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Is Computer Science Dead? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:37 AM
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I earned a Computer Science degree in the early 80's. Back then it was less about programming and more about the theory of computability, languages, operating systems, compilers, and hardware. Even the nascent relational theory, networking, and AI was taught to seniors.

While programming was a required part of it, the goal was to train those that would design new OSs, languages and database systems. There was a lot going on back then in these areas- but now fewer people work on the lower level systems and there is more demand for mere programmers, and less need for understanding of the underlying systems.

That said - if you want to distinguish yourself, you need to know what is going on in the layers below your code - and that's where the real computer science is happening.
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Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:53 AM
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IT has been dieing since IT began. Every new technology is the end of the world. Saw it with client/server replacing big iron in glass rooms, saw it with the interweb and thin clients, saw it with outsourcing, now hearing the same crap regarding omg "The Cloud".

There will always be a requirement for true Comp Sci people. Do you need that to succeed in IT? No, not at all. There are other skills that are just as valuable, creativity for one. Plain old common sense is another.

The shocking thing to me is the dumbing down of IT. Everything is fine when things are running well, but the second something goes wrong these people are at a complete loss. The bar is so low its almost comical.

When you ask a "developer" to troubleshoot a bug in a system *they wrote* and the answer you get is "I dont know, the computer just did it" something is terribly wrong. I should never have explain to a programmer that computers dont just do stuff, they are programmed to do stuff, you are the programmer, therefore the computer is doing *exactly* what you told it to do, right or wrong, on purpose or inadvertently. Anybody that thinks computers are magic should not be any where near the IT industry.

Can you tell you've hit a nerve? :)
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Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:57 AM
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There are just too many things wrong with this article to address. I can't argue that the perception that programming is dead is true, and I can look around at fellow programmers and see why. I see my job as getting business people tools to collect, then get to, their data. If a pre-packaged tool can do that cheaper than I can by writing code, that's great. Many coders, dba or otherwise, see those pre-packaged tools as a threat. That's where they shoot their own foot because if they worked with those tools, they would be seen as valuable members of a team, instead of people tyring to protect the job they learned to do 20 years ago.

Academia probably needs to change too. If I were starting a project that I knew would take 4 to complete, I would have to plan on technology changes that would occur in those 4 years. I don't think schools look ahead like that.
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Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:31 AM


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WolforthJ (3/28/2012)
There are just too many things wrong with this article to address. I can't argue that the perception that programming is dead is true, and I can look around at fellow programmers and see why. I see my job as getting business people tools to collect, then get to, their data. If a pre-packaged tool can do that cheaper than I can by writing code, that's great. Many coders, dba or otherwise, see those pre-packaged tools as a threat. That's where they shoot their own foot because if they worked with those tools, they would be seen as valuable members of a team, instead of people tyring to protect the job they learned to do 20 years ago.

Academia probably needs to change too. If I were starting a project that I knew would take 4 to complete, I would have to plan on technology changes that would occur in those 4 years. I don't think schools look ahead like that.


The article does not discuss if programming is dead, offcourse is not dead and I doubt will die, always there is something to be programed. I use 3rd company tools to speed up my job, Telerik in VisualStudio, RedGate on SQL, SMSS Tools to write TSQL and many more. But these tools are a way to get to my goal, not a goal on themselves. Many selfcalled programmers copy/paste a couple (o thousands) of lines taken from a forum, add some fancy comments and...tada! jobs is done...but once they try to do something little bit different then "sorry, I can't find on internet what you need to do' or 'this can not be done'. That is why programming is not dead and will not die.

That is why some college is not so bad, it will settle the bases for the incoming years. You do not need to learn the last programming language, the last framework or the last tool to do whatever you want to do. You need to learn about algorithms, OOP, methods, structures, including mathematic skills that will save your *** many times That is why an academic course cannot change each year or each 5 years to adapt it to the last fashion in programming language. Take C/C++, learn from it, program on it, go as deep as you can, spend endless hour twiking and tuning everything and after that I assure you other languages will come as easy as ABC
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Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:41 AM
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Actually I was told a while back to look at it this way. In the early years when Computers were new things were generalized, kind of like early doctors. Now that the field has grown a lot you have fields of practice which are increasingly more important that. At some point computer science will become a basic class toward a targeted path such as Database design or Network architecture. Things will become specialized, which improves quality. You wouldn't want a general practice doctor performing heart Surgery if he was not specialized in it. The same is becoming true with computer systems as they become more and more critical. Could you imagine get a BSOD on the Space Station oxygen supply or worse your artificial heart? Read After the Gold Rush: Creating a True Profession of Software Engineering by Steve McConnell for more on this. I do think ultimately as systems become more and more critical that you will ultimately have some areas so specialized you will have true engineers in that area who have to give approval over other peoples work because of legality.


Post #1274402
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:40 AM
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The essay and the comments conflate too many things.

Computer Science is not programming, is not Computer Engineering, is not IT.

Computer Science is the field of mathematical analysis of algorithms, languages, and automata.
Computer Engineering is the field of designing and building electronic computers.
Computer Programming is the field of creating software for electronic computers.
Information Technology is the field of designing and supporting the infrastructure of electronic computing in a business environment.

Is there overlap between these fields? Yes. A programming with some background in algorithms is going to be more effective than one without. A systems programmer with a computer engineering background is going to do a better job than one without.

So to answer the headline question:

Is computer Science dead? No, research into parallel computing, distributed computing, encryption, and the various AI disciplines continues apace.

Is Computer programming dead? No, look at the proliferation of apps for tablets and phones. Although it is arguable that computer programming as a degree field is being swamped by the self-taught of various levels of aptitude.

Is Computer engineering dead? Closer, new devices are getting smaller but there doesn't seem to be as much development in architecture as their used to be, or maybe I'm just not paying attention.

Is IT dead? Not as long as there are business that have networks and users.
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Post #1274455
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:13 AM
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I have a huge appreciation for RDBMS engines like SQL Server and others, after spending many college-years during the 80's writing low-level programs to create and process data structures. There's nothing like slogging down that road before becoming a DBA, to understand by RBAR is a four-letter word

I'm not sure that pure programming is completely relevant to being a DBA, but Data Structure and Relational Set theory definitely should be. Every DBA should fundamentally know what a B-Tree is.

IMHO



Post #1274489
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:20 AM


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In my experience VB/Basic programmers have shown the worst software design techniques, implementations and documentation. The opposite seems to be true for those trained in OO, and specifically C & C++.

I have seen this over and over again through the years. More often than not, VB programmers were self-taught or migrated to VB from vbscript (or VBA like with excell). Very few people have the discipline or aptitude to self teach C++... and some don;t get it even after getting exposed to it in college course.

My $.02




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Post #1274497
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:27 AM


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Randy Rabin (3/28/2012)

I'm not sure that pure programming is completely relevant to being a DBA, but Data Structure and Relational Set theory definitely should be. Every DBA should fundamentally know what a B-Tree is.

IMHO


Lacking knowledge of programming languages and platforms (i.e .NET) or good programming techniques will put you at a severe disadvantage at my company (and probably most that have developers). If you can't provide guidance to people who are quite capable of bringing your server to its knees with a few dozen lines of code you are in for some difficulties.





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Post #1274507
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:52 AM


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James Goodwin (3/28/2012)
The essay and the comments conflate too many things.

Computer Science is not programming, is not Computer Engineering, is not IT.

Computer Science is the field of mathematical analysis of algorithms, languages, and automata.
Computer Engineering is the field of designing and building electronic computers.
Computer Programming is the field of creating software for electronic computers.
Information Technology is the field of designing and supporting the infrastructure of electronic computing in a business environment.

+1. Fight the good fight my friend! We can't get anyone else to pay attention if we don't clean up our own house!



- Craig Farrell

Never stop learning, even if it hurts. Ego bruises are practically mandatory as you learn unless you've never risked enough to make a mistake.

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