Your Turn: Is Computer Science Dead?
Last week, I noted an article that took
a dim view of trends in the programming arena
. And readers had a thing or
two to say about it all.
Reader Joel runs a skewer through the argument with this incisive response:
Of course not. It's a great hallmark of progress that most people can
work and live their lives at much higher levels of abstraction than before.
I for one don't want to make my own clothes or catch my dinner.
There will always need to be a handful of people writing microprocessor
code for the assembly programmers, a few hundred assembly programmers writing
compilers for the C/C++ programmers, several thousand C/C++ programmers building
frameworks like Java and .NET for the application programmers, and finally,
millions of application programmers building the apps that 99 percent of the
world actually uses. If Mr. McBride can point to a single time in computer
history when there were more software developers, more (or better) development
tools, or more programs in existence, I could take his concern seriously.
Did automotive science die when mass production put 99 percent of the
tinkering machinists out of work? Or did it encourage even more investment
because the ones who remained multiplied their innovations by 10 million cars
instead of one? Yes, someone somewhere needs to know how to write the assembly
language code that makes all the levels above it possible, and I hope those
people are getting paid handsomely. But the other 99.9 percent of us should
take a quiet moment to be thankful it isn't us, then get back to writing our
applications instead of worrying about the death of the field.
Mr. McBride correctly states that computer science curricula need to be
more relevant and vocational, but I hope he understands that if that isn't
done, it will be computer science departments that die, not computer science.
-Joel, New York
Laura is not as upbeat, but she makes a similar argument.
It's the computer scientists who make the "era of visual programming
languages where 8-year-old kids can program robots with a drag-and-drop interface"
and other wonderful things possible.
Computer science is certainly not dead. But let's be realistic: Job opportunities
in this country are simply not what they were. At least, that is the present
perception. The world isn't flat, as one author has famously preached; it
is cone-shaped, everything sliding down a slippery slope.
Do you agree with these counterarguments? Was pundit/humorist P.J. O'Rourke
right when he wrote that those who pine for a perfect era in the past are forgetting
about the pain that past produced (including *shudder* painful dentistry)? Let
me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/21/2007 at 1:15 PM