When comparing Scheme vs C++, the Slant community recommends Scheme for most people. In the question“What is the best programming language to learn first?” Scheme is ranked 8th while C++ is ranked 24th. The most important reason people chose Scheme is:
Scheme syntax is extremely regular and easy to pick up. A *formal* specification of the syntax fits onto just a few pages; it can be introduced informally in a paragraph or two. Students are not distracted by remembering how to write if statements or loops or even operator precedence because every syntactic follows the same pattern. Ultimately, everything looks something like this: (func a b c) This includes not only user-defined functions but even control flow: (if cond then-clause else-clause) or even primitive operations like `define` and `set`: (define foo 10) (set! foo 11) This means that nothing really has special syntactic treatment in the language. There are essentially no weird edge-cases to memorize, and different concepts are given a more equal weight in the language. (Unlike Algol-like languages which tend to given undue weight to loops and assignment statements, for example.)
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Simple syntax
Scheme syntax is extremely regular and easy to pick up. A formal specification of the syntax fits onto just a few pages; it can be introduced informally in a paragraph or two. Students are not distracted by remembering how to write if statements or loops or even operator precedence because every syntactic follows the same pattern.
Ultimately, everything looks something like this:
(func a b c)
This includes not only user-defined functions but even control flow:
(if cond then-clause else-clause)
or even primitive operations like
(define foo 10) (set! foo 11)
This means that nothing really has special syntactic treatment in the language. There are essentially no weird edge-cases to memorize, and different concepts are given a more equal weight in the language. (Unlike Algol-like languages which tend to given undue weight to loops and assignment statements, for example.)
Pro No Magic - it's clear how everything works
Scheme has far less built into the language itself, helping students see that things like OOP are not magical: they are just patterns for organizing code. Everything in Scheme is built up from a very small set of primitives which compose in a natural and intuitive fashion.
Having a language that does not accord many things special status helps keep students open minded. This will help students later go between different languages and paradigms from procedural to object-oriented to functional.
Pro Great at teaching fundamental programming ideas
Scheme teaches the important, fundamental ideas immediately without the distraction of unnecessary syntax or language features.
Pro Great, well known textbooks
There is a set of very strong textbooks introducing CS and programming using Scheme. These books are available for free online.
The most famous example--and one of the most famous CS books full stop--is Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs usually known as SICP. This book introduces fundamental ideas in computer science and covers an incredible amount of material quickly and clearly without requiring any prior knowledge.
However, some people find SICP a bit challenging as a first text. Happily, there are other more introductory texts as well. Simply Scheme is a book designed to be read before SICP, easing beginners into the language as well as CS and programming in general. How to Design Programs is another text used in introductory college courses.
Pro Robust metaprogramming
The quotation functionality of Lisp allow for extremely powerful, yet syntactically straightforward metaprogramming via macros. This is more powerful than the C preprocessor while being less involved than something like Template Haskell or F# quotations.
Using macros to properly decompose a problem domain teaches new developers good habits, improving composibility and reliability when tackling large programs. Scheme metaprogramming also serves as a gentle introduction to domain specific languages.
Unlike most languages, Scheme actually accords both functional programming and imperative programming roughly equal status. Many other languages like Python and Java are staunchly imperative while SML and Haskell are primarily functional; Scheme is a nice middle ground.
Additionally, since Scheme syntax is extremely flexible, it can easily be re-purposed for teaching non-deterministic and logic programming. There is no need to learn a new language like Prolog when the same ideas can easily be expressed with Scheme syntax.
This gives students a good perspective on different ways to think about and organize programs, which makes it much easier to move forward to other languages and technologies.
Pro Huge language supports most everything
C++ is a large language with an even larger community and following. It has libraries for every kind of task that is possible to do with C++
Pro Powerful memory management
Allows puting large arrays on the "heap" to avoid "stack overflow".
Pro Teaches fundamental OOP
Teaches you to leverage object oriented programming.
Pro Teaches problem solving
The great STL is the most powerful Data Structure and Algorithms Library. It would benefit you very much in problem solving, your main main way to love programming. The code is much compact compared to Java and C#. No unnecessary classes are in your way; yet when you need classes they are available unlike C. The code runs very fast.
Pro Excellent compiler optimization
Both open source compilers (such as Clang and GCC), and proprietary ones (like Intel's and Microsoft's) are very good at analyzing program flow and program optimization. This is mostly due to the widespread usage of C/C++ applications running everything from mobile/desktop/server Operating Systems, to search engines and webserver software, and the demand for performance.
Pro Teaches low-level programming, but doesn't have as many pitfalls as C
Teaches data types, low-level program flow and the so common C-style syntax while not being as much of a pain as C itself.
Pro C code can be used in C++ code
Most C code will work as C++.
Pro STD is often updated
The functionalities keep growing throughout the years. C++11 gave us a soft type of garbage collecting with the smart pointers.
Pro Best way to understand algorithms
Con Little Job Market
There are little to none jobs searching for a Scheme programmer. The ones that exist are more related to Research in Maths or Artificial Intelligence.
Con Fragmented ecosystem
Scheme is an IEEE standard, not an implementation. Unfortunately, the standard is too minimal and practical implementations have diverged--they had to expand on the standard to get anything done, but did so in incompatible ways.
The later de facto standard R6RS tried to correct this, but lost Scheme's minimalist elegance in the process. The newer R7RS standard takes the best of both worlds with an elegant minimalist core and a practical standard library.
Con Very different semantics from mainstream programming languages
Con A language that is purely academic
If someone said "I am starting a project in Scheme" then they are either talking about their homework or they are starting a joke.
Con Huge language gets in the way of learning
C++ is such an atrociously over-complicated language that its learning curve may get in the way of learning fundamentals. Learning C++ well is a ten-year project, and even experts are frequently surprised by the language.
Con Undefined behavior
Subtle errors can render the entire program "undefined" by the complicated C++ standard. The standard imposes no requirements in such cases. Thus C++ compiler writers are free to ignore the existence of such cases and Bad Things are prone to happen instead. Even experts can't reliably avoid undefined cases in C++, so how can beginners be expected to do so?
Con Module system is not great
C++ uses the
#include mechanism provided by C. Which unfortunately is a poor way of accessing the API of a library. Some of the reasons why the module system is weak are:
Compile time scalability: The compiler must preprocess every header included in a file, and every header included in those headers. This process must be repeated for every translation unit in the program. As can be imagined, this doesn't scale very well. For each header added you are increasing the compilation time exponentially.
Fragile: modules included are treated as textual imports by the compiler. This causes all sorts of problems since they are subject to any macro definitions in the time of the inclusion. If any of these macro definitions collide with a name in the library it can break the library API .
Con Retains nearly all bad habits of C
Con No two programmers can agree on which 10% subset of C++ to use
C++ is such a huge and complicated language, that programmers have to learn a disciplined subset of it to reliably get anything done. The problem is, no-one can agree on which subset to use and they can't understand each other.
Con Bugs easily corrupt the memory you need to find them
You can usually get a core dump, but often the call stack gets completely overwritten. Compilers are not even consistent in how they map the binary objects to code.
Con Tough to learn as the first language
Many of the concepts are hard to grasp if you have no prior programming experience.
Con Painfully slow compilation
Beginners need fast feedback
Con No reflection
C++ objects are frustratingly opaque. This makes debugging especially difficult, something beginners have to do a lot.
Con No way to locate definitions
No modules, just files, and no way to tell where anything came from.
Con Complicated types
Con Undefined behaviors and weak limited type safety
Undefined behavior in a program can cause unexpected results, making it hard to debug. With UB, program behavior may vary wildly depending on optimization settings. There are many cases that invoke UB, such as signed overflow, invalid dereferences, large integer shifts, uninitialized variables, etc. C++ allows for non-type safe operations such as logic errors, wild pointers, buffer overflow, etc. UB and type safety issues create a large number of bugs and security vulnerabilities.
Con Standard library missing important features
Con Arcane binding rules
Con Duplicates C features in incompatible ways
Arrays, strings, pointers, etc. have both C and C++ versions. Sometimes the C++ versions are worse. This is more useless trivia beginners have to sort through.