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I first started programming in college (late bloomer) and learned lisp, python, java, ruby and a smattering of other languages in class/internships and have taught java at the intro level. Java is a difficult language IMO to teach as a first programming language as concepts are often obscured by syntax, and I imagine the same to be true to an even greater extent for C.

I did a bit of lower level stuff for OS/algorithms courses in undergrad but first did C/C++ extensively during my Master's and now my PhD (and Objective C for side projects but that's another story). I love the C/C++ work I do as when I write in C/C++ vs. say python speed is the key issue so I'm doing much more work on algorithm design and parallelization.

For a new grad if they are into the work and a partially seasoned programmer, they'll learn on the job if they don't hack C already.

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