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Showing posts from May, 2013

A Tale of Three Loops

This one has been cooking for a very long time. Like many professional programmers I have often wondered what is it about programming that is just hard. Too hard in fact.

My intuition has led me in the direction of turing completeness: as soon as a language becomes Turing complete it also gathers to itself a level of complexity and difficulty that results in crossed eyes. Still, it has been difficult to pin point exactly what is going on.
A Simple Loop
Imagine that your task is to add up a list of numbers. Simple enough.

If you are a hard boiled programmer, then you will write a loop that looks a bit like:

int total = 0;
for(Integer ix:table)
total += ix;

Simple, but full of pitfalls. For one thing we have a lot of extra detail in this code that represents additional commitment:

We have had to fix on the type of the number being totaled.
We have had to know about Java's boxed v.s. unboxed types.
We have had to sequentialize the process of adding up the numbers.

While one loop is not going to …