale into production.

Atleast they still allow Java (3, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190808)

I'm not particularly fond of Java, but atleast hey have ONE alternative that is widely used in in the industry.

VB6 and delphi are dying languages as far as employment opportunities are concerned and Python isn't nearly as popular as PHP. I think VB.NET could get you a low-paying entry-level job though.

The common denominator of the allowed languages is that they do not allow low-level programming. C may not be the most common language in the industry, but it gives you a great foundation in understanding what actually happens inside all those object, libraries and frameworks.

This move is endumbening students ;)

Re:Atleast they still allow Java (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190886)

On the one hand, Java uses pretty much the same object model as Pascal/Delphi (single inheritance, interfaces). On the other hand, unlike in Java you can program at the same low level in Pascal/Delphi as in C if you want to (yes, Pascal/Delphi has pointers, and you can also do pointer arithmetic if you want to). So I'd disagree with your claim that none of the allowed languages allow low-level programming.

Delphi = Betamax (1)

freddled (544384) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190824)

Delphi suffers the curse of being so 'beautifully engineered' that its fans assumed that it would carry all before it and can't understand why it didn't. Remember Betamax? Remember the DeLorean? Jo Public doesn't care about the nth percentile of engineering perfection, Jo cares about getting the job done. I've been a Delphi lead for over 10 years and I can't get a job so I'm learning C# instead. Personally I think C# is inferior in some respects but it wins out because it is designed to solve the real-life everyday problem of getting code out of the door.

The lowest common denominator (0, Flamebait)

mrsam (12205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190854)

Gee, what do these have in common: "Java, Pascal/Delphi, Python 2.6, Python 3.1, Visual Basic 6, and VB.Net 2008".

That's right, managed code. Or a comparable facsimile thereof.

That's right, boys and girls. Forget about wasting time learning such useless concepts as proper memory management, or such useless fundamental concepts as the heap, the stack, etc... Just slap together a bunch of code, and it'll run just fine. No sweat. Dumb things down, so that everyone can now be a soooper hacker!

If I was living in UK right now, I'll be celebrating right now. It's clear as day this will result in the schools will now start churning out masses of wide-eyed ignoramuses who will go forth and start churning out volumes of code which they won't really understand themselves. Perpetual job security for me, AFAIK.

Re:The lowest common denominator (2, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190976)

You don't seem to be familiar with Pascal/Delphi. It has manual memory management, differentiates between the stack and the heap, has pointers, etc.

C is a terrible learning language (2, Insightful)

anti-NAT (709310) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190856)

No array bounding, no memory protection, casts all over the place without any errors, subtleties like '==' vs '='. C is a language for people who already know how to program (well), not those who're learning.

I like C a lot, however I'd hate to have learned to program in it. Fortunately I'd learned and had a strong foundation in Pascal first.

Re:C is a terrible learning language (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190910)

The point of C as a teaching language is that hardware does not bound arrays, it does not protect memory, all data is just bits and can be arbitrarily converted to anything (even if it makes no sense to do so).

Basically, if you grok C then you are an effective programmer but if you can only program in a "safe" language then you likely don't understand how anything works and it all seems 'like magic' and there's already enough pseudo-science in the world.

(Of course, whether you should choose to keep using C after you understand the concepts is a different question)

void free(void* ptr) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190864)

Now that C is gone, I guess they think it will 'free' more for other languages. Too bad when they learn it doesn't 'return' anything!

Thanks! I'll be here all night.

Try Scheme, or Haskell (2, Informative)

surelars (573834) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190870)

If you really want a language "designed to teach programming and problem-solving", try Scheme or Haskell. Those are truly stable languages that will help students learn sound computer science principles, basic data structures, and programming principles.

Once that's in place, learning a "real-world" programming language is straightforward. No programmer should master only a single language.

And, yeah - C wouldn't be my choice for a first programming language either.

A UK Teacher writes (1)

autismuk (715182) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190874)

Anyone who is surprised at this has no idea how poor the standard of the average A-Level candidate is in the UK. Some - the better ones - can just about cope with the "paint the screen form and attach events" model in VB 6. Not the VB.Net Object version, that's just way beyond the ability of most ; Java likewise - beyond "Hello World". Most teachers can't do program either beyond the trivial level, so their pupils don't have much chance of learning it.

No more C? (2)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190876)

People no longer learning C programming?

More work for me! :)

A-level == first year of study? (2, Informative)

gnalle (125916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190950)

I think that the article describes which language that students learn during their first year of study. They can learn C afterwards.

Re:A-level == first year of study? (1)

nighty5 (615965) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191010)

Mod this up.

Re:A-level first year of study? (2, Informative)

Grundlefleck (1110925) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191050)

GP is almost right. A-Level is lower, or lesser, than the first level of study at university. It is the culminating level for high school students. Unless other posters here expect high school graduates (at approx. age 18) to enter the university graduate market (without those 3-4 years of university learning), then none of them have grasped this.

A-Level, not Degree (3, Informative)

mccalli (323026) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190900)

For those who don't know, these are 16-18 year olds typically and they would normally be using these exams as a stepping stone to University. They wouldn't be computer science specialists at this point.

At this level, I agree with the decision. You're looking for aptitude and interest at this stage, not machine specifics. Pascal is a good language for expressing and solving problems and was enough to get my attention when I was doing A Levels twenty years back - in Turbo Pascal.

Cheers,
Ian

Remember this is only A-level (4, Informative)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190902)

For those outside the UK, that's the two optional years for 16-18 year olds at the end of secondary school. They're not churning out qualified programmers, they're churning out people who have a basic idea of what programming is and might want to pursue it at university. When I did the AQA Computing A-Level we were taught QBASIC and VBA. It didn't stunt my career too much.

get this into your bloody eu heads (1, Insightful)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190912)

if you can't write c, you are not a programmer.

Re:get this into your bloody eu heads (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191058)

It's difficult for some kids to get their start with C -- it's difficult to wrap their head around. Pointers really mess with some students... You can start with something else and then transition them to C like languages once they have the basics down, and still end up with competent programmers.

What are you actually teaching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190928)

If you're teaching algorithms and problem solving, then I guess that a 'teaching language' is ok.

If you're teaching professional programmers, you should be teaching languages that are actually used: C, Java, C++, etc. Most computer programs don't involve a lot of deep thinking or sophisticated algorithms. According to the bureau of labor statistics the skill that is most valued is the ability to integrate systems.

The ironic thing is that whenever I have seen sophisticated algorithms in action the program involved was written in C. People worry about the efficiency of device drivers and kernel stuff but almost never worry about the efficiency of their Python code.

The problem solving taught using Pascal has little relevance to the kind of problem where you have to spend a lot of time tweaking an algorithm for more efficiency.

It could be worse... (1)

gnalre (323830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190932)

The open university are going to move there beginning programming course from javascript to scratch(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scratch_%28programming_language%29)

Computer Science != Programming (4, Insightful)

mattsday (909414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190936)

I think the common interpretation of Computer Science is extremely misleading. It's not about programming stuff, that's more of an IT application of computers. Instead, it's about understanding the science behind computers, for example to understand the mathematical principals of computing, operational effeciency and move it on as a tool for scientific endevour.

To this end, the choice of programming language really doesn't matter - it's a tool that the subject uses either as a proof of concept or a learning point. C is fairly good for this as it exposes a lot of the inner workings of a computer, whilst being high enough level to be more or less consistent across platforms at a university level. However, that doesn't mean that knocking up a quick proof of concept in python or perl is less valid - or even visual basic if it helps understand the science behind the problem.

In other words, I see no real worry here. If they stopped putting mathematics in a CS course or made it in to a programming degree I'd be concerned. If it's about using various tools for the job then I'm all for it. Hell, I wrote a pascal compiler in pascal as part of my degree - it wasn't about the programming language, it was about understanding the fundamentals of compiler design and implementation.

My learning curve... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190962)

GW BASIC: This got me the basics of how to program. I was simply thrilled to see computer obeying my BASIC instructions over and over again, thus creating some beautiful and meaningful commands
C: I hated moving to this language. The curly braces looked ugly and #includes made no sense at all. The only reason I continued was because I learned that this is one useful language to program Computer Games
C++: C++ sucked. Big time. Long Time. Now I am in love with this language.

Bottom line: Have a simple language to get used to the programming world. Then you can move to any other language (based on your personal preference or market driven)

Computer Science, not Computer Programming (1)

amw (636271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32190992)

Firstly, the A level is in Computer Science, not Computer Programming. The students aren't there to learn how to program for later commercial use, they are there to learn how computers work and are used. Programming is just one part of the course, and one of a number of areas of assessment.

Secondly, a lot of people - many of whom, I assume, are experienced programmers - seem to be focussing specifically on which would be the best language to learn for themselves, rather than putting themselves in the position of a 16-year-old who had never programmed before. On my course[1], we were taught Turbo Pascal[2]; however, I remember Logo also being studied. Not because we would ever use Logo in anything other than an academic environment, but because most of the students were programming novices and needed to learn concepts, not code.

Show these people C, they would have run a mile: for complete novices, the syntax can seem very intimidating. Show them Pascal, they might actually realise that programming isn't as scary as they thought and consider learning C at a later date.

[1] Between 1991 and 1993.
[2] How well it was taught, I don't know; those of us who already understood programming were allowed to skip those lessons.

RE: C is a terrible learning language (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32190994)

Agreed. We had a horrid time in college (UK) - the first year we were taught C++ (which about 3 of the 25 managed to get a grasp of). The second year the college forced us to instead do VB6, and we can all guess what effect that had...
It would be much better for students (and future prospects for any UK programmers) if they chucked VB6 also. Perhaps for some .net language.

That's awesome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191014)

When I was in University, we learned Sather-K for object oriented programming, then Gofer for functional programming, then Smalltalk for a practical robotics class. I had done an internship before which required COBOL and RPG/400. When I then started my first real job (still at University), C knowledge was a requirement. It took me about week to learn C. I also already knew so many idioms from the other languages that I could bring experience to the table that other people (who had learned C far earlier than me, but only C) just didn't have. The experience with the other languages has been an incredible help over the years. I think knowledge of a specific language is much less important than knowledge of expressions and idioms.

Learning as many languages as you can is a very good idea to help you grow as a programmer. University can help here by requiring languages that aren't usable in the "real world".

Who are you going to hire? (1)

OutOfMyTree (810249) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191016)

LOL! Some wonderful comments here. Your concern for the employers hiring programmers of below average intelligence on the basis of their school qualifications alone is admirable, but there are few organisations in the UK doing that.

Or maybe people are not noticing that this is a school qualification in a country where there is a stated aim of 50% of young people going on to university? So, OK, it is more like 40% in practice. But do employers really employ school-leavers as programmers expecting them to be ready for work without further training? Not unless the kids have substantial extra experience.

Also, this is about a school-level academic qualification with the assessment set nationally -- but there are other similarly national qualifications for the age group that are designed to be vocational, more closely adapted to the needs of work. This one is not what a schoolkid would take if they wanted to go straight into a job.

Hmmmm (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191044)

This is a triumph. C will never die, but the more they keep grubby young hands away, the more C programmers will be worth.
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