Python is the new BASIC

This is not an original blog post title. Others have said the same thing, followed by a post body saying 'but I don't mean that in a disparaging way'. Let's get one thing clear. I mean this in a disparaging way.

Ok, it is a good beginner's language. And unlike Dijkstra thought about BASIC, you can learn it as your first language, and you won't be scarred forever (just like BASIC). However, you will eventually need to move on from this language and be rehabilitated into society before you can be fixed up. You need to acknowledge that it's not a real language, and so few Python programmers admit this. :p

The problems I have with the language are, basically, that it's a dynamically-typed grab bag of ideas from all over the place. So, its core design isn't particularly coherent. As the ideas were copied without real understanding, they're done wrong, and there are unpleasant bodges. Dynamic typing means there are whole classes of error you can pointlessly leave in, waiting for the appropriate runtime failure. Yeah, you can do insane amounts of testing and run other tools, but... a solid, static type-check from the get go is just so much cleaner and safer. And that matters.

The problems I have with Python programmers is that they think they know something. The language is neither low-level, nor cutting edge. It doesn't show you the hardware, or bring you to neat theory. It just gets the job done, and because it's so pragmatic, it gets the job done badly. So Python programmers, having chosen this particular sub-optimal point in the space of programming languages for themselves, are either ignorant or deluded.

(I'm still programming Haskell for my day job. It's an impractical and basically ludicrous language. However, the right language doesn't exist, and it certainly doesn't have an excellent compiler and set of libraries. In the meantime, I love Haskell.)

Posted 2009-12-22.