The writer Toby Young tells a story about how the modern 100m race is run in primary schools. At the starting pistol, everyone runs like mad. At the 50m point, the fastest children stop and wait for the fatties to catch up. Then all the youngsters walk across the finishing line together, holding hands.
I have no idea if this is true – it may well be an urban myth. But the media class’s newly acquired enthusiasm for teaching all children computer programming is very similar.
Speaking as a former professional programmer myself, someone who twenty years ago was at the hairy arse end of the business working with C and Unix, I can say this sudden burst of interest is staggeringly ignorant and misplaced. It’s like wearing a charity ribbon to show how much you care. And it could actually end up doing far more harm than good. Continue reading “Compulsory coding in schools: The new Nerd Tourism”
As anyone who’s ever done it professionally knows, programming computers isn’t as glamorous as they make out in the movies. Take for example, Independence Day, where the hero lashes together a program in 30 minutes and conjures up a piece of code that saves the world. Have you ever seen anyone do in that real life? And did you bill them for the full hour?
Or take another glamorous example of the mercurial codesmith-as-shamen. In Po Bronson’s Nudist On The Late Shift – one of many books of the dot.com era that tried to persuade us work was simply another form of leisure, the eponymous hero is a programmer so dedicated to his task that he forgets to put his clothes on. And he’s so vital to the organization, no one minds.
But if this was really happening – what would you think? You’d ask yourself, what would drive a man to toil over a computer, in a deserted building, stark naked? Just what would possess a man to lose his dignity like that? The lonely soul must have been tearing his heart out. About, what exactly?
Continue reading “Verity Stob – programming's funniest memoir”
Part 1: A look at how it works
No chip in years has caused as much excitement as the Cell processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba. It promises to be the most important microprocessor of the decade, with potentially enormous repercussions for how the industry computes, and how the rest of us use digital media. It will power the PlayStation 3 and technical and commercial computing.
Technical details of Cell will be disclosed at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco next week, and in anticipation we’ll look first at how the Cell works and then tomorrow at what it means to the industry and consumers.
Continue reading “The Cell chip – what it is, and why you should care”