Hour of Code: More than 600 million lines of code and counting
— By Kirsten Korosec on December 18, 2013, 12:03 PM PST
More in touch with reality
Tell me why US students should study Comp Sci? The job market is wanting to hire as cheap of labor as possible. IT is a boom and bust market with a demand for new IT skills that is relentless. Look back and see how long Agile, Android and the IPhone have been available. Progress is endless and continuous. When new compsci grads can't find jobs, and we are importing help from outside the US at the same time, what does that say? Today that might not be true, but the number of grads today was affected by the trends 4 years ago.
I enjoy what I do, but I also see the grim realities.
I am a computer scientist, now retired, having made my living as a software programmer. For three years before that I was a high school teacher of mathematics and science. I am reluctant, nevertheless, to endorse the idea that computer science specifically is more in need of boosting than general understanding of science, and the ignorance of such simple things as the comparison between thousands of tons of waste and billions(American) of tons seems to escape the attention of far too many reporters.
It is not a new problem.
Kelvin computed the mass of oxygen in the atmosphere, as any reader of Smartplanet could do. He deduced the total mass of sequestered (fossilised or living) carbon that photosynthesis could have produced at the same time. Reckoning the rate at which the two were being consumed, he no doubt arrived at a figure of millions of years before our ability to breathe would run out.That's pretty short.
But some reporters of his computation got mixed up between millions of millions of tons, and thousands of millions, and came up with the End of the World in about five centuries.
I have some misgivings about two things here. Edsger Dijkstra, one of the greats in early programming design, noted that a properly written program should be as faultless a piece of logic as a mathematical proof, but that far too many programs are scarcely better than conjectures. Of course, when the operating system and code compiler are proprietary secrets, everything that you run on them is suspect.
Nevertheless, back in the days of the IBM System/360, as a programmer working for IBM in Britain, in assembler language, I was able to prove that our S/360 model 40 computer was in fact violating its Principles of Operation in certain rarely-used floating point instructions. When this information was sent to programming HQ in the USA (Poughkeepsie, I think) the response was that I was right, and one of the first 12 people to report it.
My other misgiving is the idea of all those "programming jobs". That's not the reason for teaching people computer science. "Science jobs" is not the only reason for teaching science either. If people do not understand science and technology, in a democracy, they really are hardly qualified to vote, let alone stand for office. How many scientists do we have in Congress? What proportion of judges know the difference between energy and power? How may people voting on subsidies for "renewable" energy know the fact that a wind farm with the expected annual energy output equal to the annual energy consumption of N thousand "homes" is in no way capable of supplying their actual energy need?
so a 15 -1 opportunity to work for someone. "May the odds be ever in your favor". The Hunger Games in the world of employment.
For sure on the Comp Sci thing. There right now are thousands of jobs available and hundreds of thousands more that are filled by people with less vision and communication capability than is necessary. I'd say that as a nation, the USA has severely missed the ball on the whole approach to technology and more specifically computer science. But, I'll say it isn't entirely our fault. The basic premise of going into computer science is that it is an amazingly hard concept to grasp, and thus there are "barrier" classes that exist, such as the multiple years of calculus, and linear algebra that tend to sway off the American kids who prefer an easier path through college to a degree that amounts to not much more than a tissue for the circular seat. But they drop like flies because they are weak minded and are not pushed at the critical moment where they really could get over the hump and move into the computer science world. The problem starts by babying our children, and not forcing some of the basics of talking programming languages and practical nature of the computer science program early enough. So to sum up, adding more of it to the daily life of our young students, will do two things, one, show them why the games they love to spend countless hours on work, and how understanding them is as fun as playing. And two, patch the failing economy by putting really valuable jobs and careers that pay well and offer bright futures back to the American kids. The Indians, Asians, and South Americans have been onto the path into comp-sci for years. We have some catching up to do, but with creative ways to bring people back to comp-sci and adding it into our young people's school lives, it can be done...Nothing matches the creativity of our children, we just need to put the tools in their hands and watch the magic...
At the turn of the 20th Century, some places required drivers to either carry a mechanic or be one; is this where we are vis-a-vis computers? Programming our own computers is quite a bit beyond most of us, even if we worked on computer hardware for years; I did, and I was lucky to be able to wrote a Basic line editor when I misplaced a TRS-80's Scripsit disk.
I suspect it's best if we start young; enough small, simple and inexpensive computers devices are available to make a good plaything -- that is how young people learn best and how I ended up an engineer. Is programming the new Ham Radio? Is that where we are?
I can program in a score of different languages, but it's what I do for a living.
Besides, you got to start somewhere and assembly (6502 was my first programming language) is not a good place to start.
That's all well and good. I feel every child should have at least a basic understanding of programming and computer internals so that the computer is not a magical box that they do not understand.
That being said, there is a real danger of creating an even bigger problem of having many more people that think they can write software, when all they do is contribute to the crapware that is out there already. They also use up valuable resources asking questions on support sites that could be answered in any 'programming 101' course.