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Communications of the ACM


Putting a Teaspoon of Programming into Other Subjects

code on a silver teaspoon

Programming is such a powerful tool that as early as the 1960s scholars such as C.P. Snow and Peter Naur were worried about its potential negative impacts on society.a They called for everyone to learn to program in order to democratize access and to inform citizens about how computational processes worked. At the same time, Alan Perlis argued for teaching programming to all university students because of the disciplinary benefits. He saw that computing gave us a new way to understand in many disciplines. His words have proved to be prescient.

Historians, scientists, humanities scholars, mathematicians, and artists today use programming to advance the goals of their own disciplines. They are using programming for their own agendas, for problems other than professional software development. These professionals are likely using a broad range of tools, such as Excel, MATLAB, Python, R, and JavaScript. Domain-specific languages (DSLs) are a class of languages designed explicitly for domain experts to use in solving problems for which programming is a useful tool.


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