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Commercial Visual Programming

Posted by crowne 
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Commercial Visual Programming
March 26, 2007 12:36PM
Dear Lecturers,

I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions on migrating the visual programming module from Delphi.

I would like to see this happen for the following reasons:
- I (selfishly) work in enterprise java predominantly, and therefore I would not
have to memorise an additional syntax.
Although JEE, is not purely limited to java and may also include
groovy, scala, jruby, beanshell, jelly etc.
Many commercial environments would also require multiple skillsets, such as
COBOL, Lotus Notes, Visual Basic etc. so there is a lot of syntax to memorise.
However the commercial environments do have tooling available such as
code completion/intellisense or compiler output to assist with basic syntax
errors unlike an examination situation.

- Jobsearch results as follows:
                    java       delphi
  careerjunction     505           66
  careerweb          384           46
  pnet              1093          124

- java is open source, and therefore aligns better with SA Government IT strategy
see here.
SA Government is arguably one of the largest users of IT in the country
and therefore one of the largest IT employers.

I concede that a Windows/.net platform is probably most sensible for rich/thick client deployment, however in that case I would expect this module to be migrating towards .net/c#, which would still be a more useful platform to learn than Delphi in terms of suitability for career path.
Surely, the educational principles that have been taught using pascal for decades can be applied to more up to date and commercially relevant environments.

What java can offer is a free GUI from Eclipse, also free for commercial use, as opposed to R600.00 for the student version of the Borland IDE.
Furthermore, the software can be designed for deployment to Windows, Linux, Cellphones or all of the above and more.
Pertinent Eclipse projects are as follows:
RCP - Rich Client Platform
VEP - Visual Editor Project ... IBM Developerworks Tutorial

Alternatively, one could look at the NetBeans product from Sun, also free for commercial use.
An educationally interesting stream from netbeans is the BlueJ Edition, although this targeted specifically at teaching OO rather than visual programming.
Also see bluej.org, perhaps this platform metaphor could be extended to teaching visual programming.

If we were to stretch our imaginations, and really buy into the open source community development methodology,
is it not possible foresee a situation whereby students could contribute to real world projects by submitting features or bug fixes,
thereby earning credits and advancing the state of computing at the same time?

Finally is visual programming strictly the in domain of thick/rich client applications, what about the impact of ajax programming? See Google Apps.

Neil Crow.
Re: Commercial Visual Programming
April 13, 2007 05:50PM

You make some very good points, and I agree with you, Delphi/Pascalis dead as far as I am concerned.
It also irks me tremendously that I need to learn another syntax for a language that I will hopefully never use again, while I could be spending my time learning something usefull for my career.

I haven't used Java for visual programming yet, so I do not know how much more complicated it is. The problem, I think, is that there are some non-comp sci streams that also have the visual programming subject in their syllabus. The lecturers may feel that using Java as an introduction to visual programming may be throwing students in at the deep end. They probably already have lots of pressure to get the pass rates up, so having students use a more advanced language would be bad.

On a somewhat cynical note: Some of the lecturers have a vested interest in using Delphi - the textbook that they have written. I hope and trust that this does not play a role in what language we use.

avatar Re: Commercial Visual Programming
April 16, 2007 08:47AM
Just a comment: I have found it to my advantage to mention that I have Delphi / Java / C++ exposure/experience when applying for positions that require experience in C#.Net - which I do not have. A lot of the "new" languages is built on the basis of the "old" one's - don't just knock them.
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