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Why Coding Is Not the New Literacy

crgrace We need better software, not more programmers (119 comments)

It's been this way whenever a new technology became normalized in the public eye.

I had a chat with my late grandfather about this in the mid-90s. I told him about when I was a kid and there was a big push in making children "computer literate". So much so, in fact, that I took a class in 3rd grade or 4th grade in LOGO on a VIC-20.

My grandfather said that reminded him of when he was a boy in the 1930s. In his time people thought EVERYTHING would be mechanized and learning how machines work and how to fix them would be required to be literate in the future. So, he actually took classes in engine design (!) and maintenance in the mid-30s, and it wasn't a vocational school.

As we all know, the deep knowledge required to design a car or an oven similar machine is held by specialists and baked into the products we buy.

Similarly, the deep knowledge required to program a computer to do useful work SHOULD be baked into the products we buy.

Think of it this way: who needs to read the manual when they get a new car? You just figure it out because it is largely intuitive. A TON of non-intuitive thought went into making the car easy to use.

I think it is our responsibility (those of us here who are engineers) to work towards putting that level of ease of use to work. This is the real reason Apple is popular. Their stuff is easier to use than most other products and people are HUNGRY for that.

We don't need to teach every kid to program. We just need better programs.

9 hours ago

The Untold Story of the Invention of the Game Cartridge

crgrace Re:MOS technology built most of the cartridge ROMS (60 comments)

I hate to jump on you for this because you made an excellently informative post but what exactly did greed do? Greed seems to be a buzzword for any failure in business today, at least to people who prattle on about how anti-establishment they are while taking every advantage of corporate output.

Jack Tramiel (the owner of Commodore) sucked as much cash out of the business while not providing even a shoestring business to develop more advanced integrated circuits. They limped along for a while based on the heroic efforts of a few creative engineers but Commodore Semiconductor Group (CSG) collapsed because Jack Tramiel treated CSG like his own personal bank account.

Once he left to buy Atari in 1984 CSG was too far behind in the microprocessor wars to field another chip.

So, in this case it was greed. Jack Tramiel's greed. Too cheap to fund long term developments, he instead bought an airplane and milked current technology until his company was so far behind it could never catch up.

4 days ago

The Untold Story of the Invention of the Game Cartridge

crgrace MOS technology built most of the cartridge ROMS (60 comments)

MOS Technology did a big business in manufacturing ROMs for Atari's cartridges (both the 2600 and 400/800 /XE line). They also made the 6502 variants used in the 2600 and 400/800/XE and in Atari's main competitors (Apple and Commodore).

Eventually MOS was purchased by Commodore and stopped making ROMs but cranked out the 6502s and SID chips.

For some reason they never got around to making a followup to the 6502 and let the next generation business go to Motorola. Greed does that.

Another fun fact: The original VCS games were programmed on a PDP-11 using a cross-assembler (!) and soon enough Atari upgraded to a VAX. When a game was finished they sent program tape to MOS who made the metal mask. The ROMs were pre-processed up to the metal deposition step. Then the final metal pattern was defined by whatever program was being written to ROM. This is one reason how MOS made them so cheaply: they mass produced ROM blanks and then programmed them with a single mask. I talked with an Atari old-timer about the process a couple of years ago. Great stories.

4 days ago

Study: Belief That Some Fields Require "Brilliance" May Keep Women Out

crgrace take my wife... please (218 comments)

Take my wife as an example. She's incredibly smart, hard-working, and capable. She could be AT LEAST as good an engineer as I am. Why isn't she? Because she's smart enough to make a conscious choice to choose a field with better work-life balance than I did (engineering). She can take 3 months off when we have a child and organize her work to be compatible with having a young child. It's much harder for me.

I think she's smart.

about two weeks ago

Which Programming Language Pays the Best? Probably Python

crgrace Not COBOL? (277 comments)

I thought maintaining legacy systems using COBOL was the road to riches. Is that a myth?

about 2 months ago

Which Programming Language Pays the Best? Probably Python

crgrace Re:Problem domain, not language (277 comments)

This is exactly right. I'm a scientist, not a programmer, and we use Python in my group because it is clean, easy, and gets the job done. When we hire people for scientific programming they typically use some mix of Python, C++ (ROOT, anyone?), and Fortran. These engineers are sought-after because they know how to solve tricky large-scale mathematical problems using computers, not because of a specific language.

So it isn't a matter of "programming language x is valuable", but more a matter of "valuable people use programming language x".

about 2 months ago

Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

crgrace Re:Nuclear doesn't work either (652 comments)

If the US government owned all our nuclear plants and subsidized them (as it is in France), we could also be paying less for nuclear-derived electricity but it would be meaningless.

Perhaps you think a planned economy is more efficient than a market-driven one?

about 2 months ago

It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process

crgrace saying no is great, but.... (186 comments)

I'm work for an organization that provides design services (as opposed to building and selling products). If you are ever, ever , realistic about the time it will take to deliver or what features you can include in a design for a given set of resources, you won't get the job. It's as simple as that.

Why do you think most construction projects go over budget? One big reason is they had to make a crazy bid because if they didn't, someone else would.

The bottom line is: if you say no, you're out of a job.

about 2 months ago

Amazon Releases (Not Many) Details On Its Workforce Demographics

crgrace Re:Diversity bullshit (123 comments)

Interment camps, not concentration camps. Also, interment wasn't done from a desire to oppress the Japanese, but out of fear of the Japanese Empire. So it's not so much that the Americans felt the Japanese inferior, but rather that they feared a full scale invasion of the west coast by the Japanese Empire.

Not defending it, but it's still important to understand these things in context.

Indeed, context is everything.

We put American citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps (a weasel word like "internment camp" doesn't change what it was).

We put American citizens of German descent in charge of our armed forces (Eisenhower, for example. He was Pennsylvania Dutch, who are of German descent).

about 3 months ago

Integrated Circuit Amplifier Breaches Terahertz Barrier

crgrace DARPA didn't make this, Northrup Grumman did (81 comments)

DARPA is an organization that provides grants to researchers. It does not do the work.

The work was performed by engineers at Northrup Grumman. This work was funded by DARPA.

about 3 months ago

AnandTech's Intro To Semiconductor Tech

crgrace wow very good article (21 comments)

I'm a professional in the business and I was really happy to see that they seem to have gotten everything right! I was prepared to roll my eyes when they showed a cross-section of a bipolar transistor (which they didn't) and their treatment of BEOL processing was outstanding.


about 4 months ago

Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

crgrace Re:Second the recommendation (267 comments)

I'd like a few examples as well so I can check them out. I'm an engineer and I found it to be one of the most plausible books I can remember in science fiction. The one mistake that got me was that the narrator grossly overestimates the number of calories a day a human needs to function, but that is hardly Phantom Menace quality.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

crgrace Re:Don't put PhD in the resume (479 comments)

I disagree. Rather than "hiding the PhD", I think the poster should be looking for jobs that "require" a PhD. There are plenty of them, they just don't have a large cross-section with standard "coder" positions.

You worked hard for the PhD, poster, use it!

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

crgrace are you sure there is no practical application (479 comments)

You assert without proof that your research has no practical application. Were your researching how to implement LOGO in VAX assembly language or something?

More to the point, if your research was on the cutting edge of Computer Science I assure you it has practical applications. Use some of the research skills that you gained obtaining your PhD and put them to use identifying companies that have business or research interests in line with your own. Then, using LinkedIn or conference proceedings, identify researchers and engineers with interests similar to your own and contact them. Ask to set up informational interviews. See if they "know anyone" looking for new researchers. Build a network tirelessly until you have a job.

You have a PhD. You're not a programmer anymore. Accept it and don't look for programming jobs. Most organizations that are pushing the state-of-the-art have need for PhD-level people. Find them and find your niche.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

crgrace ask your advisor (479 comments)

Surely your advisor has links to industry? Where does the funding come from? Industrial consortia? Federal sources (NSF / DOE / etc). Can you look at doing a postdoc at a National Lab so you can make some contacts? If you don't, ask your advisor for help. It is the least he or she can do for you.

I don't think resume sites are good places for a newly minted PhD to look for work. You surely did some networking while you were a student. Did you present your research at some conferences? Those are the people you should be talking to about work, not filling out on-line applications. At the PhD level you find work based on a personal network, not web-based applications (although you will need to fill those out for compliance).

about 4 months ago

Say Goodbye To That Unwanted U2 Album

crgrace Re:Not good enough (323 comments)

This was back in the days when a significant amount of popular music was interesting and creative.

Also known as the days when you were most likely a teenager or young adult.

about 4 months ago

How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

crgrace Re:Science creates understanding of a real world. (770 comments)

Can't wait to see Mathematicians making Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem in a manner consumable by the general public!

Check out Simon Singh's book on Fermat. He does a cracking job doing just that!

about 5 months ago

Low-Carb Diet Trumps Low-Fat Diet In Major New Study

crgrace Re:Simply ignore studies ... (588 comments)

Hah? Weight loss can certainly be attained through exercise. Basically, you need to burn more calories than you take in. You can do that by reducing calories, or by increasing the burn rate. If you keep your calorie intake constant and increase your exercise, you will lose weight, all else being equal.

While this is technically true, in practice it is very, very hard to significantly increase your exercise while keeping your caloric intake constant.

This is simply because you get much hungrier when you're exercising. If you increase your exercise volume while keeping your eating constant you'll feel miserable and hungry all the time. Just like dieting, except you'll feel worse for a given calorie deficit.

You can lose weight through diet, exercise, or a combination. For most people a combination works best but you have more leverage on the diet side than on the exercise side.

about 5 months ago

The Oatmeal Convinces Elon Musk To Donate $1 Million To Tesla Museum

crgrace Re:conflict (78 comments)

Indeed. I also find it strange Matt is so adamant that Tesla was shafted by modern memory, when the very unit of magnetic field strength is the Tesla! How many people get units of measurement named after them? Why did Musk name his car company Tesla if nobody had ever heard of him? Why did a heavy metal band name themselves Tesla and use the electricity metaphor in their marketing? There are researchers who probably contributed even more to the development of the modern world such as Steinmetz, Heaviside, and Shannon who are more obscure to the general public than Tesla.

about 6 months ago


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