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More Students Prefer Interdisciplinary to CS

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the more-than-just-programming dept.

Education 448

prostoalex writes "With increased offshore outsourcing and continuing simplification of such tasks as writing a trivial application, Computer Science degrees are not as attractive for college students anymore, NYT finds. Students prefer interdisciplinary majors, where the programming skills are combined with solid scientific backgrounds in biotech, chemistry or business." From the article: "For students like Ms. Burge, expanding their expertise beyond computer programming is crucial to future job security as advances in the Internet and low-cost computers make it easier to shift some technology jobs to nations with well-educated engineers and lower wages, like India and China."

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Immigration (4, Interesting)

FriedTurkey (761642) | about 9 years ago | (#13384052)

I think that foreign workers are better trained for computer programming jobs is incorrect. Corporations aren't pushing for more H1B workers because they are better qualified than domestic workers. Corporations want a guy who will take what they give them or else they get sent home. How much technical education is really applicable to a real world programming job? Probably less than ten percent of what is taught in higher education.

I have worked with some great H1B workers. I also have worked with some terribly unqualified H1B workers. Just like domestic workers some are good at programming and some just can't do it. I would say some of the H1B workers do more resume padding because they are desperate to stay and I would probably do it too. One H1B worker, when applying, listed the company he was applying for as one of the companies he previously worked. I guess he didn't check the name on the cut and past job he was doing because he never worked for the company.

I am not afraid to compete against foreign workers. I think it will be great for technology in general. I just want to compete on an even playing field. Let the programmers immigrate as Americans. You never hear Microsoft ask the government to allow immigration for foreign workers. They don't want to pay them more and worry about a worker leaving for another job.

The market will allocative efficiently (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384055)

It doesn't matter that the number of CS degrees is decreasing in the US -- it will just increase in India, China to meet up with the demand. The free market at its best!

Re:The market will allocative efficiently (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384102)

"Engineers don't build bridges. Ironworkers do." //Same goes for programs. Think about it.

Chicken George (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384059)

Don't believe the hype. Don't believe the carefully planned celebrations or the partisan pundits, or the protests that derided it all as the next coming of Sodom and Gomorrah. Last week was nothing more than quiet fart in the political world; an election that was decided almost two years ago. You would think the election of the first female President of the United States would be a grander statement; the progressive values of our nation confirmed for the whole world to see. For me, it was muted by the fact that it is Hillary Clinton who was voted in. It is creepy to think that since I was eight years-old, the President of the United States has been named either Clinton or Bush.

An upside can be seen in the fact that it is unlikely we will ever have another president named Bush again. The scandal that has dominated his last term was so disgusting, grotesque, and just plain bizarre that it must have made the electorate nostalgic for Clinton's sexual appetites. Though like Clinton's troubles, Bush's were not sufficient to have him removed from office, they have completely destroyed the Republican party as we know it. As well as the Presidency, the Democrats now are firmly in control of the House, and are only two members short of a majority in the Senate as well. Champagne bottles were being cracked in the offices of a party many had written off for the past decade.

The dominance Republicans held through most of this decade has evaporated in the space of only two years, and many in the party think that this may be the best thing that could have happened. $100 per barrel oil has finally caught up to the economy and all indicators point to us being in the start of a long downward spiral. It is pointless to keep our token force of 50,000 soldiers in Iraq any longer, especially since the Green Zone is being hit with at least two suicide car bombers daily. Any notion that this fight can be won is only espoused by crackiest of crackpots on right wing podcasts. Clinton will likely withdraw them in her first one-hundred days, leaving it to the Democrats to officially lose the Iraq War. It will also be up to Democrats to honor our commitments to Japan and South Korea and deploy a carrier group to thwart the planned PRC invasion of Taiwan. This will not be a popular move. The US public is in no mood for saber rattling abroad and the Dow loses one-hundred points every time we fart in the direction of China.

Yes, not being the party in power right now might be a good thing, and to that end, Dubya's sudden and glorious flame-out may have been the best thing to happen to Republican Party. American politics is rife with stories of a sudden rise to power, followed by an ungracious fall. McCarthy and Nixon are forever etched onto our national memory. Yet, they all pale when compared against the story of the disastrous collapse of George W. Bush.

Within a year of taking office, he had risen from being a mere politician to being a cultural icon, adored or despised depending on your side of the aisle. Despite a drab economy, constant pandering to the cultural conservatives, and a rising chorus of questions about the Iraq War, Bush was indomitable and uncompromising in his first term. If someone hit the United States, they were sure that Dubya would swing, even if he swung at the wrong guy.

Like all Republicans though, his strengths lay primarily in foreign affairs. When he began pressing his domestic policy at the start of his second term the cracks began to show. His social security reform was blocked even though his party held both houses. Even people who voted for him began to get nervous that he'd given too much red meat out to the religious right, especially when the PRC officially sanctioned unlimited stem cell research and billions in venture capital went once more abroad. It finally dawned on people that the war in Iraq might not have been a such good thing to get into in the first place.

Still, by the end of '05 things were looking up for Bush. He got his Supreme Court justice confirmed without any reasonable opposition. In early '06, polls showed that the public viewed his tax reform policies much more favorably than they had his efforts at social security reform. The Iraqi insurgency went into a lull after the execution of Saddam Hussein, and Bush began to reduce the number of troops deployed in that country resulting in feel-good photo-ops of soldiers coming home--Mission Accomplished. His approval ratings, which in the winter of '05 had hit a low of 32%, had bounced back to within a statistical error of 50% and the Republicans looked like they would be able to hold onto even the House in the midterm elections.

Then "chickengeorge.mpg" hit the Internet.

No one can say for certain where "chickengeorge" originated from. The file was spread through peer-to-peer networks for at least three days before it finally got hosted on a few shock web sites. The five-minute video contained a disgusting scene of a man who bore a strong resemblance to a younger George W. Bush wearing lipstick and a pink bra and panties while jamming his phallus into a live and squawking chicken. By the end of the video, the chicken was no longer alive, and the man in the video, his crotch now covered in chicken blood grunting "I loves goin' chicken huntin'" into the camera. It could have been mere coincidence that his voice sounded a lot like the president-to-be as well.

Within the first week of its becoming public, chickengeorge.mpg was one of the most downloaded video clips in the history of the Internet. It was popular, but few people thought that it REALLY was the President of the United States performing such a vile act. Most people chalked it up to advances in video altering technology, a sort of real-time cut and paste. That is, until a forensic video expert named Phil Fletcher began researching the file.

He downloaded every version of the video he could find. Many versions on the web had been edited down to just the gory parts, had their site's watermark attached, or had music dubbed to it (a particularly popular version of the video was dubbed with "My Sharona" by The Knack.)

"It was hard to look for the normal signs of video tampering with these images," Fletcher says. "They had been transferred to create the digital file, and the digital file had been compressed several times."

There was very little that could be gathered from just straight analysis, so Fletcher looked at shadows and ambient light sources, and could find no inconsistencies. The next step was to analyze the color spectrum in the video. "There was not a single frame where color spectrum used changed drastically from the rest of the frame, which is a clear sign that a video has been tampered with, or has had other elements spliced in. Also, the range of the colors in the video is very narrow, which is consistent with the commercial 8mm film stock of the time. The frame rate is also consistent with commercial camera from the mid-sixties to early seventies cranked at standard speed," Fletcher says. "Of course, it is impossible to tell for certain without having access to the original source, but I can only assume that the first chickengeorge.mpg that first arrived on the Internet was no more than two generations from the source."

After three weeks Phil Fletcher published his findings in his blog ("Could Chicken George Actually Be Real?" August 18th, 2006) which set off a firestorm in the politically charged blogosphere of '06 elections. Left wings groups--particularly PETA--were incensed that the president was a chicken fucker. The president's defenders on the right saw it as a smear campaign, in all likelihood orchestrated by the special effects wizards in "Liberal Hollywood."

But the shitstorm really hit when Osama Bin Laden released a tape on the five-year anniversary of 9/11, directly referencing the "chickengeorge" video. "People of the west, the perversion of your infidel leaders is now obvious to the world. With this act, the Defiler has shown himself to be truly an enemy of Islam," said OBL from his (presumed) Pakistani safehouse. To this day, clips of "chickengeorge" are a staple in nearly every Al Qaida recruitment video.

Worse, the mainstream media could no longer ignore this bizarre scandal. Bush became even more reclusive and the White House stayed quiet on the "chickengeorge" affair. "The administration refuses to dignify this obvious forgery with a response," is all the White House press corp could get out of Scott Richter regarding the video clip. Even more video experts began to analyze "chickengeorge", each side either confirming or debunking the authenticity of the tape depending on which political think-tank they were being funded by.

It did not help that in October, the Iraqi insurgency that had gone dormant for most of the year flared back up with a vengeance. The fragile new government began show serious cracks. Almost every Sunni in the government resigned. A growing faction of Shi'ite separatists were officially backed and sanctioned by Iran. Turkey began to express fears about the Kurds in the north, who were creating militias, stockpiling arms, and began identifying themselves as "Kurdistan." The next month was even bloodier, the Coalition suffering more casualties in November than in any month since the fall of Saddam. There was also mounting pressure for our last ally in the Coalition, Britain, to withdraw their troops.

That November, the Republicans held onto a majority in the Senate, losing only two seats. The battle for the House, which had previously been at even odds as to whether or not the Republicans could hold it, was finally won by the Democrats with a three seat majority, which was two seats more than they were expected to win before "Chickengate" exploded. Emboldened, the Democrats now demanded an independent investigation of the video, citing that they believed such behavior from our Chief Executive had "emboldened our enemies." This was tricky political waters, and there were few voices on the other side of the aisle protesting the creation of the investigation.

The fallout of the '06 elections created the first true schisms in the formerly rock solid Republican party. Though the majority of religious conservatives who backed Bush did not believe the video was real, 99% of those outside the Appalachians also stated that if the video was determined to be real, they would withdraw their support. Critics of Bush within the party who had gone along to get along also began to openly criticize the President and his policies. Those who aligned themselves openly with the President began to see their poll numbers drop.

Silence from the White House on Chickengate was no longer an option. Approval ratings for the President dropped to a historic low of 23%. In December, President Bush held a tense press conference, where he fielded a few questions regarding the scandal. "This is a really strange thing for a president to have to refute. But I will tell the American people, absolutely and cater-geg-gorically that I have not had sex with that chicken or any other livestock at any time in my life."

His Clinton-esque denial did him no good, and the Democrats looking for some payback pushed the investigation forward. "Chickengeorge.mpg" was analyzed more thoroughly than the Zapruder film, with experts doing research on everything from the type of camera used in the filming, the method used to transfer the film to video, to attempting to find the location where the video was shot. After poring over more than 600 hours of testimony, the panel determined that "chickengeorge.mpg" WAS almost certainly untouched and authentic. From comparison of photographs of the President at the time, it was determined that "chickengeorge" was shot sometime during his sophomore and junior years at Yale.

The similarities to the Clinton scandal grew as Bush was called before a grand jury to testify to the commission under penalty of perjury. Like Clinton, the supposedly secret grand jury testimony was released to the news media. Unlike Clinton, he looked absolutely flummoxed and disheveled through the whole ordeal, stuttering most of his answers. He backpedaled from his previous statements and neither confirmed, nor denied the authenticity of "chickengeorge.mpg".

In April of '07, the House enthusiastically impeached Bush. He was saved from being removed from congress by the Republican controlled senate. Even though most of his own party wanted to hang the guy, he was saved through backroom deals, and there were several charges that Karl Rove blackmailed several members into not voting to remove the President. There were also plenty of thorny legal issues since, technically, it wasn't illegal for a sitting President to have had sex with an animal. Bestiality and animal cruelty was certainly illegal in Connecticut at the time, but the statute of limitations had run out on the crime decades ago. The Republicans, also certain that the Democrats were going to use this incident to take complete control of the government, decided to meekly rally around the President in order to prevent a congressional rout of their party.

Still, for the last year and a half of the Bush presidency, he was the lamest of ducks. Every ounce of political capitol he may have had was spent with extra loaned just to keep him afloat. World leaders refused to shake his hand, much less sign treaties with him. Dick Cheney became the de-facto head of Executive Branch, with the President hiding as much as he could out of the public eye in Crawford.

Bush had fallen off the wagon hard and was reported to be regularly drinking again, often sneaking out to roadhouse bars on the outskirts of nearby Waco to get his slosh on. That was where I met with him last week, merely by coincidence while I was doing a minor story on the fifteen year anniversary of the assault on the Branch Davidian compound for the MilitiasOnline blog. His Secret Service detail is careful to make sure the President isn't bothered when he's going on his benders. But he actually asked me meekly if he could buy me a shot that day and I accepted.

He was far from the raging drunk frat boy he had been in his younger years. He now had the demeanor of an older alcoholic, who can pace himself all day into stupor. Like the old alcoholic, he is also extremely lonely and extremely chatty. It was reported just last week that Laura Bush had filed for divorce, making him the first President to be divorced while in office. This scandal had isolated him. He was a broken man, looking for anyone to talk to.

We had done four shots of Jameson by the time I felt chummy enough with him to ask him any questions. "So, tell me...honestly. What's the deal with that Chickengate stuff?"

A Secret Service agent moved in to yank me off my stool and toss me out the door, but George graciously waved him off. "You want to know the truth about Chicken George? You really want to know the truth?"

"Hell yes. The whole world wants to know."

He smacked the bar with both his palms, and yelled "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" This made his SS detail nervous again, but they stayed back. They were used to this sort of behavior coming from their boss lately. "Did you ever see that movie? You can't handle the truth? I love it. It's my favorite movie."

I nodded. "Yeah, it's pretty good," I said, even though I was done with Tom Cruise after he barricaded himself in that Scientology compound in San Diego. Drink the Kool Aid, Tom. Drink the Kool Aid.

He was pretty drunk, but I got the whole conversation on tape, and got him to tell me all this on the record (which is on tape also for all you watchers of journalistic ethics.) Still, he was slurring pretty badly, so I'll have to paraphrase most of it.

It was long and it was wordy, but he basically said "YES YES! That was me fucking the chicken! I was drunk, had snorted about three grams of coke, and took a horrible dare at party! I lied to the American people! I lied to the grand jury! I FUCKED THAT CHICKEN!"

Like everyone else, I was disgusted at thought of anyone fucking a chicken, but it was hard not to have some empathy towards a man in this state. I asked, "Who on earth would dare you to have, um, relations with a chicken like that? Was it a frat thing?"

"It was a Skull and Bones thing," he said. "And no, I'm not telling you WHO."

"So they have something worse on you?" I asked.

It took him a moment, but then he shook his head. "No. They have something bad on everybody; it's a part of their initiation. I think that's the only thing they have on me."

"So I can assume that somewhere out there is film of say, John Kerry fucking a chicken?"

"A chicken, a goat, a dead body, an eight year-old Thai girl; they have something on everybody."

Of course I was curious: was the American government truly being influenced by this secret society?

"No, not really," Bush said. "They never directed the big decisions. The extent of their influence was like *hiccup* add this provision to this bill, be sure this line gets into the next budget and so forth. It wasn't about controlling the big picture; I have no idea what their idea of the big picture is or even who is in control of the society. It's a matter of them achieving their small ends, no matter what the big picture is."

"Where did you draw the line on them?" I asked. "I mean, you must have displeased them since they leaked the film."

"Fucked if I know," he groaned. "It's not like I have a hotline where I can contact them. Maybe they didn't even mean for it to get out. Someone left it out somewhere and it was leaked by a person not even connected with Skull and Bones. Whatever it is, I'm done with them. They can't do anything else they can do to me, so there's no sense in doing their crony favors any more."

The Secret Service man approached us holding a cellphone. "Mr. President, a call for you. It's the Chief of Staff."

He took the phone. "Karl? Karl! Where am I? Oh, I'm out at that place again...what's it's name...Lurleen's Roadhouse or something. Come down here, we'll have a Beck's. Oh, who am I talking to? I don't know?" He looked over the phone. "What's your name?"

"Poopy," I said. Time to get out before I was disappeared into a shallow hole in the Texas desert by Karl's handlers. I mock checked my watch, then gathered my tape recorder and threw a fifty dollar bill on the bar counter. "It was nice talking with you, but I gotta run. Gotta massage appointment. See you around."

"Oh, okay," the President said, looking surprised. "Why are you being so angry Karl? I'm just talking...there's nothing wrong with talking."

I stepped out of Lurleen's Roadhouse into the warm Texas air, acutely aware that I was in possession of some of the most valuable tapes in the country; the one's of the President CONFESSING to having sex with a chicken and implicating the Skull and Bones in the filming of it. I hopped in my car, didn't even bother checking out of my hotel, and drove straight home to where I could make copies and stuff them in a safety deposit box somewhere with an ominous note ("If you are reading this, I am probably dead," type stuff.)

Now, that this is written, I actually kinda feel sorry for Bush. He will not receive the usual perks of being an ex-President; huge speaking fees, inflated advances for memoirs etc. People are already joking that he shouldn't get a Presidential Library, but rather a Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the bar, the look in his eyes was one of a man not long for this world. I imagine we will find him dead with a mouthful of half-chewed sleeping pills within months of the Clinton inauguration next year.

And so will end the strange and sick saga of George W. Bush. We will always wonder if it was he that fucked the chicken, or the chicken that really fucked him.

Re:Chicken George (1)

Le Marteau (206396) | about 9 years ago | (#13384183)

Wow. That was easily the most readable thing I've seen on Slashdot in months. Bravo.

K5 troll! (0, Offtopic)

mnemonic_ (164550) | about 9 years ago | (#13384280)

A K5 article modded as a troll, on slashdot. That made my day. Well no, it didn't.

DUPE ALERT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384066)

And it's still on the front page. you've been zonked! [slashdot.org]

In other words (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 9 years ago | (#13384067)

The CS major taught at most colleges don't prepare you for jack nor shit.

I can attest to this. I took 2+ years in college towards my CS major before I gave it up. I had been working the entire time in various tech jobs, and I was picking up on just how little college would prepare someone for the real world.

I did "audit" several higher level courses, and while they provided good information, it's sort of half a degree. With no real training in hardware, software programmers really don't know what they are doing, or how to fix something if it goes BOOM.

Re:In other words (1)

daboogyman (872644) | about 9 years ago | (#13384089)

Colleges have trouble rounded everything as well - It's hard to offer a "specific" course, everything must be equal.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384127)

>software programmers really don't know what they
>are doing, or how to fix something if it goes BOOM

Yeah but at least they are not fat like us hardware guys.

Re:In other words (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 9 years ago | (#13384141)

I think it is fine for some people just to focus on software, that is why you work with other people who understand the hard-ware. However I am more concernd (a reason that I am an ex-CS major too) that the university doesnt offer a single course in PERL, Python, Ruby, PHP, or any of the currently popular languages except Java, and some C as a side benefit from some classes. Don't give me BS about the basic concepts being all the preperation you need from any language. What you really need is practice programmming in new languages, followed by more practice. Theory is nice, but if your networking classes never teach you how to code arround a socket you still can't write a network application. However if you learn the coding side first you will pick up the theory anyways as a means to making your programs work. And yes I too currently have a programming job, despite not being a CS major.

Re:In other words (5, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 9 years ago | (#13384191)

However I am more concernd (a reason that I am an ex-CS major too) that the university doesnt offer a single course in PERL, Python, Ruby, PHP, or any of the currently popular languages except Java, and some C as a side benefit from some classes. Don't give me BS about the basic concepts being all the preperation you need from any language.

Actually, this I subscribe to. Further, you can't cover all the languages in any depth that would be helpful. So you take a few languages that are widely used and have a good breadth of skills and you teach students the methods primarily, and how to learn a language secondary.

What I have a problem with is the single minded focus on mere software development concepts. With no head for how it interacts with the hardware, you get people creating buffer overflows without even realizing it. Teach a student how to learn and the basic concepts, then go over how a compiler works and how modern x86 machines process instructions.

They had compiler theory, but it wasn't a bachlor level course. I want that shit in the second year. Students need to know how their work affects the system.

Re:In other words (2, Insightful)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 9 years ago | (#13384235)

Thats a good point, and I think the problem here is that students are starting with Java. Simply learning C first teaches you a lot about how the machine works. Also I consider bufferoverflows and instruction sets and what not to be part of the software side of things, not the hardware side. Hardware to me is more like the difference between different kinds of RAM, bus speeds, memory mapping ROM, ect.

Re:In other words (1)

bugmonkey (865078) | about 9 years ago | (#13384343)

I don't think starting with Java is a problem. I started university learning Java (I already knew basic and a little C) and the problems with buffer overflows, instruction sets etc was presented to us well. Coming from programing with JVM actually helped me to understand better the principles of memory management by compairing the Java approach to straight up C programming. I think rather than Java being the problem, the problem is courses teaching how to code in Java rather than teaching Java, I'm sure there's a lot of 'Java Programers' out there who don't understand exactly what the JVM is doing or even understand what bytecode is.

Re:In other words (1)

bugmonkey (865078) | about 9 years ago | (#13384292)

I've just graduated from a CS course over here in the UK and it seems like all the problems you are picking up on are not problems over here. The first and second years of the course were based around learning Java as an example of a programing language ; general programing techniques, object orientated concepts as well as Java specific stuff. As well as this first and second year covered more general CS stuff ranging from basic processor design to language theory. Third and Fourth year then allowed each student to pick the subjects which interested them, most students choosing a mix of hardware (low level logic, processor design, memory design etc), software subjects, more theoretical CS courses (ie functional programing, language sematics), operating systems and compilers. I was lucky enough to go to a very good university for informatics so it maybe isn't like that across the board, but courses like you describe certainly exist.

Software Programmers don't fix Hardware. (4, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | about 9 years ago | (#13384163)

It's Computer Science. If you want to fix equipment, take Electrical Engineering or maybe a technical school can help you.

Quite frankly, I don't care to dick arround with broken gear. That's why we have an administration group that handles all that ugly stuff.

I can concentrate on the interesting parts: designing systems and writing code.

try Embedded Systems (1)

crimethinker (721591) | about 9 years ago | (#13384262)

How about when the software programmer works for a small company that makes embedded systems, and BOTH hardware engineers (yes, there were only two in the whole company) are busy with a high-profile customer issue? Ah, those were the days ... long days, the infrequent soldering iron burn, the frequent popping of capacitors on power supplies. Best job I ever had.

Besides, I find that if you know something about hardware, you're a little more sensitive to how you write your software. Things like power consumption because you're wasting the processor in a busy-wait loop instead of sleeping for the interrupt, or things like that.

My degree was "pure" CS. We had one class in EE, where the "big" project was to make a UART. I'm jealous of the people who double-majored in CS and EE, or went to a school that offered a hybrid curriculum.

I won't pooh-pooh CS - things like Rate Monotonic Analysis are extremely helpful in system design, and can for example lead you to choose the faster (and more power-hungry) processor since it can finish the task quicker and sleep longer before the next task comes up, thereby giving an overall lower battery drain. I won't say that building a UART out of a PLD and some shift registers while in school has made me a better programmer, but some extra background in hardware has certainly helped me understand software much better.

-paul

Re:In other words (3, Interesting)

theoddball (665938) | about 9 years ago | (#13384239)

I agree, in general, speaking as an ex-CS major. However, the CS program at my school *did* prepare you quite well for graduate study and/or academia in computer science.

Maybe Edsger Dijkstra was right [wikipedia.org] , and CS really is just a branch of mathematics, as he argues in his paper "The Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science." If that's the case, it's unsurprising that you don't necessarily learn how to use $version_control_system or $Windowing_API or whatever people expect in the working world as a CS undergrad.

I bailed because I knew I didn't want to pursue graduate studies (and, let's face it, I'm not a stellar mathematician.) I'm (like many others) now doing interdisciplinary study: CS + law/public policy. If nothing else, this country seems to need more lawyers, if not good developers.

Sigh.

Re:In other words (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 9 years ago | (#13384250)

In case you're interested, From the link in my sig:

Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking...If the total scheme of nature required man to be a specialist she would have made him so by having him born with one eye and a microscope attached to it....What nature needed man to be was adaptive in many if not any direction; wherefore she gave man a mind as well as a coordinating switchboard brain. Mind apprehends and comprehends the general principles governing flight and deep sea diving, and man puts on his wings or his lungs, then takes them off when not using them. The specialist bird is greatly impeded by its wings when trying to walk. The fish cannot come out of the sea and walk upon land, for birds and fish are specialists.

Re:In other words (4, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | about 9 years ago | (#13384251)

With no real training in hardware, software programmers really don't know what they are doing, or how to fix something if it goes BOOM.

Er, computer SCIENCE should not deal with hardware beyond a couple digital logic courses. It sounds like you were looking for an MIS degree, not CS.

University science courses are not meant to "prepare someone for the real world". Do I know how to do real chemistry research after taking sophomore organic chemistry? Not really. But I understand the concepts, which is far more important. Likewise, a computer science curriculum should deal with computer science, not too much software engineering and certainly not IT grunt work.

Re:In other words (3, Insightful)

bgalbraith (741719) | about 9 years ago | (#13384252)

One thing to keep in mind is about most Computer Science degrees is that they are not vocational programs. Rather, they are often geared toward understanding the mathematical and structural underpinnings of computational machines. Sure, you may learn C++, Java, assembly, whatever in the process of learning about data structures and algorithms, but those classes are not designed to teach you how to be a corporate IT developer.

If you are taking CS because you think you will get a high-paying job right after college, and not because you are passionate, or at least interested, in prgramming and CS theory, then I would say most CS programs are going to be a rather large waste of your time, energy, and money.

Re:In other words (2, Insightful)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | about 9 years ago | (#13384304)

Nice troll attempt, but try again. You dropped out before the good stuff and are comparing computer repair jobs to software engineering jobs. Sorry bub, but that's a no-go
I assume you're upset about something, but slamming 'the system' doesn't really get you anywhere.

The CS major taught at most colleges don't prepare you for jack nor shit.

Umm, I have a CS degree and did just fine. Learned a hell of alot about the theory and problem solving techniques. Wasn't the same stuff I learned in the real world, which means without the degree, I'd have a huge gap in my skillset.

With no real training in hardware

I only had some hardware training, because my interest was more on the math side, however they offered many hardware options at my school. They even had a class where the students built a machine from scratch. Ballbuster, but the kids loved it.

I do architecture and development work for multi-million dollar projects, but I also did some hardware repairs on a co-workers box last week, so I'm getting by fine with this degree dragging me down.

Re:In other words (4, Insightful)

netruner (588721) | about 9 years ago | (#13384344)

I would agree that 2 years toward a CS major wouldn't prepare you for much. However, if all your school was teaching was programming, those two years would have been better spent at a tech school toward an associate's degree that was actually in programming.

I have a bachelor's and a master's in CS and I can confidently say that my schools prepared me well. CS encompases more than simple programming. There is a lot of study in algorithm analysis, computer architecture, OSes and real software engineering (not as in popular culture where it is interchangable with "programming".)

There is also the issue of studying the hardware. I don't understand how any accredited program can hand out CS degrees without coursework in hardware. (in undergrad, my school taught the circuit analysis, interfacing, etc. out of the physics dept beccause we didn't have an engineering dept. - and every CS student was 2 credits short of a physics minor, math minor was automatic.)

If the program you were looking at was as you describe, I would speculate that they were probably not an accredited program.

This is BS (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384091)

I work for a major (fortune 100) financial corporation we are de-outsourcing our development back to the US, due to the sheer incompetance of the Indian and Chinese developers we outsourced to.

We are not alone in this. The problem is not so much that they are indian or chinese (although that does bring a whole host of issues of racism/reverse racism etc), but it is impossible to manage them remotely without spending so much effort on it that you might as well bring them over on an H1-B.

Combine that with the fact that it is impossible for a US corporation to enforce intellectual property rights in China and to a lesser degree India, and its hardly susprising that US corporations are favouring English speaking developers once again.

Re:This is BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384175)

Whether you're trolling or not, you are completely correct. This is absolute shite, cooked up by the site whos owners heavily push offshore outsourcing. There's been a few articles in various news sites over the past few months about a reduction in offshoring.

For reasons mentioned at joelonsoftware.com in a slashdot article a while ago, and reasons you mention, it's really not economical to save a relatively small amount of money on something that can be reproduced very easily, and has a direct effect on a company's profit and reputation to their customers.

Fuck you OSTG and VA Software, you two-faced shitheads.

Re:This is BS (1)

Snap E Tom (128447) | about 9 years ago | (#13384333)

More annecdotal evidence:

I just interviewed at a company that basically wanted me to completely rewrite their web app. The original code base was a complete mess, and impossible to maintain. My job would be to rewrite it in OO-style and make it modular. Who originally wrote it? It was outsourced to an Indian company.

Re:This is BS (3, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 9 years ago | (#13384379)

I think a lot of the quality problems come out of the fact that it seems like programming/IT jobs are a huge fad in India, so people who have no real interest in technology are going out and being "trained"(training = dumping a whole lot of info on them and memorizing it) by some fly by night institution and then going out and getting a job. 9 time out of 10 that person is going to suck. Not to mention that from what I have read, resume fraud over there is MUCH more common than it is in the US, so it quickly becomes next to impossible to filter the resumes. Turnover is also much more common in India than in the US, and no matter how talented someone is, if you only have them for 3 months, they aren't going to be worth much.
It's very difficult to guage just where outsourcing stands, you have companies like Gartner who shout "Outsource everthing! It's awesome, and oh we just HAPPEN to have an outsourcing consulting division, kind of convient huh?" on one end, and you have the talentless dot-bomb era programmers who are out of a job they weren't qualified for screaming that India's software development is worthless. The truth is most likely somewhere in between.

Outsourcing will never totally go away, but the key point to watch for is the signal to noise ratio. If there is a lot of crap coming out, it makes it much harder to find the gems.

I got step 2 (2, Insightful)

Psionicist (561330) | about 9 years ago | (#13384392)

Thanks alot for telling the whole world this...

1. Tell the world there will be no computer related jobs in the future.
2. Wait for the nobodys to choose other careers.
3. More jobs for real computer geeks.

Play along folks.

Not Necessarily the Best Strategy (1)

Azarael (896715) | about 9 years ago | (#13384096)

It's nice for people in the work place to have a basic understanding of computer science, but I don't know how useful it is. Someone going into marketing, business admin, hr etc still aren't going to have a good understanding of the kind of software projects being undertaken these days. At the very least you would probably need a minor (or equivalent experience) for cs to be any use to you.

Re:Not Necessarily the Best Strategy (1)

jmccay (70985) | about 9 years ago | (#13384192)

It depends. It is inevitable that the computer will eventually become a tool where people of all trades will uses it to accomplish tasks. While they do that today, in the future, those getting a degree would be best suitted to learn some basic programming like scripting to be able to automate common tasks.

C.R.E.A.M. (5, Insightful)

cloudkj (685320) | about 9 years ago | (#13384099)

Sigh.... these days, everyone still abides by the Cash Rules Everything Around Me principle. Why not just do something you're passionate about?

"Follow your heart and the money will follow." That was the most valuable piece of advice I got from my first CS professor at Berkeley more than 4 years ago.

Mod parent up (3, Insightful)

Jane_Dozey (759010) | about 9 years ago | (#13384179)

People seem to think that higher educations is just about a career. It's not, it's about doing something you really like. Career qualifications can be picked up later (even at a night class).

Re:C.R.E.A.M. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 9 years ago | (#13384195)

Why not just do something you're passionate about? For most people, the thing they're most passionate about is... cash!

Re:C.R.E.A.M. (2, Insightful)

CoolMoDee (683437) | about 9 years ago | (#13384248)

Getting a degree in something you are not passionate about is about the stupidest thing one could do. I mean, this degree, in theory at least, is going to be what you do until you retire in one form or another. Do you really want to be doing something you aren't passionate about for the rest of your life?

Going to school to learn something about something that interests you makes all the difference in the world.

Seconded: mod parent up (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 9 years ago | (#13384276)

Same advice I give to any kid willing to listen.

Fortunately, mine seem to have listened. Will wonders never cease?

Re:C.R.E.A.M. (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | about 9 years ago | (#13384312)

"Follow your heart and the money will follow." That was the most valuable piece of advice I got from my first CS professor at Berkeley more than 4 years ago.


I can't say that's true for my girlfriend[1]. Her masters is in Fine Arts ( poetry ).

For many people, college is an investment. Yes, it's good to do something you're passionate about, but it's also good to pay the bills.

[1] Insert joke about how no true /.er has a girlfriend here.

Computer Science degrees are not as attractive (3, Funny)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | about 9 years ago | (#13384100)

Computer Science degrees are not as attractive for college students anymore

College students have surprisingly decided they prefer drunken parties and naked women more...especially if the two are combined.

Software Slavery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384106)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0471 202843/qid=1124836922/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102- 0387518-0390541?v=glance&s=books [amazon.com]

I'm assuming that some have read the above book. The question is. Do you think this is the future of software development? And what will it mean in conjunction with all the other trends happenning in the IT industry?

Well, I called it. (1, Interesting)

digitalgimpus (468277) | about 9 years ago | (#13384109)

I said that 3 years ago. Everyone here, and on other sites said I was a "nutcase", or "moron" or "idiot".

I'm in my senior year going for a Business Management Information Systems (MIS) degree. IMHO way more useful. I contribute to open source projects like Mozilla Firefox for extra coding experience as well as a few personal projects.

End result:
I know a fair amount of the technical side of things. AND the business side of things.

Problem with a CS degree is it's a dead end job. The days of a geek making it into upper management are over. Sr. Programmer is as high as most will be able to get.

The technology evolves over time. In 20 years C++, Java, and .NET likely won't be cutting edge anymore (we hope now). So those skills don't work to well... you need to retrain anyway.

The business degree will still be good in 20 years.

Nothing stops me from being a geek on my own.

This way, I have the best of both worlds.

Re:Well, I called it. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384194)

I doubt many companies hire people that believe in pyramid schemes.

Re:Well, I called it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384197)

In 20 years there's still going to be a lot of legacy C++, Java, and C# code. There's still plenty of COBOL and Fortran code still in use.

Re:Well, I called it. (2, Insightful)

Com2Kid (142006) | about 9 years ago | (#13384202)

Problem with a CS degree is it's a dead end job. The days of a geek making it into upper management are over. Sr. Programmer is as high as most will be able to get.


You don't get it do you? If I wanted to be in management, I would GO into management, get an MIS degree or something. It has been said that entering management is the death of a programmer.

The technology evolves over time. In 20 years C++, Java, and .NET likely won't be cutting edge anymore (we hope now). So those skills don't work to well... you need to retrain anyway.


I went into CS knowing very well that I would be spending my entire life "learning". Heck that is what I want. Yet, in 20 years time, I shall not only have studied the latest and greatest in technology trends, but also had the experience that I gained through creation and management of systems throughout those 20 years of time.

You can teach almost anyone to program, but an actual understanding of the computer is something different altogether.


The business degree will still be good in 20 years.


There will be changes in management styles and trends over 20 years, business laws will change as well, so will accepted ethical practices. Do you honestly think that you will not have to go for any "retraining" in any of those 20 years?

Re:Well, I called it. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 9 years ago | (#13384258)

How about John Carmack? :) Not sure whether he's a CS major or what - but definitely a hard-core geek. He seemed to make it.

After college, one finds out the degree ISN'T everything.

It's fine to pick a degree if you want to climb corporate ladders and stuff - but in my college many MIS majors still couldn't program their way out of a paper bag.

Conversely, years after my CS major, I'm now majoring in EE for fun. I think EE is better because it teaches hardware at the same time and many EE majors I met are also competent programmers - it's like having the best of both world. Depending on the college, attaining CS degrees can mean so much BS side courses that had nothing to do with anything - but that can be the same with any degree.

Anyway, middle management can wait. I hope to have my own business one day thus negating any possible degree requirements I have of myself^_^ - but I still value those who prize intensity over extensity - meaning a great CS major still has something over the interdisplinary students in my eyes.

Re:Well, I called it. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384267)

You must be really boring if all you care about is your career. Do something you love, not something you can just make a career out of. The happiest people I know are the ones who stopped following the money...thinking about it, they're some of the wealthier ones to. Go figure.

Re:Well, I called it. (1)

jinzumkei (802273) | about 9 years ago | (#13384313)

CS does not teach you C++, Java, .NET. I think you are mistaking that for CIS or CPT whatever the tech equivalent was called at your school.

If you think your business degree will mean the same thing in 20 years, let me spoil the surprise, it won't.

Forget the whole division between majors for a second but working hard or semi-hard for 4-5 years does not give you a free pass for the next 20. You'd better be able to continue to learn new things. That's the trick in college, LEARN how to LEARN on your own and you'll be fine.

Now back to the whole CS vs MIS thing, I'm willing to bet that CS guys will be able to learn and grasp new concepts and technologies must faster and easier than an MIS major will. Not saying it's true in every case, but hey that's why I'm betting right?

Re:Well, I called it. (1)

Rew190 (138940) | about 9 years ago | (#13384337)

Programming languages are a mere subset of what you learn with an actual computer science degree. Shifting technologies aren't a big deal, since they generally adhere to some basic principles.

A decent computer scientist can look at a new programming language, generally figure out which principles it works off of that he/she is most likely all ready familiar with, and be laying down code within hours. Obviously it could take years to truly master, but given the small amount of time needed to become familiar with a new language, this isn't really a good reason to not get into the field. That's one of the things you learn how to do quickly with a CS degree since you're familiar with what actually makes a programming language tick.

A CS degree will also be "good" in 20 years because a good CS program teaches you abstract ideas and concepts, not one or two programming languages.

Re:Well, I called it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384353)

If all you got out of your Java or C++ course back in college is how to code in Java, or C++, then you really missed out.

Re:Well, I called it. (1)

Superken7 (893292) | about 9 years ago | (#13384367)

imho, having experience in both areas is great for not having to stick with CS, as more job possibilities may come to you. However, i think a CS student not only has technical knowledge when it comes to programming in C/C++, Java or whatever, but he should be able to know the ways of "Software Engineering", which is much more than that. Many people can read a book about C and try to develop a program, or contribute to a project, but managing and coordinating many people working together on a big project that needs to be reliable and mantainable is another thing. Also, which language is "hot" at the moment should not really matter, because after doing CS you learn the life cycle of software(lets call it like that) and not a specific language. so for having opportunities with a "greater view" not sticking to one side may be fine, but that way i dont think/know you will get as much profund knowledge as for dedicating the whole career to a "single area".

Re:Well, I called it. (4, Insightful)

merreborn (853723) | about 9 years ago | (#13384369)

In 20 years C++, Java, and .NET likely won't be cutting edge anymore (we hope now). So those skills don't work to well... you need to retrain anyway.

Yeah, and? A real programmer is not "A C++ Programmer" or "A Java Programmer". A real programmer can attain a level of proficiency equal to that of his/her perfered language in *any* language in a matter of months, if not far less. "Retraining" is just part of being a programer.

I started programming at my current job -- your standard LAMP operation -- six months ago. I'd never touch PHP, or any query language before in my life. My boss has been using both for at least 2 years, and our other developer claims 5 years of experience. In 6 months, I've become the go-to guy for both of them -- I can (and consistantly do) rewrite the inefficient parts of their code to execute exponentially faster, and make it much easier to read.

Real programming is a fundemental understanding of how to write algorithms efficiently, code clearly, picking the right tools for the job, and knowing how to use them correctly. You never have to "retrain" any of that.

Re:Well, I called it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384380)

"In 20 years C++, Java, and .NET likely won't be cutting edge anymore (we hope now)."

I guess C isnt cutting edge, but its certainly the most used language in the free software community. It has been around for 30 years, i see no reason why it wont last another 20.

If you learn C++, Java and .NET your probably one of those people who only think short term anyway, so you should expect to waste large chunks of your life.

Trivial? (1)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#13384113)

"simplification of such tasks as writing a trivial application,"

What's the most trivial application is a business is putting out on the market? I think there is no such thing as a trivial application when it's the interface from the customer to the company.

Take eBay's Turbo Lister software (please!). They replaced a stable and easy to use Mr. Lister software that was working nicely, and then to add more features they created a whole new product and shipped it before it had even half of the serious bugs out of it. People would find it crashed their computers, the update feature didn't work for most people, and the billing component was designed in a way that if you came from using Mr. Lister, then you'd probably end up paying for something you expected to see a preview for first. One time it created a 200MB database file for no reason on my machine.

I think eBay farmed out the programming to an offshore location, and because they thought it was trivial programming, since it was done so nicely in Mr. Lister, they didn't think too much about how much it mattered that it work reliably. So eBay's flagship listing product was about the worst software product I've ever used, and it's just a glorified html editor with a uploading component. It doesn't even have a way to translate listings from one country's ebay site, to another ebay site which should be "Trivial".

Re:Trivial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384224)

I feel your pain with Turbo Lister. I was forced to use it at work until we moved to Andale, which was even more of a joke. Eventually I convinced the boss to let me order some real hosting for their images and move over to List Pro. The software - while it still sucks ass, is atleast somewhat useable. Regardless, it was all out sourced and all crap.

Specialisation has long been a factor fo students (1)

fostware (551290) | about 9 years ago | (#13384120)

Especially when their prospective career's rep told them in high school, they could get AU$80K first year out of university...

Then again, a friend who triple-majored in Chem, Engineering, and CompSci landed a job in process-control for mining companies, and that was the company's *first offer*
There was also the factor that it took five years to get there in the first place :P

Interdis is better (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 9 years ago | (#13384135)

Interedis is better beause, to be brually honest, most programmers will be working on business applications. With business apps, domain knowledge is more important than technical skill.

Why?

Because you can always learn technical skills. Pick up a book and read. Anyone who is any good should be able to pick up a new language in a few weeks.

Domain knowledge, though, takes a ridiculous amount of work to gain. And once you have it, you can apply those programming skills to problems inside your domain and make money (or at least useful tools). It's difficult for someone without domain knowledge to make tools that solve problems for people inside a domain, because the problems are arcane and non-obvious.

In short, by going into a field instead of CS, you gain a niche inside that field. CS is basically tool-building, which while useful, isn't as useful as knowing which tool to build and why.

Why not to study CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384136)

I did an undergrad in geoscience and decided upon graduation I would do a postgrad conversion in CS.
 
Big. Fucking. Mistake.

The real reason no one wants to study it is the courses are taught by a bunch of weirdos, there are hardly any women on the courses.

Geoscience, eh? (1)

mnemonic_ (164550) | about 9 years ago | (#13384308)

You know what they say: rocks for jocks.

Re:Geoscience, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384390)

Just did a quick google on that, looks like geography/geology degrees are way easier in America than over here.

this is bullshit (5, Informative)

pHatidic (163975) | about 9 years ago | (#13384138)

expanding their expertise beyond computer programming

CS isn't computer programming. CS is computer science.

Re:this is bullshit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384240)

And what is the typical job title for those who graduate the CS programme? (Ignoring burger flippers)

Re:this is bullshit (2, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 9 years ago | (#13384283)


"CS isn't computer programming. CS is computer science."

You just stated the problem.

Computer Engineering (1)

boomgopher (627124) | about 9 years ago | (#13384151)

I can only speak from my own experiences, but I felt a Computer Engineering degree (comp. hardware + software) was a well-rounded approach, and still gave me good in roads into the software industry (which I vastly prefer over hardware).

I personally got a lot more out of the programming courses in CompE than my CS courses.

I'm not trolling, and might have just been my school, but the Eng. students were... better than the CS students I ran into. A lot of long-hair computer freaks in CS, and the profs were a pain in the ass to deal with (sort of like the math profs :)



Re:Computer Engineering (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | about 9 years ago | (#13384352)

I noticed that a bit when i was working on my ceg degree. Those who didn't quite do well in ceg decided to switch to cs, and those who didn't do so well in cs got moved to mis. I was fairly scared to actually go into the computer field and went back to work for a consulting firm as a cadd tech that i had been doing on breaks. Needless to say i was really lucky.

CS != Programming (5, Insightful)

mpupu (750408) | about 9 years ago | (#13384164)

When will people understand that Computer Science is not related to programming as the article says. In fact, I know a couple of great CompSci graduates who couldn't write a complex program even if their lives depended on it.

"It's so not programming," Ms. Burge said. "If I had to sit down and code all day, I never would have continued. This is not traditional computer science."

She's talking about code-monkeys, or Software Engineering at most. Computer science is related to research, finding new and more efficient ways of doing different tasks (new algorithms, data structures), and understanding the underlying concepts behind a computer program (programming paradigms, logic) and tools that can be applied (verification, simulation).

Re:CS != Programming (2, Informative)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 9 years ago | (#13384216)

Well no wonder these people aren't getting hired. When my boss tells me to go write a component I don't reply to him with a study about the most efficient way of implementing it, nor a report on the "paradigm" it belongs to. No, I just write it and debug it, which lets the whole project move forwards. In fact sometimes the most effficient implementation isn't desireable for a small task simply for clarity, and to speed up the time it takes to write the code.

Re:CS != Programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384402)

This is why you are just a code monkey. Nothing more.

Re:CS != Programming (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 9 years ago | (#13384320)

Does an employer give a shit about hte science or about someone who can code well to solve its various problems?

No wonder these no name certification schools in India are attractive? They actually learn how to program.. shock.. and many are MBA students who have a solid business background. Geeks do not understand business buzzwords that those who pay them to write the code.

All that in-house custom software (1)

iabervon (1971) | about 9 years ago | (#13384169)

I'd guess that the real reason isn't outsourcing or anything like that. It's that most software is developed in-house at non-software companies. A developer who actually uderstands the field in addition to knowing how to write code is going to do better in these jobs than a brilliant coder who lacks an intuition for what the software is supposed to do. Since someone with a biotech background can learn a little programming more easily than a programmer can learn a whole lot of biotech, new graduates have to have education in both skills to compete effectively.

B.S. Math + Numerical Analysis (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | about 9 years ago | (#13384176)

I got a B.S. in mathematics with a speciality in Numerical Analysis. My first job was writing database applications. Learned C later.

I can't write device drivers, but it's not a bad career route.

I think more people should just take pure maths with an applied bent.

Re:B.S. Math + Numerical Analysis (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 9 years ago | (#13384207)

I don't follow. Are you saying that writing database applications isn't bad? That's code monkey work. If you have a BS in mathematics, you have a mind that's capable of a lot more than that. I hope you're using it.

Re:B.S. Math + Numerical Analysis (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | about 9 years ago | (#13384218)

First job.

I don't know about you, but most projects I work on involve a database. A bit more complicated than my first app, but that's why they call it "career path."

CS Programming w/ professions (1)

OSXCPA (805476) | about 9 years ago | (#13384178)

Question for you hardcore CS people (i.e., not 'programmers' but 'computer scientists') - would you consider it better that students take CS classes in order to better relate their 'real' profession to the benefits of CS theory (i.e., engineering, problem solving and reasoning skills) and possible application, or is this actually a problem - we are lacking Computer Scientists per se, who presumably (?) are more focused on engineering than application.

I am in an MS program now, but not to become an engineer, but to apply CS techniques and programming skill to my (current)professional domain. Do we need more 'pure' scientists? Is this 'diversity' an example of students not taking the 'science' end of CS seriously enough, IYO?

I am probably missing some of the finer points here about the nature of Comp. Scientists, since I am not one, so educate, don't assassinate...

Re:CS Programming w/ professions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384301)

If you have the capacity to become anything more than a code monkey, you will benefit from every drop of CS & Math courses you take. They will enable you to write more robust, faster, scalable code. With a firm background in CS, you will be able to analyze new technologies objectively and develop immunity to hand-waving and buzzwords.

Re:CS Programming w/ professions (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 9 years ago | (#13384356)

Computer science is really about the understanding and development of algorithms. And there really aren't that many people who do that any more.

I'm one of the few. I've done proof of correctness systems, image analysis algorithms, operating system design, game physics algorithms, robotic control algorithms, and network congestion algorithms. I've been lucky enough to be able to do this without having to work in academia. I do have an MSCS from Stanford, which is a great credential, although the education wasn't really that good.

But in most areas of computing, the basic algorithms already exist. (Some of them keep being reinvented; watching the XML fans reinvent LISP is amusing.) Not that many employers really need algorithm development people. I have no idea where you'd go as a computer scientist today. All the old labs (DEC, HP, IBM, PARC) are dead or shadows of their former selves. It's almost down to Microsoft, Google, or academia.

Actually, I'd recommend getting a strong background in numerical analysis and statistics. It's useful to know number-crunching cold. Engineering, financial, database, search, and game work all need number-crunching. It's more useful than, say, combinatorics.

If you're really into theory, you might want to take a new look at proof of correctness. I headed a team to build a proof of correctness system in 1980-82, and it worked, but it was just too slow on a 1 MIPS VAX. 45-minute proof runs for 500 lines of code. Today, that would take one second. It's time to work in that area again. There's some good proof of correctness work going on the hardware area, but not much for software.

(Incidentally, if you think proof of correctness is impossible for undecidability reasons, you're wrong.)

Mediocrity knows no boundaries, but... (3, Insightful)

betelgeuse68 (230611) | about 9 years ago | (#13384180)

There are mediocre tech people on both sides of the ocean. I've worked with great home grown American IT folks and mediocre home grown American IT folks. The same can be said for various Indian IT people I have had occasion to work with.

However I think Nicholas Carr's "Why IT doesn't matter" is more relevant in why someone should not choose to pursue a CS degree.

In a nutshell, IT has become a commodity input, much like eletricity. Yes, it is more expensive... but not as expensive as it once was. CS degrees are largely about programning and let me tell you, most of the places that have interesting programming problems can only employ a fraction of the CS students that graduate.

Companies whose business doesn't fall within technology employ about 90% of the IT people in the US. Frankly, a CS degree is overkill. In some ways, this type of job is more akin to positions of "skilled craftsman" of yesteryear. Yeah, I can use a set of tools to build you a piece of furniture, but don't bother we with figuring out what metals/alloys will go into making the tools themselves, that make the furniture.

As is the constant history of mankind, we build off each other. Nothing is constant.

-M

PS:

"If I have been able to see further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

-Sir Isacc Newton

Re:Mediocrity knows no boundaries, but... (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 9 years ago | (#13384375)

Things are improving for IT workers.

The market is just overeacting from the .com bubble when they had to lay off everyone in IT and save costs.

The pendelumn is now swaying back where businesses that do not have their IT aligned with their bussiness processes are not being competitve.

Many IT systems installed in 1999 for the year 2000 bug are aging and need some maintaince.

They are hiring again and what some guy's book that focuses on short term view of business where things happen in quarters is irrelevant.

More than likely sanity will be restored in another year or so and a ballance will be reached. Keep in mind IT is supposed to save a company money. Not cost it. Right?

Watch as the bean counters start seeing IT upgrades to business processes as a money saving proposition.

Well, Lawdy! (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 9 years ago | (#13384181)

They're finding this out? Now?

Sheesh. Here I am with a background in engineering physics, a degree in CS, and I'm having a blast designing you-don't-want-to-think-about-how-fast analog transistor circuits 35 years after high school.

Nice of them to notice.

Re:Well, Lawdy! (1)

dr_leviathan (653441) | about 9 years ago | (#13384330)

Physics is the best rounded technical discipline to study IMHO. Typically, it is not as difficult for a physicst to migrate into engineering (mechanical or electrical), or even computer science rather than the other way around.

I'm biased of course, being an experimental physicist by training, but I've also witnessed my physicist colleagues have no trouble shifting careers like I have.

What will happen if (1)

Travoltus (110240) | about 9 years ago | (#13384184)

China and India form a tech-industry alliance, as the Prime Minister of India once suggested?

http://www.forbes.com/home/newswire/2003/06/26/rtr 1011719.html [forbes.com]

Will the US THEN finally wake up and realize that we have done far more damage to our economy and our standing as a superpower by "free trade" than by hitting offshoring with crippling fines and sinking that ship of death?

And yes, outlawing offshoring precipitously would force companies to hire and train domestically. It WOULD increase our base of educated Americans and it would lead to more jobs here. What are companies going to do, stop making software?! If people want the software it's going to be made, and if a company fears to take our jobs overseas to do it they'll suck it down and make it here. Or some other domestic company will take their place.

We can hit foreign competition with heavy tariffs so they can't lowball us. Which means sweatshops and prison labor camps overseas can't compete with (slightly more) ethical workplaces here. It would be the industry equivalent of banning steroid users from the NBA, and you don't see the NBA being beaten by cheap offshore baller associations, do ya?

The US needs to bite the bullet, lose the import dependency and start standing on our own two real (as opposed to "assets on paper") feet again. We will suffer now to strengthen our domestic base or we will suffer later when (not if, WHEN) foreign nations find a way to shut us out of the industrial loop.

My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 9 years ago | (#13384209)

education fits in well with this. I think that the CS degree should be split into 2:

One degree would be theoretical with a lot of math, hardcore analysis of algorithms etc. as well as getting the student to choose a specialization: AI, algorithms, supercomputing etc. There would be a lot of "re-inventing the wheel" type assignments because it would help the student discover how a lot of the algorithms really work.

The other degree would be an applied degree, this would focus soley on applied CS. They still need to know a bit about algorithms, but don't have to prove anything. There should be a bit more devoted to current topics over theory. However, I think that this degree should ONLY be allowed if the student majors in something other than CS as well, ie business, chemistry, even a foriegn language. They could then take their CS knowledge and apply it in new and interesting ways in their chosen field.

Re:My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (2, Informative)

wuie (884711) | about 9 years ago | (#13384360)

However, I think that this degree should ONLY be allowed if the student majors in something other than CS as well, ie business, chemistry, even a foriegn language. They could then take their CS knowledge and apply it in new and interesting ways in their chosen field.

To an extent, they do this at the college that I graduated from. When I chose CS as a major, I was required to pick an area of special interest (ASI) that correlated to another department at the school. In this ASI, we're required to take at least 4 specific junior and senior-level classes (and their prerequisites) in order to discover and explore another discipline in which to use our expertise.

Re:My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (1)

wuie (884711) | about 9 years ago | (#13384384)

I forgot to mention that the school that does this is the Colorado School of Mines, and it's formally called a Technical Area of Special Interest [mines.edu] .

Re:My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (1)

Danga (307709) | about 9 years ago | (#13384362)

Northern Illinois University actually has 3 emphasis's for CS majors: General, Applied, and Theoretical. Follow the link to find out more:

http://www.cs.niu.edu/undergrad/chooseemphasis.htm l [niu.edu]

Re:My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384368)

"Applied" programming isn't CS.

Its called software engineering, computer information systems, or something along those lines.

You can't call something a label that doesn't accurately describe it.

Re:My personal suggested change for CS undergrad (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 9 years ago | (#13384407)

One degree would be theoretical with a lot of math

Yeah well that's great and all, and I'm not saying it wouldn't help the industry. But until you can get companies to hire these sorts of people and get past the "ship it and forget it" and "first to market" bullshit that dominates, having this degree available is like pissing in the wind.

Nothing New (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 9 years ago | (#13384217)

That's nothing new. It's been done for many years now at my Alma Mater, Yale. All our classes were divided into 4 groups. Group I was the most artsy/literature heavy, Group IV had the hard sciences, math, and engineering and the groups progressed in a scale. We were all required to take a certain number of classes from each group to graduate plus proficiency in one foreign language. Even though I was a CS major, only 1/3 of my classes were actual CS classes. I'm not the best programmer in the world but I graduated with a good background in literature, philosophy, and history. More importantly, I also took classes that were in more than one group so I can see how ideas in CS relate to ideas in neuroscience and game theory. Ultimately, my education gave me a lot of flexibility in my career choices and enhanced my life in general. There is a lot of interesting ideas and topics out there besides just computing and science.

I highly encourage anyone who have similar opportunities at their school to try out new and different classes even if they don't have to. There are geniuses in every field and it's worth observing what they thought and what drove them. Boundaries are places where interesting things occur.

I'd encourage high school grads to go into a trade (3, Interesting)

digidave (259925) | about 9 years ago | (#13384255)

Becoming a plumber or electrician has way more potential these days. Work for someone for a while, then go out on your own. You can easily make $60,000 and I know some electricians who pull in over $100,000.

Those jobs (especially an electrician) are great because they're interesting, challenging and offer lots of diversity. You are also free to go out on your own without nearly the risk a techy would take trying to establish a tech company (or any other company).

As a bonus, trades will never be outsourced because their location is of primary importance.

Re:I'd encourage high school grads to go into a tr (5, Funny)

prostoalex (308614) | about 9 years ago | (#13384319)

My friend couldn't find any job with CIS (Computer Information Systems) degree, so became a plumber. Pulls above $50,000. Gets splashed with shit and fecies every once in a while, but if you ever resurrected a broken database or went to a corporate strategy meeting, feels about the same.

Well Duh ... (1)

Uosdwis (553687) | about 9 years ago | (#13384274)

Getting just a plain CS degree is like getting a degree in hammer. You have to know how to use that knowledge to create something people want to buy.
Hammers are used to build things, if you build a house people might want to buy it. Build a hunk of nails and wood, not too many are going to buy it. Unless you convince people it is an object d'art.
Knowing about loops and control structures is good, but if you can't create and upgradeable project, comment your code and work according to ICD and requirements what good are you?

I'm one of these. (1)

failure-man (870605) | about 9 years ago | (#13384284)

I'm a mechanical engineering student by major, but have been in a special track set up by one of our professors. Basically we're focusing our studies on building software for mechanical engineering, making us a bit of a hybrid between a conventional mechanical engineers and (userspace) software engineers. This isn't a combination that's often found, and probably not one that can be replaced with cheaper labor.

Majors Question here (1)

Deltaspectre (796409) | about 9 years ago | (#13384286)

I'm planning on going to a school and getting a 4 year degree in CST (computer systems technology), which seems like a general "admin" job with a focus on programming and hardware at the same time.

Any recommendations if I'm doing something stupid like pissing my life away?

Jack of All Trades... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384306)

So we're going to have a group of Bio/Business/ME programmers who know a little Bio/Business/ME and a little programming writing programs that are neither good, nor good at what they do. Fantastic.

A biomechanical engineer, business person, or mechanical engineer should be trained in the art of Software Engineering if they are going to be SMEs for a software project, but Software Engineers are needed to get the project done on time and on budget with as little complication as necessary.

BMEs, MEs, et al shouldn't have to concern themselves with pointer arithmatic or design patterns, but they should have these resources at their disposal in the form of developers. In the same token, SEs shouldn't overly concern themselves with physics, business process, etc, that's what the SMEs are for.

Precisely (1)

David Horn (772985) | about 9 years ago | (#13384321)

I'm studying Computer Science and Physics at the University of Leeds, with the intention of gaining a place on a pilot training course after graduation.

Amazing! (1)

complexmath (449417) | about 9 years ago | (#13384323)

So the students who get fad degrees based on expected income are drifting away from programming towards more traditional business careers. The only difference between now and a few years ago is that the reason has changed. No longer the DotCom collapse, it's now offshoring that's driving the switch. How surprising.

Remember when everyone was a mechanic? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 years ago | (#13384335)

And the ne plus ultra was to get an M.E. or P.E. from MIT?

Well, those days are back, in that most vehicles now have fairly complicated electronic computer systems, plus you make way more than someone with a tech CS degree and don't worry about being outsourced.

That plus the lack of investment in higher ed.

Heck, my son's taking Cisco Systems Router protocols in grade 9, so it's obviously not such a big deal, and he almost took Web Design this year but passed it up for Latin. And this is, should you wonder, just a public high school grade 9 class.

Interdisciplinary is probably more useful anyway, many people end up changing majors or doing a double or triple major/minor combo for a lot of degrees nowadays.

Covered over on CNET as well (2, Interesting)

jtwJGuevara (749094) | about 9 years ago | (#13384338)

Read their commentary at http://news.com.com/Computer+science+majors--and+m ore/2100-1022_3-5841842.html?tag=cd.top [com.com]

Basically, CNET's article boils down to CS majors wanting to branch out to other disciplines and also how CS research is no longer just about computing but about other problem domains.

Job Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384340)

expanding their expertise beyond computer programming is crucial to future job security
I've read this a number of times and it's not true. You know what, pair programming with nanotechnology, genetic engineering, XYZ hot topic of the month. It won't do any good. Indians and Chinese are just as capable as learning new technology as Anglos. The only good way to figure out if a field you're going into can be outsourced is to ask yourself this question "Do I need to be close to the customers to perform this job?". If the answer to that is "no", that job can be outsourced, pick another field.

I have a CS degree (1)

leather_helmet (887398) | about 9 years ago | (#13384348)

and while going to school, I worked for a software developer (PC/Console Videogames) What really really surprised me back then was how much I was NOT taught in college - The coursework was irrelevant in the context of real world work - several of the professors seemed to have bitter attitudes (considering it was during the dot-com boom era, they were bitter that they werent making millions like some of their colleagues) Anyhoo - my CS degree did me good in the sense that I have a degree that says I graduated - not in the sense that I got a practical degree which I can apply in the real world - I learned my tricks of the trade from coworkers who tutored/mentored me, and to them I owe my education, not the instituion which gobbled up a lot of mine and my families money...

Once again, US schools trail behind... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 9 years ago | (#13384365)

Try getting a CS degree combined with *anything* these days in a reputable engineering school. Without taking 20 hours a semester, or being in school for 6 years, it's impossible.

And as you're learning obscure 30 year old languages and optimized algorithms for problems nobody cares about, people in the real world are learning how businesses work. No wonder your $100,000 education won't be worth squat.

It's good that students have finally realized this. Good luck getting their professors to go along.

Ahh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384372)

Computer Science degrees are not as attractive for college students anymore

And like here in Germany ~98% of them would end up with a job as consultant polishing doorknobs, competing with install-wizards and selling the software products of others.

Face it. Programming has become a great hobby. And OSD is the right thing for the passionate programmer.

Ahhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13384385)

For students like Ms. Burge, expanding their expertise beyond computer programming is crucial

One of those "Don't call me a chick, chicks".

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