[clug] [OT] Bjarne Stroustrop on

Steve McInerney steve at stedee.id.au
Wed Apr 7 20:32:31 MDT 2010

On Wed, 2010-04-07 at 10:21 +1000, Alex Satrapa wrote:
> My own belief is that we shouldn't be sending folks to universities in
> order to get trade jobs. Programming is a trade. Send folks to
> university to study computer science so they can invent new ways of
> building software. Send folks to technical college to learn how to
> build software as part of a team.

Counter point.

My 1st job out of Uni - in '91 - was with the Defence Department here in
I was placed (with some choice on my part) into a systems programming
role on the manpower systems.
ie Unisys 2200 series mainframes. Coding in Cobol - which I had studied
and practiced at Uni; and Unisys 2200 series assembler - which I hadn't.

I was, for lack of a better description, writing things like library
interfaces for funky memory tricks for the application developers; as
well as what we'd think of as complex cron scripts for batch processing
and/or realtime processing.

So this was an environment NOTHING like anything anyone at a TAFE or Uni
or an IT would ever come across. Directories? what are directories?
totally flat file system. Relational DB? Heard of that, don't use.
Heh, one app I had to patch a couple of times (the cobol pre-processor)
had *fixes* older than I am.

But I had studied computing theories at Uni. I knew the theory of how
memory worked and generically the how & why of how to code (structured)
in low level languages like assemblers; as well as higher like C,
Pascal, Modula2 and Cobol.
And in ~ 2 weeks of starting had been given enough basic training to be
able to do my job as appropriate for a junior coder.

Trade? I don't think so.

* Systems Programmer
* Sysadmin
* IT Security Auditor/Policy writer/Trainer etc
* Firewall Guru
* Architect
* Pre-Sales Support
* Sysadmin/DBA

Most of that was in the 1st 10 years of my career. And yet by having a
more general theoretical computing degree via Uni, I'm able to easily
slip into any of those roles and pickup the 'practical' skills needed,
as they simply build on the base I already know.

I've worked with folks who've done the "pure programmer" courses. And
generally - exceptions abound - they are the poorer for it. They know
the "How", they don't know the "Why".

So I do reject the 'Trade' label and mindset. That will typically only
produce ColdFusion programmers who can only code in ColdFusion. It won't
give them the ability to easily move into wildly different sub areas of
this VAST field.

I mean, the web[1] didn't even exist when I was at Uni. Yet I've spent ~
2/3rds of my career dealing with websites and other related internet
So what doesn't exist now, yet will in a few years, that may come to
dominate your career?

- Steve
[1] Internet, yes. Web, no.

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