Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Leave your language religious fanaticism

Thinking on my disatisfaction with the lastest post, I realise that is is in fact just language advocacy and religous argument.

This is unfortunate, because I rather liked Joel's previous stance on the subject:

"Leave your language religious fanaticism at the Usenet door. Somehow I managed to figure out in high school that language advocacy and religious arguments are unbelievably boring.

Secondly, even if Delphi were more productive, the only pertinent question, since I am writing the code, is what is more productive for Joel Spolsky. And I don't know Delphi at all, but I know Win32, MFC, and VC++ really, really well."

Joel likes the level of control using the classic C error handling idiom.  This is understandable because he knows C really, really well.

Personally I've always hated C.  I having to remember what all the funy symbols do, or having to having 3 simple lines bloosom to 48.

This is why I prefer languages like Java and Ruby, because they let me hide all this functionality under the hood.

Like most the people in Britain, I drive a manual car (stick shift I belive they call them.)  I tried an automatic once and hated it.  I just didn't know what to do with my left hand.

I can imagine that for the average american the opposite is true.  They would try a manual gear box just once and say 'What, you have to through all of that every time you change speed.  No chance!"

Some may argue that manaul gears are more fuel efficient, others that automatics are safer because the driver has less distractions.  None of this matters, because its all down to how your learnt to drive.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

When driving an automatic, my free hand normally has a burrito for my dining pleasure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

You know what I hate most in discussions? When in the end someone says: "Alright, we are all equally right and wrong. It's just a matter of taste."

Some things just don't "depend". If you step back to that level you could even start to argue whether we really need "those complicated while-loops" just because some guy does not get the concept and wants to unroll every loop he encounters.

It has been shown countless times that exceptions _can_ be used as a clean and consistent way to bubble/propagate _exceptional_ events in structured programs. Questioning this concept in 2003 is futile, it is here to stay.

Also, exceptions are no silver bullet, but no one claimed that, so there's really no need to find the flaw in the concept, albeit I think you won't find one. Exceptions are a valid solution for the given problem, nothing more, nothing less.

Johnny Bravo
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Hmm, well I agree with the substance of this, but I do feel that it's more than *just* fanaticism, it's more like:

  results = your skill level * your toolset

You might be the best assembler programmer on the planet; maybe you can even write Web applications and shrink-wrapped software in assembler, but that doesn't make it a good language choice for those projects.

I think Joel's remarks really only apply when the toolsets are roughly similar. You can edit code in vi or jEdit or Visual Studio and get good results, but I think you'd simply have to work so much harder to do it in Notepad that's it's not worth doing. (and here I mean *code*, not markup or config files, which can be edited perfectly well in Notepad).

I'm always amazed at what people can actually make work. In fact, I worked once with one extremely hostile individual who delighted in simply doing the opposite of what anyone recommended, and more often than not was able to deliver working results that way.

The spirit of this way of thinking was captured by the samurai Miyamoto Mushashi when he wrote:

"Some other schools have a liking for extra-long swords. From the point of view of my strategy these must been seen as weak schools. This is because they do not
appreciate the principle of cutting the enemy by any means. Their preference is for the extra-long sword and, relying on the virtue of its length, they think to defeat the enemy from a distance.

In this world it is said, "One inch gives the hand advantage", but these are the idle words of one who does not know strategy. It shows the inferior strategy of a weak spirit that men should be dependent on the length of their sword, fighting from a distance without the benefit of strategy.

I expect there is a case for the school in question liking extra-long swords as part of its doctrine, but if we compare this to real life it is unreasonable. Surely we need not necessarily be defeated if we are using a short sword, and have no long sword."

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

> Some things just don't "depend"

Bravo, Mr Bravo. :)

Many approaches can be made to work, but nonetheless some are better than others.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Speaking of manuals, I'm learning to drive in Britain and the default car is, indeed, a manual.

I must've had 30 hours of lessons on a manual but it wasn't for me. I drive the way I do everything: like a geek. If I managed to drive for ten minutes at a time without stalling or having some other mishap, it was an exceptionally good lesson.

So I managed to find an automatic instructor, and I couldn't get over how easy it was - the first time I tried it, I managed to drive for two hours uninterrupted. It was as if the car was directed by thought alone.

It's amazing how horrified people are that I would sink so low as to drive an automatic, though. Even people who do nothing else with their free time but lie on the sofa with a cigarette dangling from their lips, staring at daytime TV, are aghast at my lack of industry and determination. It really seems to go against their core beliefs and values. Like no-one can truly be a lady or gentleman until they have mastered the art of the stick shift.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Having to manually change gears in the 21st century is a technological anachronism, that is only perpetuated because the motor industry is extremely resistant to change and because I think rather a few people enjoy it.

It's a control thing.

John Topley (
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I find it amusing to hear inferior programmers arguing about what to do with errors.  If they were proper programmers using LISP they simply wouldn't have errors.

Thats why ARC will have no error handling at all.

Paul Graham (Not)
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Anders Hejlsberg: Exactly. Frankly, they look really great up front, and there's nothing wrong with the idea. I completely agree that checked exceptions are a wonderful feature. It's just that particular implementations can be problematic. By implementing checked exceptions the way it's done in Java, for example, I think you just take one set of problems and trade them for another set of problems. In the end it's not clear to me that you actually make life any easier. You just make it different.

I would agree that the the concept of exceptions is clearly superior.  However, the perfect implementation is yet to be found.

As Anders says in the above quote, your are trading problems.  It's a matter of personal preference which set of problems you prefer to deal with.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

In difficult weather conditions (heavy snow, rain, ice) manual outperforms automatic. Manual gives you control over your car which is hardly given by cheap automatic.

But lets look from design point of view - for a car user the idea of shifting gear is unnatural. We have to shift gear because of engine "implementation" weaknesses.

From amateur user's point of view its only important to control speed and direction of the car, not the engine rpm-s.

So, basically, I believe manual - is an obsolete design. Or limitation of actual implementation.

People in Europe tend to drive more manual cars because fuel is nearly 3 times more expensive than in US and due to inertion and bigger conservatism (UK). That's my opinion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

shifting gears is fun. so is writing assembly code. YMMV.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

> Like most the people in Britain, I drive a manual car (stick
> shift I belive they call them.)  I tried an automatic once and
> hated it.  I just didn't know what to do with my left hand.

> I can imagine that for the average american the opposite is
> true.

Indeed: when driving an automatic I don't know what to do with my *right* hand.

Michael Eisenberg
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Driving a manual shift (aka stick) makes you a better driver.  I'm convinced of this.  When you see the light turn green, and nobody moves, the lead driver is driving an automatic, not a stick.  When you see someone oblivious to road conditions in front of them, driving with tunnel vision, they're driving an automatic.

There is an obvious awareness that those who know how to drive with a manual (not necessarily driving, but know how to) maintain over those who do not.  Your car is not a rolling fast food joint, mobile office, or road bound entertainment center.  No, for those who know how to drive the manual, they know that a car is a vehicle whose primary purpose is to get you from point A to point B as quickly as possible.  Once you arrive, you can get right down to work, enjoy the scenery, enjoy a 24 oz T-bone steak, or enjoy your friends's company.

I'm sure there is a software analogy in there somewhere.  Most of the time I ride a bicycle to work.  When hauling kids around, its an automatic - sans latte.

nat ersoz
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Since we're on the subject, are automatics built in 2003 still less fuel-efficient than stick shifts, hence the widespread use of them in Europe (but not in Japan, although gas sells at European levels)?

Frederic Faure
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

On automatic vs manual shift gears:

Manual gears are absolutely essential when driving on tough conditions, be it wheather, terrain or road topology. Having said that, 95% of the time, I guess automatic gears would be more confortable.

The ideal shifting gear is now reaching the market: semi-automatics, like Porsche's Tiptronic. The control of manual with the confort of automatic.

Oh, and I'd sure miss throwing down two gears, pumping up the revs and getting glued to my seat....

Sérgio Carvalho (
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Minimally. There's very little difference with modern automatics, they have just as many gears (five typically) and switch very quickly and precisely.  You'd have to be a very good driver to get better fuel consumption -- chances are you'd get a worse one, actually, since it's easy to forget to switch to the optimal gear at the right time.

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Erm, that reply was to Frederic Faure.  But on Sergio Carvalho's point, good modern automatics (not just Porsche) also let you set a maximum or minimum gear which largely eliminates the terrain disadvantage.

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Thx Chris for the tip :-) Still, I've read that automatics require a bigger engine to offer the same performance. Considering the prices here, that would explain why people would rather ... stick to V4 manual over V6 automatics. Myth?

Frederic Faure
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Arrh, me hearties, pirates have hijacked the thread!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"Driving a manual shift (aka stick) makes you a better driver.  I'm convinced of this.  When you see the light turn green, and nobody moves, the lead driver is driving an automatic, not a stick.  When you see someone oblivious to road conditions in front of them, driving with tunnel vision, they're driving an automatic."

I hope that's not the case, because I'm led to believe I won't pass my test if I do that.

"There is an obvious awareness that those who know how to drive with a manual (not necessarily driving, but know how to) maintain over those who do not.  Your car is not a rolling fast food joint, mobile office, or road bound entertainment center."

Why does the fact of being unable to drive a manual doom me to having these attitudes? Again, if I think this way I won't pass my test.

I'll grant you that it is an oft-advanced argument in favour of automatics, and I hear North Americans put it forth with alarming frequency: "If I had a manual I wouldn't be able to eat, talk on the phone, do my makeup, duck down and pick up my kid's toy from the floor, or anything else while driving, so I need that hand free..." AIEEEE!

But what you're telling me is that automatic drivers don't respect the fact that they're driving a car, and manual drivers do. If I had a pound for every time I saw a manual driver doing inappropriate non-driving stuff on the road, I'd be able to pay for my car outright.

"No, for those who know how to drive the manual, they know that a car is a vehicle whose primary purpose is to get you from point A to point B as quickly as possible."

Funny - that's the exact reason why I chose an automatic. Manual enthusiasts tell me that I'm missing out on the art and science of driving by taking this utilitarian view.

Now, from what I read, a major reason why new drivers (first 2 years) have accidents is because they are preoccupied with controlling the car, and don't have enough time to watch the road. My manual-driving friends might have been right when they said I would get it eventually and should just stick with it and not give up. But I decided that the automatic would just be safer for me, because I would rather put my attention to the road than to the car itself. This was a utilitarian decision based on my own preferences and abilities. Maybe in a couple of years, when I'm used to driving, I'll have another go at learning stick shift.

But the idea that automatic transmissions cause bad driving and moral decadence is just the kind of religious argument we're talking about.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, October 14, 2003


I agree.  I can now feel so smug that my comparison proved so apt.


Ged Byrne
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Automatic transmissions generally sap power and fuel efficiency. The only automatic in mass production that I'm aware of that doesn't isn't a traditional automatic (Audi's CVT, which doesn't actually ever shift). You get the power and fuel efficiency of a manual, with the convenience of an automatic.

That said, I still drive a manual. I'm a purist. :-p

Brad Wilson (
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Moral Decadance (sp?) -- yes!  That's the term I was looking for:

Manual_shift == Morally_corrupt

And while I'm at it, I'd like your indulgence whilst I document the sins of drivers in the Northwest (man I'd like to take these morons and drop them into Boston traffic for _just_one_day_).

. Leaving 10 car lengths in front of your cat while waiting for a red light.
. Not pulling up into an intersection while waiting for a gap to turn left.
. Not being able to turn left without a guarded signal.
. Stopping traffic and letting someone in the opposite direction turn left, when there is minimal traffic behind you.
. The left lane is for passing, not drinking latte, sleeping, etc.
. Turn signals are more than just a good idea.
. Green light means GO (dammit).

One more thought:  90% of people think that public transportatino is a good idea for someone else.

nat ersoz
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

It's not just what language is most productive for Joel Spolsky - it's what language is most productive for his entire team.

So it's not "what language is best", or even "what's best for me, at the moment tackling problem x", but what is the "best, supportable way for me to tackle problem x".

Personally, I'd love to work in Smalltalk. (It's much better than anything commercial I've seen out of Sun, Microsoft or Borland.) But, if you can't get enough programmers doing it then you can't affort to risk your business on something that might turn out to be unsupportable. Sun, Microsoft and Borland each going to outspend all the Smalltalk vendors put together  when it comes to marketing. The burden of learning a better way also makes Smalltalk difficult to sell in the middle of the bell curve.

Most programmers just want a wizard to generate lots of crap for them so they don't have to think - rather like they way some predominant, New Yorker around here described using ATL... Didn't Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt call this behaviour "programming by coincidence"?

I want to do the right thing technically, but commercial forces do make this a difficult.

Dafydd Rees
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I'd like to add a few things to the manual vs. automatic discussion--one, I have learned to accept the weaknesses of other drivers.  There are many, but I will highlight a few:

1) inching forward into moving traffic while waiting for it to pass by

2) slow acceleration from a stop light, sometimes painfully so

3) failure to completely stop at a stop sign, also slow starts from the same stop sign

4) inability to pass slower vehicles on a one-lane road, leading to the abberration "slow cars pull over to the shoulder to let me by without making me go into the other lane".  Maybe they don't do this elsewhere, but here in Texas it's expected so long as a shoulder exists.

For all these problems, I blame automatic transmissions. 

(1) is caused by drivers slowly letting off the brake, which then *automatically* engages the engine to slowly move the car forward.  It's not their fault--not entirely, anyway.

(2), (3b) is caused by the fact that if you push too hard on the pedal, your automatic transmission attempts to shift gears when the car is in very high RPMs without properly adjusting the clutch.  The result is a painful-sounding thump, and this usually keeps the drivers off of any sudden pedaling.  Thus the slow acceleration. (3a), the failure to  completely stop, is driven by the fact that it will take an automatic driver several seconds to get the vehicle moving again because he(she) cannot accelerate as fast as he(she) would like.

(4) is driving me insane, slowly.  Because, again, of the inability to quickly accelerate (the physics term is jerk, if you believe me), cars will sit behind another car indefinitely, no matter how much open (and empty) road spans in front of them.  This means that I must often pass seven-car caravans. 

poor college student
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Arrr matey, about them thar gears again... maybe some people have cars with really crappy automatics, I don't know. My Mercedes-Benz A190 with a measly four cylinders sure drives fast enough with a 5-gear automatic, and doesn't burn any more fuel than what I'm used to with manual gears.

As for programming languages, IMO the actual language is fairly irrelevant. The libraries are the important part. Languages are not solitary self-sufficient works of art, they are used to write applications. If a language's library support in the required areas is so poor that I'd have to draw my own buttons or whatever, well, then it could be the best language in the world and I still wouldn't care.

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I drive manual as well. Sometimes when I'm tired and want to relax I dream about an automatic.

However I really like manual, I can still eat, phone and watch maps if required. With lot of practice now I can drive with my right knee, of course I cannot make big turns (~40 degree max), but it's very useful to put both of your hand out of the roof window, drive 3 minutes and watching other people faces.

name not available
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Until you hit a tree.

The cop around the corner
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

it also has the great advantage to learn driving with a manual is that in the very first minute you learn that you need to focus on more things at the same time.

after you can move to automatic, and use your remaining brain capacity to something else.

name not available
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

cop: i'm glad i didn't use my real name :)

name not available
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Yeah, LISP comes with an infinite amount of memory and a network that never fails.

uh huh
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

hmmmm... that went to the wrong thread.  my apologies

uh huh
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

the manual vs automatic comparison is very apt.

i believe you should learn to drive a manual transmission car.

i believe you should learn to write code with a 'low level' programming language. (C or assembly perhaps).

both of these should be early on, though maybe not the first thing you should do.

every day driving/programming? well, in 2-10 years, automatics will have better response time and better fuel milage than manual transmission. (high end ones already do today, they even use automated mechanical clutches.) some of us will still prefer a stick shift, but that will be just like writing UI with assembly language when the .NET framework is around--turns out the computer often generates faster code nowdays, too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


If you are serious about wanting to use the benefits of a SmallTalk like architecture in a commercial environment, you really should look into Objective C/Objective C++. It's compatible with standard C/C++ libraries out there and the gcc compiler will compile your Objective C/C++ code on any nearly any platform you can imagine.

Ed the Millwright
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Driving a manual, driving a motorcycle, and juggling are the three things I miss the most from my two-handed days.  Driving a manual is just *fun*.  I like having that precise control over when and how quickly the clutch drops.  And I'm determined to re-learn how to drive one.

One-Armed Bandit
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

automatic vs. manual:
The problem is that you have 2 control axes to concern yourself with that are actually completely independent.  You need to control your throttle and you need to control your torque.  Neither of these really well mapped to the abstract concept of speed.  While going up a hill, you need more torque.  Manual driving allows you to change the amount of torque by lowering or raising the gear without necessarily impacting your throttle setting as much.  I find that I spend far more time with the throttle at high levels when I'm driving an automatic than I do when I'm driving manual because I generally can select gears better than the car.

CVT is nice, but it's not proven yet.  And it's rather hard to scale up to large-sized engines.  Tiptronic solves one of the problems with automatic transmissions (incorrect gear selection) but still requires the use of an automatic-style transmission, which uses a torque converter with lock-up.  This means that you are wasting energy below a certain RPM level to prevent the car's computer from needing to properly deal with a clutch.

Plus, manual transmissions are much simpler than a sophisticated automatic or a CVT transmission.

I mean, it's the same reason why pro photographers use cameras that allow them to manually set paramters.  Generally, they can do a better job of deciding what combination of shutter speed, f-setting, flash illumination, and focus will get what *they* have in mind than a computer.

Now, onto languages.
Languages matter, but less than people think.  One thing that was very important for me as a wee little flamer on my road to becomming a good programmer was realizing that syntax, as long as it is reasonably comfortable, is of little concern.  It really doesn't matter if you are using = and == instead of := and =, for example.  Realizing this made me a much less obnoxious person (perish the thought).

But other things still matter.  C lets you do OOP.  It just sucks and you might as well use C++ to do it.  Matlab lets you sling around matricies with incredible ease in ways that even Lisp and C++ can't always match.

The overall problem is that most programmers enjoy arguing the point far too much. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Since its obviously more important what we drive than the software we use...

I've driven and would drive both manual and automatics, here in the UK and abroad.  Though I can't say I've ever driven a manual in the US.

When I had the old 7 series, automatic my driving style did change, though there were nuances of timing in how and when to kick down (this was a really old car), for the most part it was very relaxing on long motorway journeys.  But gas guzzlingly boring in traffic and like driving a whale in country lanes.

Mind, in either case I can't say I had a spare hand really and I can just barely understand the frustrations if you've lost a hand.  You do though have a spare foot, I never did find a use for that not ever having taken up sitting down savate.

But, as for the analogy to programming languages...

If someone asks me what kind of programmer I am (when I'm in programming mode), I'm a little stumped as to what to answer if they're expecting something like C,C++, Java and so on. 

'Are you a C programmer?'

No, I'm a programmer that can use C.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

poor college student, I don't see where you get the idea that an automatic can't accelerate quickly.  In my experience automatics have had no trouble at all with high acceleration.  I don't see that causing any of the problems you mentioned

Mike McNertney
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

>>> Green light means GO (dammit). <<<

Sorry, nat.  When I get a green light I do not GO.  I carefully look left and right to be sure that cross traffic is going to STOP.  That takes about 2-3 seconds.  Then I'll GO!  And I do mean GO.  I am trying to encourage the jack-rabbit start by my examples.  Or maybe it should be called the delayed jack-rabbit start.

I have had too many near misses by drivers, some of them in large trucks, stretching a green light beyond the breaking point.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

In my country automatic gears are more expensive than manual because so few of them are sold. Also, it is considered that manual gears are for womens who don't know how to drive. Offcourse I know it is just a misconception, but no person who cares about his pride would drive an automatic car.

In the programming world there are also some pride issues at stake. If you program only in VB you are a poor programmer, even if it solves all your project needs.
Offcourse the persons who program in VB would never accept this idea, but that's the same between the manual or automatic car drivers.

If you program in C, you know you can make any kind of program you desire (it's low level enough to do it). If you program in any other more higher level language, you know your life would be easier, but you have to dump that project of making your own os kernel in that language.

In a real world, you just use the best tool for the job, and when you can mix the two with ease, your life is better (that's why I like Python).

Driving a car with an hybrid gear, should be the best of the two worlds, but offcourse someone has to pay the price...

Nuno Lucas
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Automatic transmissions are for babies.

Cars are for wimps.

Get on a motorcycle and experience controlling a vehicle where RPM and shifting makes a real difference, and stalling the engine or popping the clutch is not just a minor embarassment.

That's the motoring equivalent of "Real programmers use assembly."


Gregory Jorgensen
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"Leaving 10 car lengths in front of your cat while waiting for a red light."

I think it fair to give my cat a head start. She's only got little legs.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

> This means that I must often pass seven-car caravans. 

poor college student, people like you kill innocent children and families when your unnecessary overtakes meet oncoming vehicles at combined speeds exceeding 240 kmh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

My car is $2000 cheaper, 200 lbs lighter, and makes it to 100 km/h one second faster because it has a manual transmission.

I think people should first learn how to drive stick.  It's a valuable skill to be able to drive nearly any vehicle that is on the road today.  Those who can drive a manual have no problems with automatics.  The reverse is not true.  If I saw my arm off on a table saw, and need my friend to drive me to the hospital in my 5-speed, and they've only driven autos - well, I'm going to bleed out before they grind of the driveway.  I might need a new clutch too.  If you can only handle an auto, then you have a driving handicap.  I pitty you just a little bit.

Likewise, I think people should learn low-level languages like C and assembly early on.  It's easy to move up to higher-level, more productive languages from there.  But, if you are raised on VB, and someone on your coding team cuts their arm off on a table, there's a point there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"If I saw my arm off on a table saw, and need my friend to drive me to the hospital in my 5-speed, and they've only driven autos - well, I'm going to bleed out before they grind of the driveway."

That's another common argument against automatics - that in a medical emergency where seconds count, the ability to drive stick-shift will be a matter of life or death. As a qualified first aider it makes no sense to me. Why would I waste time getting you in my car when I should be stemming the bleeding, calling an ambulance, and taking steps to preserve your detached limb? Do you actually think you're going to survive the 10-15 minutes it would take someone to drive you to the hospital, even under the best of conditions? You would bleed out before they grind out of the driveway regardless of what kind of car they could drive.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

OTOH I do think people should begin by learning C, even if a few of them do bleed to death as a result. You've got to have SOME standards.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

In Europe their is just two reasons for stickshift still dominating:
- It's far cheaper
- Especialy people that for the rest barely succeed in avoiding  nuckle dragging and whos entire vocabulary exists of a few meagerly articulated grunts seem to derive a large percentage of their "I'm a superior primate" feeling from whacking a clutch and fondeling their shiftstick.

Europeans are a funny lot. Most of them are extremely appalled by things like private gun ownership, but see absolutely no problem in every PFY bloating his Peugot and acting out his WRC fantasies on public roads every day. Even some of the smaller European countries have traffic casualty counts every day that make any international war conflict statistics pale in comparison.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"(2), (3b) is caused by the fact that if you push too hard on the pedal, your automatic transmission attempts to shift gears when the car is in very high RPMs without properly adjusting the clutch.  The result is a painful-sounding thump, and this usually keeps the drivers off of any sudden pedaling.  Thus the slow acceleration. (3a), the failure to  completely stop, is driven by the fact that it will take an automatic driver several seconds to get the vehicle moving again because he(she) cannot accelerate as fast as he(she) would like."

The above is total bunk.  In my younger days I drag raced street stock with a 350 and turbo 350 automatic.  I won many of my races because I was quicker out of the hole than any larger engine with a stick shift - they sat and burned up tires.

Automatics don't have adjustable clutches - clutch packs are alternating metal plates and plates with friction material.  Even the "band" that controls second gear in a turbo 350 isn't adjustable.

Joe AA
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The point is that while it's possible to accelerate with an automatic, drivers of *most* vehicles are encouraged to drive slow.  I'm (mildly) appalled when I borrow someone's Ford Taurus, or Buick, or Oldsmobile, or an oldFord F150 truck, or a new F150, or a GMC truck (V8? I think), or even a Pontiac Grand Prix or a Jetta.  These are all from experience--automatics punish you, some worse than others, for fast acceleration.  You push too hard, you get the THUMP when the car shifts gears.  Or, you push hard, the car revs up the engine, slips down one gear, THUMPS, accelerates for a second, then switches back to a higher gear (meanwhile again revving the engine), engages and another THUMP.

Maybe I'm missing something in the 'users guide to automatic transmissions', but I think my point is still valid: automatics encourage slower acceleration.

Re: dangerous car passing--I allow for a great amount of 'fault tolerance' when passing cars, thus a 0% failure rate thus far.  I'm a system-builder at heart, so I could write an entire essay about my rules of vehicular passing.  What I mean is that yes, I'm all safe about passing, and yes, I think about this sort of thing far too much.

poor college student
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

college student, any time you need immediate acceleration in an automatic just click off the "overdrive" button if you're at high speed, or shift down manually.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The thing with a manual is that once you have been forced to learn to drive one, as you are in most places, then you don't have the extra overhead of having to learn it.

The only automatic I've ever driven is a friend's spare BMW 745i that he used to lend me when my car broke down. I don't really recall it being that much easier to drive.

As has been said the question of cost, and to a lesser extent extra fuel consumption caused by the extra weight (though that would be partially compensated for by the superior economy skills of the automatic transmission) are the reasons they don't take off in Europe. Most people would prefer to spend the money on a good incar stereo system.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Except the Toyota Camry - push the "extra rev" button and floor it - so smooth and fast it's unbelievable - seriously !

Toyota Fan
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Actually, the good argument against stick is not about cutting one's arm off with the table saw.

The good argument for automatic is because it makes it easier for your friends to drive you home if you've had too much to drink.  Or if you are too sleepy to drive.  Things like that.  You are probably less likely to drive in spite of being impaired, although I don't know if anybody's bothered to really study this.

The other never proven but often claimed advantage of manual transmission cars is that they are less likely to be stollen and less likely to be sucessfully carjacked.

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I spent ten years driving stick because "driving is supposed to be fun, dammit".  Then I spent an afternoon in skid school.

My mind was changed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Also, stick shifts get old REALLY quick when you have to commute through bumper to bumper traffic every day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

And that's another thing. I also understand that an automatic is better for driving through urban areas and traffic jams, a manual for longer stretches of road.

Since the mainland of Great Britain is basically one big urban traffic jam, you would think that the automatic would be more popular here. In a manual you might have to make 50-60 gear changes PER KILOMETRE and I'm not kidding.

Instead, it's the other way around, with USians going for automatics on their vast enormous North-by-Northwestian highways, and UKians constantly, and I do mean constantly, depressing that clutch and shifting that stick in order to shuffle through the narrow winding roads with parked cars lining each side and no room to pass oncoming vehicles.

Fernanda Stickpot
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Fernanda, well in UK people still use two taps. Go to work in suits, do not have flexi time, lunch at their desks with sandwiches and look for a certain skillset (knowledge of Linux shell scripting or what certain string function does) not persons capabilities when hiring.

Sometimes I like that - makes you feel cozy (old double decks, museums, people's politeness),  sometimes I hate it (suits, rules, taps).

Makes Britain unique and interesting.

UK resident
Thursday, October 16, 2003

I like my manuals and the whole "manual vs auto" debate got me a little intrigued so I jumped on google and had a look around. A couple of clicks later and I come across this beauty!

"Firstly, as we all know that the AT (Auto Transmission) is much more convenient and enjoyable than the MT (Manual Transmission)."

Damn, all this time I've been living a lie... I'm feel so dirty...

Jack of all
Friday, October 17, 2003

Why I like manual gear boxes:

Manual gear boxes helps me feel more "in tune" with car. When I want to overtake, *I* decide, not the car, when I should change down a gear to get more power. If I want to rev the engine to 6,000 rpm I can do so. When diving in town, it becomes a bit of a drag, but if I was driving an automatic I would probably have fallen asleep through tedium and crashed already.

Rob Shields
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home