Re: Arrays in java

Lew <>
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 13:02:06 -0700 (PDT)
Patricia Shanahan wrote:

Lew wrote:
&gt; - I claimed that the JLS is an essential tool to learning Java,
&gt; along with recommending other useful sources. No one
&gt; has even said that it isn&#39;t, much less established that it isn&#39;t.

This seems to assume that there is one thing that can be called
&quot;learning Java&quot;.

I don&#39;t think of knowing a programming language as a binary property,
but in terms of a continuous range of levels of knowledge.

One end of the range is &quot;never even heard of it&quot;. At the other end of
the range is the sort of knowledge that James Gosling has for Java, or
Bjarne Stroustrup for C++.

The highest level of language knowledge I&#39;ve ever achieved for any
language is that needed to produce a working implementation on a real
computer, which I&#39;ve only done for K&amp;R C and Fortran 77. That requires
familiarity with the language&#39;s defining documents as well as full,
detailed understanding of how it really works. I don&#39;t have quite that
level of knowledge for Java.

What does &quot;learning Java&quot; mean in the context of a beginner? I suggest
that a reasonable default is &quot;know the language well enough to write
professional quality code in it&quot;.

Putting it in the context of this thread, I would say it includes
knowing that &quot;int[] productIDs = {10,20,30};&quot; is normal code to declare
an array reference and initialize it. I am not sure it includes knowing
which weird arrangements of &quot;[]&quot; placement are permitted for
multi-dimensional arrays.

I contend that reading the JLS is not necessary for that level of
knowledge of Java. Reading good secondary sources is likely to be more

&gt; - I claimed that actively discouraging newbies (or anyone
&gt; else) from studying the JLS is a disservice to their learning
&gt; and professional progress. No one has addressed this point.

I strongly disagree. I was already a very experienced programmer in
several languages, and had studied the defining documents for some of
them, when Java was developed, but I can imagine facing
learning Java as a beginning programmer. If, as a beginner, I had
thought that understanding something like JLS section 17.4,,
were necessary to learn Java, I would have abandoned the attempt in
favor of some language that could be learned using only simpler, more
readable, materials.

I disagree partially with your points, but they are cogent and well supported.

I don't believe a beginner should rely on the JLS to learn the language, as I
have stated many times. I do agree that the JLS can be rather daunting, at first,
and like any other specification is in some places just a bit thick, but as specs
go it really is comparatively clear, and parts are as baldly and simply stated as
anyone could wish.

The problem is that without an awareness of the JLS, one can be misled by
inaccurate or incomplete information from secondary and tertiary sources.
Many of the discussions are prime examples, and the ones where one reference
specific JLS passages, they tend to unequivocally settle issues of Java fact.

To actively discourage newbies from studying the JLS is to limit them. This
is different from simply not recommending the JLS as a beginner's tool.
Even new Java programmers at a minimum need to know that the JLS
exists, and that it is the authority, and that should they really, really wish
final resolution to certain questions, it is found there. They should have
it as a goal to be able to use it.

I started using the JLS very early in my Java career, and it has never
given me cause to regret that choice.

I also assert that it isn't anywhere near as impossible as all the fear-
mongers claim, except in some few parts. Regardless, I respect your
conclusions, even the ones with which I disagree.

Bottom line, I go with something like glen herrmannsfeldt's idea, that
for each Java programmer there comes a time when it makes sense
to use the JLS. The earlier one knows that the JLS option exists, the
more power one has to exercise choice over gaining that next,
minimum level of Java programming capability.


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