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Perl.com: Teaching Perl to First-Time Programmers

Nov 18, 1999, 23:13 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nathan Torkington)

"One of the criticisms often leveled against Perl is that it's too big and too complicated for people who haven't programmed before. Simon Cozens disagrees. He teaches Perl to first-time programmers, and says, "Perl is an ideal first programming language."

"Cozens is a linguist who has taught both formal and informal classes in Perl to people with a range of programming experience. He found that beginning programmers took quickly to Perl because "it allows you to express yourself naturally." For instance, the automatic conversion between string and numeric types is what non-programmers expect: the string "3" doesn't mean 51; it means 3. And if you add "4" to it, you expect to get "7" back...."

"Even things like regular expressions work well for beginners, says Cozens. "They're wonderful because people don't think of text or data in character-by-character terms. They see the whole lot at once, and they look for patterns in the string; that's the way the brain operates. Regular expressions work the way people do; you quite naturally say things like, 'I want to find these characters, but only at the beginning of the string,' or 'Find three numbers, a space, and three letters,' and these translate very easily into regular expressions."

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