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Up Front

Seven Languages in Eighteen Questions

by Michael Swaine

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In The Pragmatic Programmer, Dave and Andy recommend learning a new programming language every year. In Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, Bruce Tate cranks the challenge up several notches.

Why would you want to take on Bruce’s challenge? Well, he points out that by learning several languages one right after another, you have an unparalleled opportunity to compare them side-by-side. Which can be highly enlightening. Plus, and this is perhaps even better, you may learn something about learning a language, so that the next time you need to learn a new language, you’ll be able to get to competence quickly and efficiently.

That’s the premise of Bruce’s book, but the tricky part for the author is that he also has to learn seven languages in a very short time, learn them well enough that he can teach them. Well enough that he can devise good example programs that capture the unique aspects of each language, that are challenging enough to provide a good learning experience, and that run error-free.

I wanted to know how he accomplished that, and I found out in this issue’s interview.

Also in this issue are an article by Brian Tarbox that advocates teaching student programmers with unfair assignments, another history feature by Dan Wohlbruck, and an essay on the virtues of mockery by Noel Rappin.

Our columnists are particularly thoughtful this month, with Andy Lester offering advice on how to get that job when the odds are stacked against you in “The Working Geek,” my Swaine’s World column remembering computer pioneer Ed Roberts, and John Shade doing his thing.

And there’s more. You can see where our authors are appearing and track other events of interest in our Events Calendar. You can test your wits against our monthly Quiz, which this time searches for meaning in bizarre headlines. And our Choice Bits department serves up some tasty morsels from the Twitterverse.