Holy-Elie Scaide

Why I am studying Programming Language Theory

I’m a curious person. Even when I was young, I wanted to know the mechanism of things. Learning how something works is like scratching an itch. When it finally clicks and my understanding grows, it feels like the window through which I experience the world widens. Becoming a software engineer has been driven by that desire to learn more, first about electricity, then electronic and realizing that beige box on my dad desk was made of those transistors I was reading about. I cannot stop at knowing how things look, or what’s their use, I need to know they came to be.

After learning C and knowing its relation to assembly through the act of compilation, I thought I have a good enough understanding of what programming languages are. Then I started doing JavaScript, and soon after I encounter the act of transpiling, switching from one high-level language to another. I’ve also started to use metalanguages, or languages whose sole purpose is to be easier to use than the language they’re based on. I started questioning myself on how those languages came to be and how do people decide to create new ones. Then ECMAScript 6 and Babel came, and although I was using them, I was ignorant on the “why” of the first and the “how” of the second. Learning the “how” was easy. Learning “why” has launched me into an exploratory path, and I’m still encountering so many exciting things.

I’ve realized already that using languages is how we express human needs in computer actions that can address them. Now I want to know why we are using this process and the boundaries by which it constrains us.

#thinking #PLT

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