[antlr-interest] Revamping languages education? [was: ambigous lexer tokens]

Terence Parr parrt at cs.usfca.edu
Thu Jun 28 09:56:12 PDT 2007

On Jun 28, 2007, at 9:07 AM, Wincent Colaiuta wrote:

> El 28/6/2007, a las 17:10, Jim Idle escribió:
>> But you cannot just go barging in on it - first you have to learn  
>> what
>> the expectations are. The tool is a complicated to thing to  
>> produce, but
>> once you have your head around a few concepts it is remarkably  
>> easy to
>> use.
> Hmmm... But Jim, don't forget that as the C target author you're  
> speaking as one of the foremost ANTLR experts... Who knows more  
> about ANTLR than you? Ter and very few others, if any... So for you  
> it doubtlessly is "remarkably easy". But looking at the large  
> number of questions from puzzled people posted to this mailing list  
> (I include myself in the puzzled group more often than not) I think  
> it's clear that ANTLR is a very tricky best, even for those who've  
> read the book (like me... more than once!).

Hi everyone...[back from Australia with huge jetlag and a cold] ;)

I think the real issue here may be the way we educate computer  
scientists.  Personally, I am unaware of a non-PhD building compilers  
(i.e., almost no one builds compilers these days) and I think real  
compiler courses should be left to graduate school.  This has nothing  
to do with elitism or whatever, it's a specialization / market share  
issue.  What almost all coders actually need to build everyday are  
data readers, config files, DSLs, network protocols, etc...  We need  
to revamp education to take this market reality into account.  I hope  
to do another ANTLR book real quick and then a languages textbook  
during my sabbatical.  In this book, I would start at "getchar" and  
work my way through the key concepts and discuss the merits of the  
various approaches to language translation etc...  I still think a  
bit of code gen (byte codes or simple register code) is useful so  
coders know how compilers work, but I'd like to shift the focus.   
This book should also help those who are self-taught coders, a large  

Anyway, i'll investigate language education again when I do my grad  
class Spring 2008.  In the meantime, I encourage you to soldier on.   
Language concepts and ANTLR can be tricky at first, but usually there  
is an "ah ha!" moment, which I think is what Jim is alluding to.

Tired in San Francisco,

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