Programming Languages

Investigate the basic concepts behind programming languages, with a strong emphasis on the techniques and benefits of functional programming. Use the programming languages ML, Racket, and Ruby in ways that will teach you how the pieces of a language fit together to create more than the sum of the parts. Gain new software skills and the concepts needed to learn new languages on your own.

About The Course

Learn many of the concepts that underlie all programming languages. Use functional programming and contrast it with object-oriented programming. Through experience writing programs and studying three different languages, learn the key issues in designing and using programming languages, such as modularity and the complementary benefits of static and dynamic typing. This course is neither particularly theoretical nor just about programming specifics – it will give you a framework for understanding how to use language constructs effectively and how to design correct and elegant programs. By using different languages, you learn to think more deeply than in terms of the particular syntax of one language. The emphasis on functional programming is essential for learning how to write robust, reusable, composable, and elegant programs – in any language.

Recommended Background

The course assumes students are familiar with programming covered by most introductory courses -- this is not an introductory programming course.  Conversely, it is also not a particularly advanced course -- a couple good prior programming courses should be enough.  Students should be comfortable with variables, conditionals, arrays, linked lists, stacks, and recursion (though recursion will be reviewed and expanded upon), and the difference between an interface and an implementation. Students should be eager to write programs in languages new to them.  Later parts of the course analyze basic object-oriented concepts and contrast them with those of other languages, so familiarity with Java or a closely related language (e.g., C#) is helpful, but not required for homework assignments.