[erlang-questions] "Erlang as a First Language" -- crazy? or just stupid?

egarrulo <>
Sun Dec 20 09:09:34 CET 2009

Erlang is not suitable for beginners. The language is simple enough, however
tool support and API documentation aren't.

THE language for beginners is Scheme, and DrScheme is the tool of choice for
teaching or learning it. People use DrScheme for commercial development

Second (distant) choice would be Python.

2009/12/20 Michael Turner <>

> That's what I'm wondering.  I'm holding out for a possible Answer #3:
> "Sure, at least if they are smart enough."
> I might have "smart enough" covered.  I'm working on a project in the
> overlap between cognitive science and linguistics.  These people aren't
> necessarily math-heavy (on the linguistics side, anyway), but they can
> tolerate odd notations, abstruse jargon and fine conceptual distinctions
> that would evoke only dread, if not nausea, in ordinary folk.
> I've been evaluating Erlang for this project in the only way I think
> possible: after having identified what's important and what's not in a
> language/system for this project, and seeing that Erlang roughly matches
> up, I started writing modeling code.
> Here's where the matchup is clearly bad, from a lifecycle point of view:
> Erlang is still a small minority language.  Sure, it's possible that a
> mini-gold-rush is starting for it, and if so, that's good for Erlang,
> mid- to long-term. But in my experience, the sudden appearance of money
> can make the programmer supply situation worse in research circles:
> hackers in academia start getting head-hunted ferociously.  What I'm
> working on is likely to remain a lab creature for years, if it's viable
> at all.  Somebody besides me has got to be able to support it,
> eventually if not sooner.  So I'm thinking maybe the more adept users
> might be good candidates for the role of programmers as well.
> But you see the problem: it might mean that Erlang is effectively their
> first language.  Maybe they had a little exposure in high school or an
> elementary programming course in college.  At most.  And maybe that
> experience even turned them off a little.
> What are the first-language learnability issues with Erlang?  I'm poorly
> qualified to think about this.  Although I wouldn't say I learn
> programming languages quickly, I don't have major blocks either.  Over
> the last 40 years, I've probably written something more significant
> than "Hello, world" in more languages than I have fingers.  When I run
> across a term like "atom", I think, "probably lisp-like", and I'm
> off to the races.  I never really hacked Prolog, but having done it a
> little helped a lot with with Erlang.  Even Pascal helped: that nagging
> little terminator-vs-separator distinction with semicolons and whatnot
> had migrated up into my ulnar tendons since college (so *that's* why
> they hurt sometimes!), but made it back down to my fingers pretty
> quickly when called.  So taking up Erlang in my mid-fifties is only
> making me think, "Why didn't I start with it before my hair went
> totally grey?"
> Maybe this isn't the best list for asking this question, because
> probably most of you are like me anyway, in spirit if not in age.  But I
> can't think where else to ask.
> -michael turner
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