Friday, June 22, 2007

Suggested Reading: "Rich Programmer Food"

Steve Yegge: "Rich Programming Food", in which Steve explains why Compilers is the second most important course you can take as a computer science major, and should be required in any self-respecting computer science curriculum. I couldn't agree more.

I had to fight the temptation to label this "Required Reading", because I know that some of you who follow this link will be turned off by Steve's style, which I appreciate but which even I find a bit rambly at times. And I expect that his sense of humor, which resonates with mine and I therefore appreciate, is not for everyone.

But I do consider this worth a read, primarily because I whole-heartedly agree with Steve's contention that knowing how compilers work is key to understanding computer science. It is also, not coincidentally, key to getting better as a programmer.

I used to think that those two concepts were largely orthogonal. I still believe it's possible to be a successful programmer in industry without a good understanding of computer science. I myself have managed nearly 20 years of gainful employment on the strength of a computer science degree, some native ability, and the credibility that naturally goes with that much experience.

But it's been only recently that I've really started to get it, to understand the why's and wherefore's. Understanding state machines, and parse trees, and Big-O notation, and ... all that stuff I couldn't be bothered with as an undergrad ... understanding it as a grad student has made my life as a professional programmer a lot easier.

If you do follow the link, prepare to be challenged. And even if you don't make it all the way through the post, make sure to scroll down to the bottom for the punch line. Again -- I couldn't agree more.

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