Learning on my own

One of the CS servers choked this week. That made for a stressful recovery, assessment, and cleanup process.

To cut the stress, I put in about an hour each night to some autodidactic computing education. That included a mix of reading and exercises.

In particular, I walked through this talk on compilers.

As I noted in my GitHub repo‘s README, I did fine in my Programming Languages course as a student, but I was never fully confident with interpreters and compilers in practice. People (accurately!) talk about building such programs as “metaprogramming”, but as a student I found they always came across as more handwavey or tautological than meta.

This exercise, which I’d emphasize consists of code built by someone else (Tom Stuart, posted at his site Codon) in 2013 for demo purposes and not by me, was clarifying. Meticulously walking through it gave me a better intuition for interpreters and compilers – which are not, in fact, handwavey or tautological. 🙂 The Futamura projections at the end of the article were particularly illuminating to discover and think through.

I also read some articles.

  • Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years” (Peter Norvig; re-read)
  • Purported origin of “never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway”. (This was evidently considered an extremely funny joke among 1970s computer geeks.)
  • The performance links in this post.
  • The next language I’d like to explore is Go, and I started this week.

Computing lets you learn on your own. It’s not unique as a field in this way, but I appreciate that aspect of it.