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'[EE] Language choice'
2008\03\28@181903 by Dr Skip

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A question for this learned group on software engineering...

If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-to-be
(maybe software engineer or maybe hardware) to study before college, what would
it be given the following criteria? The selection shouldn't be based on
educational merits per se, but on usefulness to one's career, conformance to
current programming philosophies, availability (open, free, etc), ease of
picking it up (good dev environment), and it's ability for rapid development
(prefer something that will do console and windowed apps). The programming
environment and language should be free/open and can be run on Linux AND
Windows. Ability to create an exe as opposed to interpreted is preferred, and
stability ranks high too.

Some of those criteria may not seem important in an educational setting, but
they are to a young self-educational setting... ;)

Just to start the thinking off, I'll comment on a few choices.

C - while good all around, is long in the tooth and not the easiest to pick up
and use, especially in a windows env.

C++ - better, but more complex and like C, not a rapid dev env.

VB - rapid and easy to pick up and do something useful, can make exe's, but
Windows only, now only .NET (.NET=bad), and the language isn't exactly mainstream.

I was thinking the field might consist of Perl, Ruby, Python, etc, but will
leave it to you to choose. I've used Fortran, C, Pascal, Basic, Smalltalk,
LISP, and a few others and I would also not suggest them (nor COBOL ;). Think
in terms of keeping him on the right track from a programming/engineering
perspective and when he gets out in 5-6 years ;) whatever it is will still be
'current' and the 5-6 years he's played with it will be useful experience and
good for the resume...

TIA,
Skip

2008\03\28@185105 by Marcel Birthelmer

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I think Python would be a decent choice. There are a few good GUI libraries
out there (wxWidgets etc.), and there are plenty of interfaces to different
libraries, hardware, etc. (though I realize that's probably not that
interesting for a beginner). Also, there are a ton of tutorials for starting
programming with python.
Regards,
- Marcel

On Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 3:19 PM, Dr Skip <spam_OUTdrskipTakeThisOuTspamgmail.com> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2008\03\28@203936 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Mar 28, 2008, at 3:19 PM, Dr Skip wrote:
> If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-
> to-be to study before college, what would it be ...

I didn't see Java on either your "maybe" or "reject" list?

Alas, writing GUI apps seems to be more about familiarizing yourself  
with a set of libraries (or "classes") than mastering the language  
itself.

You didn't mention Basic-like languages other than VB: RealBasic for  
instance (not free, but not too expensive, either...)

BillW

2008\03\28@211907 by Bob Blick

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Gambas is quite mature on Linux, and attempts are being made to port it
to Windows, but it is so much like VB6 already that porting between the
two is not too bad.

Cheerful regards,
Bob


William "Chops" Westfield wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2008\03\28@212319 by sergio masci

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On Fri, 28 Mar 2008, Dr Skip wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Forget language what you need is something that will train your student to
think logically, decompose a problem into steps without taking things for
granted, and ultimately build self disceplin and avoid dangerous short
cuts.

I belive programming will change greatly over next 10 - 15 years primarily
because the lanuages available today are inadiquate to allow compilers to
build executables that take advantage of the growing amount of parallelism
and huge amounts of memory available. Yes there are libraries that allow
you to do multithreading but compilers could produce MUCH more efficient
code if they know more about what the programmer is actually trying to do
rather than be blinded by the wall that is the library interface.

As an example take a structure. Here you gather together items that
logically belong together. To process an array of structures you would use
some kind of loop and an index. In doing this you prevent the compiler
from automatically arranging variables for optimum runtime memory access.
In short the CPU cache is trying to compensate for random access. If the
language were more feature rich (say support structures with an anonymous
layout) and the compiler more intelligent such that it could schedule
blocks of RAM for high speed access (e.g. load whole pages into the cache
in one go) then you would achive much better optimisation (probably at the
expense of larger runtime footprint - but who cares).

So I belive the best you can possibly do for this student is start him/her
off on something like C or BASIC. Learn the underlying skills, maybe
progress to assember just to really drive the leasons home and don't
worry about which language will be in fashion later on.

And please don't listen to all this rubish about learning BASIC being a
handicap. Yes an unstructured version will let you do lots of horrible
things but learning what these horrible things are is a part of learning
how to do things right and building the self disceplin I was talking
about.

Regards
Sergio Masci

2008\03\28@213032 by Xiaofan Chen

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On Sat, Mar 29, 2008 at 8:39 AM, William Chops Westfield <.....westfwKILLspamspam@spam@mac.com> wrote:
>
> On Mar 28, 2008, at 3:19 PM, Dr Skip wrote:
> > If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-
> > to-be to study before college, what would it be ...
>
> I didn't see Java on either your "maybe" or "reject" list?

I do not know much about programming but the fashion seems to be
C# and Java and those script language like Perl/Python/Php/Ruby.

But for hardware interfacing, C++ seems to be better. C# is not
too bad. Java seems to be the worst based on the feedbacks
on the web.

If you really want cross-platform and hardware interfacing, then
it seems none of the above are good enough compare to C/C++.
But Python seems to be the better one compare to Java,
Php and Ruby.

Xiaofan (who is *still* reading "Microsoft Visual C# 2005 Express
Edition programming for the Absolute Beginner", its C++
counterpart and a bit of Python now after so many years...)

2008\03\28@213039 by Dr Skip

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Ah, well Java might be good, but all I've seen are interpreted apps (via the
JVM). I'll admit I don't know the whole 'cup' of Java ;) though...

I also am not familiar with a lot of robust, well featured, BASICs that
generate single executables, are not interpreted, and are cross platform. Plus,
Basic, depending on the dialect, tends to allow anything in the way of
programming and isn't object oriented. I suspect OO is still the big thing,
isn't it?

As this is his first serious programming learnin' (he's a real beginner with
Perl and Basic so far, but he needs to focus on one thing and decide which that
will be), something with constraints that might keep his head in the right
direction would be preferable. Otherwise I'd bet "GOTO" will creep into the
code somewhere... ;) And "5 yrs in BASIC programming" isn't what it used to be
on the resume! ;)

10 yrs ago I would have bet on Perl, but while it's really cool and useful, it
is limited. A gui and open compiler might have changed that, and it's not the
easiest to get good at. Java might be good, but what about development
environments? From what I've seen, a good graphical programming environment
lets the beginner start quickly, and if the language is logical and reasonable
underneath, they gradually move to an editor to code. Insulating the app from
the gui seems to be important. With C, that's impossible. VB or Delphi do a
good job. I don't know about Java. I also haven't seen many big apps, more like
applets. It makes me wonder how big one can go there.



William "Chops" Westfield wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2008\03\28@214036 by Dr Skip

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That looks interesting! Too bad there isn't a Windows version yet.

I've found that Qt or Gtk apps on Windows look 'bad'. I'm not into themes or
fancy graphics either, but these apps seem to look like they are from a Windows
version way back... It could be the programmer though, just an observation.

I may get Gambas to play with personally... Thanks.



Bob Blick wrote:
> Gambas is quite mature on Linux, and attempts are being made to port it
> to Windows, but it is so much like VB6 already that porting between the
> two is not too bad.
>
> Cheerful regards,
> Bob
>
>
> William "Chops" Westfield wrote:

2008\03\28@214300 by piclist

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On Fri, 28 Mar 2008, Dr Skip wrote:
> 10 yrs ago I would have bet on Perl, but while it's really cool and useful, it
> is limited. A gui and open compiler might have changed that, and it's not the
> easiest to get good at.

Perl is pretty fast with most things, and doesn't really need a compiler.

What kept it from taking over is no standard 'runtime' enviroment for
people to load so they can run perl applications.  If you want to write
stuff for peopel in Perl on Windows, you have to make sure they install
and configure their Perl instalation right and thats not always simple,
especially when you start needing various packages installed too.

Anyways, C and C++ arr never bad languages to learn for an engineer.  Lots
of embedded stuff uses them, thewre are great IDEs for them, and what you
learn will make learning other languages easier.

--
Ian Smith

2008\03\28@214712 by Cedric Chang

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{Quote hidden}

I recommend spending some time learning Forth and learning how the  
hard links to the soft.  Of course if the student never plans to  
understand hardware, you can skip my suggestion.
cc

2008\03\28@215014 by Cedric Chang

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RealBasic can be had for free in the Linux version and it is pretty  
handy for many things.
http://realbasic.com/
cc


{Quote hidden}

> --

2008\03\28@215132 by Cedric Chang

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There is a Linux version of RealBasic that is free.
cc

> On Mar 28, 2008, at 6:39 PM, William "Chops" Westfield wrote:
>
> On Mar 28, 2008, at 3:19 PM, Dr Skip wrote:
>> If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-
>> to-be to study before college, what would it be ...
>
> I didn't see Java on either your "maybe" or "reject" list?
>
> Alas, writing GUI apps seems to be more about familiarizing yourself
> with a set of libraries (or "classes") than mastering the language
> itself.
>
> You didn't mention Basic-like languages other than VB: RealBasic for
> instance (not free, but not too expensive, either...)
>
> BillW
>
> --

2008\03\28@222605 by Dr Skip

picon face
I would agree. It's sounding like Basic isn't the bad word it used to be too...

If he spent all of his time doing things in basic, even writing shareware type
things, in 6 yrs would it be something to be proud of professionally, or would
a hiring company consider it hobby-ish? I know in some parts it would be OK,
but I'm thinking mainstream. For instance, maybe C++ is the eventual way to go,
but it's tough to self teach that (what he'll be doing), even though it would
look good on the resume at any time. I figure he'll stick with it and take it
up in college if he can do real things with it, get a grasp on it quickly, and
see there's a future in it and that the education isn't just 'theoretical'.
Payback in multiple ways too.

I'll guide him on the problems, but the language could be anything. Creating
useful real apps can be quite motivating. Having lots of demand for that
particular language when he gets out will be motivating...


sergio masci wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2008\03\28@230255 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Mar 28, 2008, at 6:50 PM, Cedric Chang wrote:
> There is a Linux version of RealBasic that is free.

There was an older windows version that was also released for free.
I don't know if it's still downloadable...

However, I have my doubts about trying to do serious learning with
a more-or-less obsolete version of a compiler/etc.  You CAN learn
a lot, of course, but certain things are likely to be a lot more
frustrating than they ought to be (trivial example: being limited
to 8.3 file and directory names...)

BillW

2008\03\28@235759 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face
On Mar 28, 2008, at 7:25 PM, Dr Skip wrote:

> If he spent all of his time doing things in basic, even writing  
> shareware type things, in 6 yrs would it be something to be proud  
> of professionally, or would a hiring company consider it hobby-ish?

Keep in mind that pretty much *my* entire career has been spent  
coding in Fortran, Assembly, and C...

My impression is that there is a significant chunk of 'real  
programming' done today in assorted flavors of basic.  Look at the  
success of the Parallax Basic Stamp, for example, or even the Basic52  
chip that is still sold.  And I think you can write "serious" windows  
apps in VBasic and similar.  It supports the sort of UIs and  
applications that windows users expect to see.  Moreover, other  
languages used for generating windows programs have significant  
similarities.

Now, that said, there is a big difference between one of the Visual  
Basics and Stamp Basic, so if you can write programs in both I'd say  
you know at least two languages.

As a prospective employer, I'd say that I would NOT be terribly  
impressed by someone who had been programming for 6years and only  
knew basic.  I expect a GOOD programmer to have learned principles  
that they can apply in several languages, and in fact I consider the  
principles and the methodology to be the important factor, rather  
than the language.  That implies having enough exposure to multiple  
languages to be able to fact out the common elements.   (And I've  
helped to hire people whose job would be to program in a language  
they had not used much, and been hired myself in a similar  
situation.  At some point, understanding the PROBLEM is more  
important than understanding the tools.)  (This is one of the reasons  
that learning assembly language at some point is so important, IMO.  
Since you immediately lose portability, you are forced to notice the  
similarities and differences of different CPUs.)

You've seen the way PICList members sneer at BASIC compilers for PIC  
(while others defend it...)

I think one of the Basics would be a fine starting point, but should  
be expected to be all you need to know to get a job...

BillW


2008\03\29@002156 by gardenyu

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 I think it really depends on what the kid wanna be in the future.
If he wants to be someone with white shirts and ties and working on the computer all day, i say anything is ok.
But if he wants to be someone who solders, gets electric shocked,  wear T-shirts and blue jeans, I would recommend some embedded softwares like C or assembly.
the best suggestion I have is: I hardly remember anything I learned before college, so enjoy your time when you are still young.


> Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 18:19:00 -0400> From: drskipspamKILLspamgmail.com> To: .....piclistKILLspamspam.....mit.edu> Subject: [EE] Language choice> > A question for this learned group on software engineering...> > If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-to-be > (maybe software engineer or maybe hardware) to study before college, what would > it be given the following criteria? The selection shouldn't be based on > educational merits per se, but on usefulness to one's career, conformance to > current programming philosophies, availability (open, free, etc), ease of > picking it up (good dev environment), and it's ability for rapid development > (prefer something that will do console and windowed apps). The programming > environment and language should be free/open and can be run on Linux AND > Windows. Ability to create an exe as opposed to interpreted is preferred, and > stability ranks high too.> > Some of those criteria may not seem important in an educational setting, but > t
hey are to a young self-educational setting... ;)> > Just to start the thinking off, I'll comment on a few choices.> > C - while good all around, is long in the tooth and not the easiest to pick up > and use, especially in a windows env.> > C++ - better, but more complex and like C, not a rapid dev env.> > VB - rapid and easy to pick up and do something useful, can make exe's, but > Windows only, now only .NET (.NET=bad), and the language isn't exactly mainstream.> > I was thinking the field might consist of Perl, Ruby, Python, etc, but will > leave it to you to choose. I've used Fortran, C, Pascal, Basic, Smalltalk, > LISP, and a few others and I would also not suggest them (nor COBOL ;). Think > in terms of keeping him on the right track from a programming/engineering > perspective and when he gets out in 5-6 years ;) whatever it is will still be > 'current' and the 5-6 years he's played with it will be useful experience and > good for the resume...> > TIA,> Skip> > -- > h
ttp://http://www.piclist.com PIC/SX FAQ & list archive> View/change your membership options at> mailman.mit.edu/mailman/listinfo/piclist
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2008\03\29@024839 by Roy

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A free version of C for windows - I am learning C at the moment and find
it usefull.
http://www.smorgasbordet.com/pellesc/

A free version of basic for windows
http://www.justbasic.com/index.htm
Easy to use and understand. :-)

Regards Roy

2008\03\29@041850 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> If you were to recommend a programming language to a young engineer-to-be
> (maybe software engineer or maybe hardware) to study before college, what would
> it be given the following criteria? The selection shouldn't be based on
> educational merits per se, but on usefulness to one's career, conformance to
> current programming philosophies, availability (open, free, etc), ease of
> picking it up (good dev environment), and it's ability for rapid development
> (prefer something that will do console and windowed apps). The programming
> environment and language should be free/open and can be run on Linux AND
> Windows. Ability to create an exe as opposed to interpreted is preferred, and
> stability ranks high too.

You ask for the golden grail, which AFAIK has not been found yet.

A language that is useful in the hardware/embedded domain is not likely
to be a rapid-development language for windows applications.

The overall most-used language (excluding scientific and banking) is C,
which is not exactly the easiest to learn or the most suitable base for
further learning. But it *is* a stepping stone to C++ or C#.

Ada is probably one of the nicest of all compiled languages, but unless
your career is in military, space, or nuclear applications also the
least used.

I would say that *any* language will do, provided that you/he
concentrates on general programming principles, as opposed to the
specific craziness of the language or library at hand.

For a more electronic/embedded orientation I would suggest C/C++, for a
more windows apps orientation Python. For a radically different view on
programming (I know some universities who start programming this way!)
I'd suggest Haskell or LISP. I have no experience with VB, I guess its
merits are close to Python's, but their user communities seem totally
separate.

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2008\03\29@102107 by Herbert Graf

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On Fri, 2008-03-28 at 18:19 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
{Quote hidden}

C, no question about it in my mind. While it's "long in the tooth" it's
still used ALOT. Certainly in the microcontroller world it's still
pretty much the most dominant language.

Once you know C learning other languages becomes a piece of cake. I'd
recommend starting with C, then getting into C++. From that you've
pretty much automatically learned C# and Java, and even Perl.

Heck, once you know C, learning Verilog becomes much easier.

I'd strongly recommend staying away from Basic until a full grasp of C
is developed. Basic gets one's brain thinking in ways that REALLY make
that brain compatible with other languages. Learning VB AFTER knowing C
is a piece of cake.

As for tools, GCC is available on learning any platform you can name,
and is free.

TTYL

2008\03\29@111714 by Peter Todd

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On Sat, Mar 29, 2008 at 09:18:20AM +0100, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Someting to consider about Python, is that it's a multi-paradigm
language and is quite capable of doing almost anything that even stuff
like LISP and Haskell do. There are some limitations, Python doesn't
have tail-end recursion optimization so a lot of functional programming
isn't possible for instance, but it's still doable, and common, to use a
lot of pretty advanced concepts like closures and it has enough
functional programming stuff, like the functools module, to get an idea
of what it's all about. At the other end of the spectrum it's just as
easy to write a simple procedural program as it is to write a object
oriented program. Or even just to use the interactive Python
interpretator as a fancy calculator. (Actually, for that I recomend
looking into ipython, it improves upon the standard python interaction
in a lot of nice ways, and can interface with SciPy for mathematics and
to make plots and graphs.)

Unlike LISP and Haskell, there is a very large and quickly growing
Python community out there making all sorts of real world, and real fun,
programs, games etc. So much of programming is just going out there and
doing it, if with friends all the better. Concepts is one thing, but if
you can point a beginner to stuff like http://www.pygame.org and show them how
people are using Python right now, for stuff that they too can figure
out and learn from, even improve themselves, they are far more likely to
stick with it.


That said, do get them to eventually learn assembler and C. The deep
down stuff that computers do is tremendously important even at the
higher levels, good luck writing fast python code without understanding
what hash tables are and how memory allocation works behind the scenes,
but I'd still recomend a high level language first simply because you
can do interesting stuff with them from the start. Python just happens
to be a particularly clean, open, and growing choice, with Windows and
Mac support too.

- --
peter[:-1]@petertodd.org http://petertodd.org
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2008\03\29@171721 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Someting to consider about Python, is that it's a multi-paradigm
> language and is quite capable of doing almost anything that even stuff
> like LISP and Haskell do.

I like and use Python a lot, but Haskell is something very different
because it is based on lazy evaluation. Very refreshing to learn just to
 sea that there are other programming paradigms than the common bunch.

But I still prefer Python for windows apps, C/C++ for compiler writing,
and C/C++/Jal and sometimes assembler for microcontrollers.

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2008\03\29@203508 by Peter Todd

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On Sat, Mar 29, 2008 at 10:16:48PM +0100, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:
> > Someting to consider about Python, is that it's a multi-paradigm
> > language and is quite capable of doing almost anything that even stuff
> > like LISP and Haskell do.
>
> I like and use Python a lot, but Haskell is something very different
> because it is based on lazy evaluation. Very refreshing to learn just to
>   sea that there are other programming paradigms than the common bunch.

Quite true, although Python *can* do lazy evaluation with the
appropriate libraries. Heck, I've written a bit of that sort of code
myself, in a fairly primitive way.

Of course, to do a lot of it I think you'd be running to Haskell pretty
quickly. :) But for someone wanting to learn a general purpose language
to experiment with multiple techniques in, Python's pretty good.

> But I still prefer Python for windows apps, C/C++ for compiler writing,
> and C/C++/Jal and sometimes assembler for microcontrollers.

Compiler writing 'eh? Where do you end up doing that?

- --
peter[:-1]@petertodd.org http://petertodd.org
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2008\03\29@214805 by Xiaofan Chen

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On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 8:33 AM, Peter Todd <EraseMEpetespam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTpetertodd.org> wrote:
>  > But I still prefer Python for windows apps, C/C++ for compiler writing,
>  > and C/C++/Jal and sometimes assembler for microcontrollers.
>
>  Compiler writing 'eh? Where do you end up doing that?
>

Wouter wrote JAL, the "Pascal" like compiler for PIC MCUs. Maybe
he has written other compilers.

Xiaofan

2008\03\30@044059 by Peter Onion

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On Fri, 2008-03-28 at 21:40 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
> That looks interesting! Too bad there isn't a Windows version yet.
>
> I've found that Qt or Gtk apps on Windows look 'bad'. I'm not into themes or
> fancy graphics either, but these apps seem to look like they are from a Windows
> version way back... It could be the programmer though, just an observation.

If they help you do your work why do you care what they look like ?

I don't care what colour the handle is on my soldering iron as long as
it makes it clear which is the cold end  :)

PeterO


2008\03\30@060628 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Compiler writing 'eh? Where do you end up doing that?

At home :)

But I have to admit that I have not done much in that area since the old
Jal (the new Jal is not my work).

Right now I am writing a documentation extractor/formatter, which is not
that different from a (simple) compiler. In Python. And it is for an ARM
project, not for PICs...

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2008\03\30@073252 by Peter Todd

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On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 12:05:56PM +0200, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:
> > Compiler writing 'eh? Where do you end up doing that?
>
> At home :)
>
> But I have to admit that I have not done much in that area since the old
> Jal (the new Jal is not my work).

Ahh, cool. I wrote a compiler for a made up C like language years ago as
a school project, it worked, but I haven't done anything along those
lines since.

I do have some half-baked thoughts to see if I can "compile" a limited
subset of Python into either PIC assembler directly or C, sutable for a
microprocessor. Basically I'd just take advantage of how simple the
Python virtual machine is and translate those opcodes rather than
actually parse Python. It might be a nice way to write behavioral code
that could be eailly run and written on a simulator on the compuer, and
then later downloaded to PIC-based nodes in hardware.

> Right now I am writing a documentation extractor/formatter, which is not
> that different from a (simple) compiler. In Python. And it is for an ARM
> project, not for PICs...

If you haven't already heard of it, look up Python docutils and
restructured text. I'm starting to use it for documentation in my Tuke
library.

- --
peter[:-1]@petertodd.org http://petertodd.org
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2008\03\30@074644 by Xiaofan Chen

face picon face
On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 7:30 PM, Peter Todd <petespamspam_OUTpetertodd.org> wrote:
>
> I do have some half-baked thoughts to see if I can "compile" a limited
> subset of Python into either PIC assembler directly or C, sutable for a
> microprocessor. Basically I'd just take advantage of how simple the
> Python virtual machine is and translate those opcodes rather than
> actually parse Python. It might be a nice way to write behavioral code
> that could be eailly run and written on a simulator on the compuer, and
> then later downloaded to PIC-based nodes in hardware.

http://pyastra.sourceforge.net/

Xiaofan

2008\03\30@095157 by Dr Skip

picon face
Peter Onion wrote:
> On Fri, 2008-03-28 at 21:40 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
>
> If they help you do your work why do you care what they look like ?


I knew when I wrote it that someone would say that... ;)

To be more accurate, and I don't have a sample at hand, the apps tend to be
oversimplified as if packing a lot of information (and I don't mean text tables
and such) in a window in a manner that one can take a lot in at once is
difficult, so not done. I'm not talking fanciness, but some of the visual items
actually help usability, especially in an information-dense app. Thus, the apps
I've seen aren't as information dense as their competitors in a particular
area. I get the impression that either the language is 'visually' primitive or
that it must be tough to code in it. I can use either as an app, but if one
were creative, ceilings like that would be an issue for them.

The other is (and I'm thinking Java now, but may apply) that the apps I've seen
tend to have 'flat' buttons and text areas the same color as background. Yes, I
can get along with it, but it's not as easy on the eyes. This also seems to
make it slower (by a little bit) to use or get started with. It makes it very
tough to get a less experienced user going with it.

I've worked with several software usability groups and you get to see that
little things like visual clues can really speed up a person's usage -
experienced or novice. I would venture to say that a good app makes use of the
3D effects to layer things such that the user begins to 'see' the whole thing
as layers in 3D, and the eyes don't hunt as much. It might be like trying to
find a small something in a room by looking from your chair (3D) vs finding it
in a flat painting with no treatment of light or shadow, just color. The eyes
scan differently.

While I'm talking about it, it would seem visual effects and 'styles' are a big
seller too. I just like a consistent window, not all the odd stuff one can do,
but the other sells. If he were to come up with something to sell, I'm sure it
would also have to compete visually, at least for a popular app. Again, the
comment was more about limitations in a language than a complaint about any app.

Thanks for all the input. It looks like C is still the one, and Basic isn't a
bad word (although there isn't much Basic talk for PICs despite it being fairly
available). As probably mentor, I'll have to bone up on C again... I'll
probably show concepts in Basic and give the translation of them to C as a
learning exercise, then as it gets more complex and into PC apps, introduce
Python, still keeping a Basic variant along the way and trying things in all 3.
As this is going to be more 'hobby' for him until college, I'll use the PIC for
assembler ideas when he's ready. ;)

Thanks all.

-Skip



2008\03\30@100044 by Byron Jeff

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face
On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 07:30:31AM -0400, Peter Todd wrote:
> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA1
>
> On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 12:05:56PM +0200, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:
> > > Compiler writing 'eh? Where do you end up doing that?
> >
> > At home :)
> >
> > But I have to admit that I have not done much in that area since the old
> > Jal (the new Jal is not my work).
>
> Ahh, cool. I wrote a compiler for a made up C like language years ago as
> a school project, it worked, but I haven't done anything along those
> lines since.

I wrote a bytecode compiler for my NPCI language. You can find a
description here:

http://finitesite.com/d3jsys/README-NPCI.html

As you can see it's been about 6 years since I worked on it.

> I do have some half-baked thoughts to see if I can "compile" a limited
> subset of Python into either PIC assembler directly or C, sutable for a
> microprocessor.

I think such a compiler already exists. Give me a virtual second...

Here it is: http://pyastra.sourceforge.net

It's written in Python. Maybe you can use it as a starting point.

[some snippage]

The language I'd like to immerse myself into this summer is Forth. NPCI
runs on a stack based virtual machine and Forth simplifies parsing to
nothing by using a couple of stacks and RPN for parsing. Just from noodling
around in the last year, I think a productive system can be forumlated with
a really small onchip core.

Personally I'd like to get back to a system where all development occurs
onchip.

Just some thoughts.

BAJ

2008\03\30@204201 by Peter Todd

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face
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 10:01:23AM +0000, Byron Jeff wrote:
> > I do have some half-baked thoughts to see if I can "compile" a limited
> > subset of Python into either PIC assembler directly or C, sutable for a
> > microprocessor.
>
> I think such a compiler already exists. Give me a virtual second...
>
> Here it is: http://pyastra.sourceforge.net
>
> It's written in Python. Maybe you can use it as a starting point.

Thanks! Looks like they don't support 18f chips yet, but as you say, a
good starting point.

{Quote hidden}

I dunno, admittedly I'm firmly in the camp of throwing all the computer
power I can buy at simple problems, just to make the programming easier.
I always thought the big problem with RPN, and Lisp for that matter, is
it's hard for your eye to visually break up what it's seeing into logic.
Math after all developed with infix notation when the only limitation
was that it had to be written with pen and paper.

That said, there are a lot of nifty forth processors, in VHDL and
everything else under the sun, from single cpu to massively parallel
implementations.

- --
peter[:-1]@petertodd.org http://petertodd.org
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2008\03\31@023142 by Peter Onion

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face

On Sun, 2008-03-30 at 09:51 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
> Peter Onion wrote:
>  > On Fri, 2008-03-28 at 21:40 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
>  >
>  > If they help you do your work why do you care what they look like ?
>
>
> I knew when I wrote it that someone would say that... ;)

Probably because this list is mostly populated by engineers, who value
function over form :)

PeterO


2008\03\31@134224 by Dr Skip

picon face
As many an older engineer will testify, form is often an overlooked part of
function. It's a myopic view of the system requirements that separates the two.

If the goal is to have happy customers, or happy users, or sell the maximum
amount of widgets, and it always boils down to that or the engineer doesn't get
paid, form and function go hand in hand. A device (or piece of software) that
doesn't get used as much as could be isn't the best engineered device for the
job. It may be that some of the criteria are outside of the engineer's
specialty, but that shouldn't place it outside his/her responsibility.

The most fru-fru example I can think of right now would be a hood ornament on a
car. They exist, so it isn't invention or unseen possibility, but it is pretty
much pure 'form' and not much function. The engineer has as much reason to find
out if, or what kind of, ornament improves sales from a specialist as he does
to consult structural engineers for fender ideas or electrical engineers for
connectors and systems. Then, he applies the 'system' requirement of maximizing
sales (a requirement of any business or product) with engineering to design an
ornament that is consistent with other design goals (wind resistance perhaps)
and good practice for manufacturing and useful life.

I've found that the engineers that seem to get told "design what we tell you to
inside the box" aren't very good at articulating why their views on the rest of
the box are relevant or impact the common goal.

So, as an engineer, I value function with form, knowing that at least where
humans are involved (even human engineers) there are subtle efficiencies to be
had throughout the whole of the lifetime of whatever device or software I
design that aren't 'just' form or function alone. I also benefit from these
efficiencies (even as an engineer) should I be the engineer who has to use it.


Peter Onion wrote:
> On Sun, 2008-03-30 at 09:51 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
>
> Probably because this list is mostly populated by engineers, who value
> function over form :)
>
> PeterO
>
>

2008\03\31@152225 by Lloyd Sargent

flavicon
face
It has been my experience that good engineering isn't about form vs.  
function, but about how to create the most elegant solution to a  
problem.

Now, with that said, there are engineers who I have known that would  
rather "bang the thing out" - they are most frustrating lot to deal  
with because what happens is you end up coming back to that "banged  
out" product time and time again in order to fix the bugger.

There is also the sad case when your hardware design is dictated by  
those with the least amount of knowledge to make those decisions. Many  
engineers have at least ONE product they worked on (if not more) where  
the processing power was inadequate for the design.

Elegant designs are far more satisfying to my soul than form or  
function.

Cheers,

Lloyd

On Mar 31, 2008, at 12:42 PM, Dr Skip wrote:

{Quote hidden}

2008\03\31@161538 by Rich

picon face
What a great write up, Skip.  It is well said and entirely valid, IMHO.  The
only thing that threw me was "fru-fru."  I don't recall ever hearing that
term but from the context (hood ornament), which was an excellent analogy, I
got it.
TNX

{Original Message removed}

2008\03\31@213431 by Cedric Chang

flavicon
face
How old are you Rich ?   Fru-Fru haas always been a favourite of mine.
Great comment, Doctor S.
cc

> On Mar 31, 2008, at 2:15 PM, Rich wrote:
> What a great write up, Skip.  It is well said and entirely valid,  
> IMHO.  The
> only thing that threw me was "fru-fru."  I don't recall ever  
> hearing that
> term but from the context (hood ornament), which was an excellent  
> analogy, I
> got it.
> TNX
>
> {Original Message removed}


'[EE] Language choice'
2008\04\01@180026 by Peter Onion
flavicon
face

On Mon, 2008-03-31 at 13:42 -0400, Dr Skip wrote:
> As many an older engineer will testify, form is often an overlooked part of
> function. It's a myopic view of the system requirements that separates the two.
>
> If the goal is to have happy customers, or happy users, or sell the maximum
> amount of widgets, and it always boils down to that or the engineer doesn't get
> paid, form and function go hand in hand. A device (or piece of software) that
> doesn't get used as much as could be isn't the best engineered device for the
> job.

I can't agree with that.  Since when did the quality of the engineering
have anything to do with sales ?  Just look at the old Betamax vs. VHS
story.  

These days it's marketing that drives sales.  Good engineering just puts
the price up.

PeterO



2008\04\01@184343 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
{Quote hidden}

Bad example, Beta sucked.

Cheerfuly preparing to ignore the blah blah blah to follow, just how many
hours could you record on Beta anyway?  Suck it did.  Vinyl records & tube
amplifiers suck too.

Tony

2008\04\01@202446 by Apptech

face
flavicon
face
>> I can't agree with that.  Since when did the quality of
>> the
>> engineering have anything to do with sales ?  Just look
>> at
>> the old Betamax vs. VHS story.

>> These days it's marketing that drives sales.  Good
>> engineering just puts the price up.

> Bad example, Beta sucked.

That's moot - as you will possibly be widely informed by
others any time now :-).

BUT if it's true it just means that VHS sucked worse as it's
(almost) universally accepted that Beta was/is superior to
VHS.


       Russell

2008\04\01@213209 by Dr Skip

picon face
What was the design criteria? Ignore the whole picture, as many engineers like
to do, and you end up with an expertly engineered shovel, when what the market
wanted was a hammer.

Then the engineer cries "what does engineering have to do with sales?"...

Life is too short to design stuff nobody will want.....

One can design and build the best engine (with some arbitrary criteria of
course, defended by the engineer responsible) ever, and decide that's what's
important, then put in pink burlap seats and a hand crank starter. Would this
car be superior to all others? Would it be a marvel of engineering?

It would, by some _limited_ criteria, but it wouldn't sell. Then there would no
doubt be engineers who would debate how it was marketing's fault it didn't
sell, and that it was the best car ever. What I don't accept is that the vast
population, voting with their own $$, decide to prefer inferior products.

What DOES happen is these folks buy what best fulfills their needs, at an
acceptable price, and which is available to them. If the engineer designs a
tape deck the size of a bedroom for the home user (for instance), it may have
the best resolution, with lowest noise ever, but it won't sell. The engineer is
just as much at fault for not understanding the system requirements (has to fit
on a bookshelf perhaps, have the right connections, etc) as anyone else, but he
was the one that put it down to paper. He also shares responsibility for making
it cost so much to transport, to warehouse, etc, which then limit the options
for getting it in front of the customer to begin with as well as price.

Engineering is ALL about tradeoffs. There is no perfect product. Understanding
the priority of these tradeoffs and their interrelationships relative to
customer need is engineering too - it's not just what chip to use. That's the
difference between successful engineering and the alternative... ;)



Apptech wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2008\04\01@232437 by Xiaofan Chen

face picon face
On 4/2/08, Dr Skip <@spam@drskipKILLspamspamgmail.com> wrote:
> Life is too short to design stuff nobody will want.....
True for development engineers. Not so true for scientists and others.
Sometimes I think life as an engineers are really difficult because of so
many constraints. But maybe that is engineering...

> Engineering is ALL about tradeoffs.
Quite true. Increasingly between cost, space and reliability and not
elegance of the design...

> There is no perfect product.
Are there anything which is perfect? ;-) Or all good product is a
perfect product for its own right and considering all the constraints.

> Understanding the priority of these tradeoffs and their interrelationships
> relative to customer need is engineering too - it's not just what chip to
> use. That's the difference between successful engineering and the
> alternative... ;)

Well said.

My father (a maths teacher) told me life is about to get the optimal
solution and not necessary the best solution. Sometime a suboptimal
solution is also accepted as the optimal solution at that time.

Xiaofan

2008\04\02@063012 by Dario Greggio

face picon face
Xiaofan Chen wrote:
> My father (a maths teacher) told me life is about to get the optimal
> solution and not necessary the best solution. Sometime a suboptimal
> solution is also accepted as the optimal solution at that time.

Nice one!
I would probably classify it as "Chinese Wisdom" since I'm sure I
already saw it somewhere :)

--
Ciao, Dario -- ADPM Synthesis sas -- http://www.adpm.tk

2008\04\02@075126 by Mohit Mahajan (Lists)

picon face
And some "Western" wisdom:

"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow."
General George S. Patton

Dario Greggio wrote:
> Xiaofan Chen wrote:
>> My father (a maths teacher) told me life is about to get the optimal
>> solution and not necessary the best solution. Sometime a suboptimal
>> solution is also accepted as the optimal solution at that time.
>
> Nice one!
> I would probably classify it as "Chinese Wisdom" since I'm sure I
> already saw it somewhere :)
>

2008\04\02@075552 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
>> My father (a maths teacher) told me life is about to get the optimal
>> solution and not necessary the best solution. Sometime a suboptimal
>> solution is also accepted as the optimal solution at that time.
>
> Nice one!
> I would probably classify it as "Chinese Wisdom" since I'm sure I
> already saw it somewhere :)

I would word it a bit differently, but the essence is probably the same:
it is always about finding the best solution, but the problem is finding
 the right scale to judge solutions. And time to find the solution (or
even the scale!) can be a (negative) part of the judgment.

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2008\04\02@093534 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> >> I can't agree with that.  Since when did the quality of the
> >> engineering have anything to do with sales ?  Just look at the old
> >> Betamax vs. VHS story.
>
> >> These days it's marketing that drives sales.  Good
> engineering just
> >> puts the price up.
>
> > Bad example, Beta sucked.
>
> That's moot - as you will possibly be widely informed by
> others any time now :-).
>
> BUT if it's true it just means that VHS sucked worse as it's
> (almost) universally accepted that Beta was/is superior to VHS.
>
>
>         Russell


Pffft.  'Universally accepted'.  Right.  'Universally accepted' by those who
never ever had one, or don't have one any more, or can't find it even if
they do.  I wonder what the proportion of Beta losers* on PicList is.  Above
that of the general population, I'd wager.  Funny that.

Anyhoo, dust off that old Beta player (which no-one actually has), and set
it up to record episodes of 'Top Gear', 'Mythbusters', and 'Lifestyles of
the Rich & Famous' for the week.  

Oh, how happy you'll be on the weekend when you sit down to watch them.

Oh, right, you're trying to record three hours onto a two hour tape.  "Ha
Ha!"  You should have brought a VHS instead.  There ya go, that's why Beta
sucks, it's because it doesn't do what the customer wants.  (The customer
really wants 100 hour tapes, but never mind.)  You'll just have to put up
with VHS 3/4/5 hour tapes + slow play + extra slow play then.  (5 hour tapes
may be a figment of my imagination and/or dodgy memory)

Every 'Beta was better' proponent I've encountered has come up with the same
answer when asked "Just why was that anyway?".  "Errr, mumble mumble mumble
the wotsit in Beta had 0.2% more grommet oil than VHS, so the diagonal
stabilisers had better damping blah blah".  All bollocks, technically, there
wasn't much difference.  It's like saying .WAV is better than .MP3.  Well
yeah, but MP3 takes 1/10th the space and sounds the same.

Bluntly, Beta had shorter tapes, and didn't really do slow play to get more
recording time.  Lose.

VHS sucked too, which is why we have DVD players to watch pre-recorded
stuff, and PVRs to tape stuff off the telly.  (There's your 100 hour tape,
btw.)  Still, at least you could watch 'Lord of the rings' and other 'geez I
need a pee now' epics on VHS without changing tapes.

For the record, I haven't played a vinyl record for about 20 years,
cassettes for a bit less, CDs for a few years (bar ripping to MP3), and VHS
for about 4.  I had a Super-VHS player for a short while, that got sold to
some sucker once I realised it was a dud (not backwards compatible).  I'll
toss in 'radio sucks' as well.

A friend's grandfather once said "The best thing about the good old days is
the good old days are gone".

Tony

* To move out of Beta status, you need to hook up the audio to your tube
amp, thus maximising that Beta warmth.

2008\04\02@100123 by sergio masci

flavicon
face


On Thu, 3 Apr 2008, Tony Smith wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Beta came standard with 4 heads, VHS with 2. The picture looked much
better on Beta than the equivalent VHS.

>  It's like saying .WAV is better than .MP3.  Well
> yeah, but MP3 takes 1/10th the space and sounds the same.

Actually, it's more like comparing free to air digital and analog TV.

>
> Bluntly, Beta had shorter tapes, and didn't really do slow play to get more
> recording time.  Lose.

Ah, VHS slow play - ultra sucky incompatible mode. I made the mistake of
recording some stuff I wanted to keep in long play once. Then I tried
playing it on a new VCR. Yep - didn't work!

3 hour Beta tapes were readily available in the high street stores.

Interesting how VHS evolved to 4, 6 and 8 heads after Beta died. I guess
the lack of competion allowed the manufacturers to jack the price and
improve the performance to the same level as Beta :-P

Regards
Sergio

2008\04\02@111812 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
{Quote hidden}

Beta was 2 hour tapes for a long time.  The extra heads didn't make any
difference, they're quite handy for slow play though.  And marketing.  Maybe
Beta needed the 4 heads, VHS didn't.

I've done the 'pick the difference' test.  No-one got it right, the
difference really wasn't there.  You can pick VHS slow play though.

The consumer wanted long recording time, and Beta didn't have it.  Form vs
function.

Tony

2008\04\02@113036 by David VanHorn

picon face
Beta was two heads, but it got slightly better quality than VHS's four heads.
The secret was in the wrap.  VHS uses an "M" wrap, only covering half
the drum, where beta used a wrap that covered almost the full drum.

2008\04\02@120545 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
> It's like saying .WAV is better than .MP3.  Well
> yeah, but MP3 takes 1/10th the space and sounds the same.

Well, it depends on many things, it could sound good, but many people
compresses to 128kbps where the distortion is too huge to not to notice.
Also some compression tool cuts off the original song at 16kHz - to radio
quality. I am still not convinced about divx and xvid formats too. Most divx
has something like 720x200 resolution (similar to VHS), a Super Video CD
AFAIK has twice as much and still occupies less space than DVD. Anyway,
personally I still prefer analogue stuff, but it is a bit harder to buy or
even copy one of those nowadays.

Tamas


On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 2:34 PM, Tony Smith <KILLspamajsmithKILLspamspamwix.com.au> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2008\04\02@215241 by Herbert Graf

flavicon
face

On Tue, 2008-04-01 at 23:00 +0100, Peter Onion wrote:
> I can't agree with that.  Since when did the quality of the engineering
> have anything to do with sales ?  Just look at the old Betamax vs. VHS
> story.  

Bad example. Yes, one of the reasons Betamax died was the licensing
restrictions. However, a VERY technical reason it died was insufficient
capacity. VHS could record longer, and that was a very major reason
consumers preferred VHS, despite it theoretically having poorer picture
quality.

For more info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotape_format_war

Oddly enough, some may argue that HD-DVD died for the same reason:
lesser capacity. Interesting...

TTYL

2008\04\02@215602 by Herbert Graf

flavicon
face

On Wed, 2008-04-02 at 13:24 +1300, Apptech wrote:
> That's moot - as you will possibly be widely informed by
> others any time now :-).
>
> BUT if it's true it just means that VHS sucked worse as it's
> (almost) universally accepted that Beta was/is superior to
> VHS.

Yup, theoretically Beta had better picture quality. However, given the
sets most people had, and the use of lower quality recording modes for
longer recording times pretty much negated that difference in practice
(to get the same recording time in Beta often resulted in similar or
worse video quality compared to VHS at the same recording time).

TTYL

2008\04\02@220308 by Herbert Graf

flavicon
face

On Wed, 2008-04-02 at 17:13 +0100, sergio masci wrote:
> Beta came standard with 4 heads, VHS with 2. The picture looked much
> better on Beta than the equivalent VHS.

That's like saying a Honda Civic sucks since it's base model doesn't
come with power windows, but a base Subaru Impreza does.

Obviously 2 heads didn't have as high a quality, but consumers didn't
care.

Better VHS players had 4 heads, did those look much worse then Beta?
Compare apples to apples.

> >
> > Bluntly, Beta had shorter tapes, and didn't really do slow play to get more
> > recording time.  Lose.
>
> Ah, VHS slow play - ultra sucky incompatible mode. I made the mistake of
> recording some stuff I wanted to keep in long play once. Then I tried
> playing it on a new VCR. Yep - didn't work!

LP was a format that most VCRs would play, but few would record.

The "standard" modes were SP and EP.

The tapes were labeled for use in SP mode, so a T-120 tape recorded for
2 hours.

EP mode was VERY common, and pretty much universally compatible. It had
a recording time of 3X SP, so a 120 tape would record 6 hours, a 160, 8
hours. I've also heard of 10 hour tapes, but I felt that 160s were
already pushing tape thinness a little far.

These times were FAR more then Beta. Yes, the quality sucked, but
consumers didn't care, at least with VHS you had the OPTION of recording
for 8 hours.

TTYL

2008\04\03@092731 by sergio masci

flavicon
face


On Wed, 2 Apr 2008, Herbert Graf wrote:

>
> On Wed, 2008-04-02 at 17:13 +0100, sergio masci wrote:
> > Beta came standard with 4 heads, VHS with 2. The picture looked much
> > better on Beta than the equivalent VHS.
>
> That's like saying a Honda Civic sucks since it's base model doesn't
> come with power windows, but a base Subaru Impreza does.

Hmm, I thought it was more like saying: a car with a two litre engine
costs more than a car with a one litre engine but it has more power.

>
> Obviously 2 heads didn't have as high a quality, but consumers didn't
> care.

As you stated in another post "given the sets people had"

But then not everyone is stuck with an NTSC set :-)

>
> Better VHS players had 4 heads, did those look much worse then Beta?
> Compare apples to apples.

Ok so comparing apples with apples, the better 4 head VHS VCRs were MUCH
more expensive than the 2 head VHS models and on a par with Beta in terms
of price.

{Quote hidden}

I've not seen an EP setting on a VHS VCR, only SP and LP. After being
bitten by the incompatibilty of recording in LP on one machine and being
unable to playback on another I stopped using LP altogether.

I actually tried playing these tapes on other peoples machines and the
playback quality varied greatly from extreamly bad to poor - never saw
playback that could be described as adiquate.

>
> These times were FAR more then Beta. Yes, the quality sucked, but
> consumers didn't care, at least with VHS you had the OPTION of recording
> for 8 hours.

Yes but once the beta manufacturers saw the way the market was going,
there was no reason for them to try to improve their VCRs and introduce
LP. So comparing apples with apples, a beta VCR in standard play on a PAL
TV produced a MUCH better quality picture than a VHS 2 head VCR in SP on
the same TV.

IMO the only reason VHS won out over beta was because of price. The masses
saw "cheap" and went for that.

Regards
Sergio

2008\04\05@084757 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > It's like saying .WAV is better than .MP3.  Well yeah, but
> MP3 takes
> > 1/10th the space and sounds the same.
>
> Well, it depends on many things, it could sound good, but
> many people compresses to 128kbps where the distortion is too
> huge to not to notice.
> Also some compression tool cuts off the original song at
> 16kHz - to radio quality.


Dunno where you pirate your music from...

A 128k is about a meg a minute in size, i.e. a 4 minute file is about 4mb.
It's good enough for most cases of good enough.

Ripping with VBR at 320k produces a file that's more-or-less that size
(usually a bit bigger) but much high quality.  You won't pick that in a
blind CD vs MP3 test.  (Straight 320k is twice that size.)

Tony

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