My programming ability goes down hill over time. Back in college, I coded in C/C++, a low level, high performance language. Then I worked for two years as full time programmer. In the graduate school, I use Matlab exclusively. Only once I had to use C, because of the speed concern: I need to simulate millions of runs to estimate the probabilities of rare events. It would take Matlab weeks to run, but took C only seconds.
I like Matlab. It is a matrix centered language for computation. With C-like syntax, it is easy to learn. More importantly, it has extensive toolboxes for getting things done. I once joked in the class, except brewing coffee, Matlab can do anything. My main complaint about Matlab are its price and popularity. Outside academia and research communities, few use it. It is more of a niche, computation tool than a general language.
Early in my career, I did all heavy codings in Matlab. I even taught one class in Matlab. But my days with Maltab diminishes over time. In research I gradually shift the focus to proof and writing, while outsourcing coding to coauthors. Also in B-school and corporate worlds, Excel rules. So for teaching I have to pick up Excel.
For programs, the fundamentals are the same: every piece of code boils down to two elements: IF and loop. The devil is in details. To master a language, you must invest time. Looking forward, I need to work with real data.
It is time to sharpen the coding skill. My choice is Python. It is known for elegance and flexibility. If John Stachurski advocates it, there is little doubt :)