This is the same as human languages
Posted Nov 5, 2011 0:16 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata
In reply to: This is the same as human languages
Parent article: Quote of the week
I found that "computer languages" and "human languages" share more then just the second word. The same principles work in both cases.
I agree. But the weakest human language outstrips the most powerful computer language in one area: the ability to express abstraction (and for an obvious reason - it would not survive the concomitant imprecision). And here, we're not talking about computer languages in general, but a particularly low level one: C.
As long as you try to use "first translate the sentence, then understand it" ...
Agreed, and let me be clear on my process: I don't translate each line of C into a line of English. That would be ridiculous (though it is a popular style, especially among assembly language programmers). I translate maybe 50 lines of code into a few sentences. It's that abstraction that many C programmers appear to eschew. They can read the 50 precise lines more easily than the few abstract sentences.
Why would you want to do that? There are about 600'000 lines of code in Mplayer. Your abstract only includes 1300 lines. Basically only few lines per file. This is useful thing to have - but why will you need to disperse all this succinct knowledge in large mass of highly detailed C code?
I've never looked at most of those 600,000 lines. My 1300 lines covers a small fraction of them, and if I were to put them into the code as comments, they would show up as e.g. 20 lines at the top of a 300 line subroutine telling what it does or 10 lines below a variable declaration telling what its value means. Maybe 5 paragraphs at the top of the cache subsystem file explaining what the cache subsystem is and how it works. Since I do have to read some of the individual lines of code, it's easiest to have the English adjacent to them to this degree.
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