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About programming

Programming languages are intrinsically difficult - for they must mediate between the natural language of human users of computers, in a formalism that is simple enough to be processed by a computing machine, yet similar enough to a human language to be used and read and indeed programmed by human users. Also, the language of Squeak is different from other programming languages and is used in a different - and unique - kind of programming environment, which is the Squeak you use and work with.

There is a good and free general introduction to computers and programming called "Tools for Thought", by Howard Rheinberger, that can be found on the internet and is well worth perusing. The best general introduction in terms of mathematical and logical ideas that I know is Marvin Minsky's "Finite and Infinite Machines", that explains computing machinery from the bottom up.

To read the rest of this section with profit it is probably necessary that you are somewhat familiar with programming in some language and are familiar with working with computers. Since we are talking about programming in Squeak and/or Smalltalk, it will help you a lot if you run through most of the internet-sites referenced in Useful Internetlinks since each gives information that may be quite useful to you.

Especially useful is Free books on the website of prof.dr. Stéphane Ducasse at Berne University, Switzerland. (http://www.iam.unibe.ch/~ducasse/WebPages/FreeBooks.html), where you can find 10 books about programming in Smalltalk in pdf-format.

Programming as moral lesson and as fun

If you are reading this text, then you probably believe about yourself that you, dear reader, are not particularly stupid. No doubt you are right - but one of the many good things about programming is that it shows you how "human-all-too-human" it is to make mistakes, and that programming shows you this about your own code, in the privacy of your own house, as reminder that you too are human, and that you too may err, and indeed often do.

So one reason why learning to program is a good moral lesson is that it shows you how fallible you are, and that it teaches you to cope with frustration and to solve problems by persevering in rational thinking.

Even so, unless you are a masochist, you also like your code to be clear, readable and short and you like the writing of your code to be mostly easy and to happen fast. Well, in spite of the fact that programming languages really are intrinsically difficult, for the reason explained above, the good news is that programming in Squeak or Smalltalk - once you've passed the initial hurdles - is easier, faster and far more fun than programming in other languages.

You don't need to believe this, but if you don't, then you should take some serious trouble to test my claim. And if you do believe this, then obviously you are willing to take some serious trouble to learn Squeak. In any case, speaking for myself, with experience in Basic, Pascal, Assembler, C, Prolog, Delphi, Java and Python, this is definitely true, and I much rather program in a Smalltalk or Squeak environment than in any other.

The reason is that the environment of Squeak is far more powerful and pleasant, and the code needed to solve my programming problems nearly always shorter and clearer than in other languages.

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