Knowing the code


A blogs writer for The Telegraph recently wrote a piece criticizing the U.K. government for advocating that computer programming be taught in high schools. The writer dismisses the initiative and labels computer programmers “exceptionally dull weirdo[s].” This ignorant misunderstanding of computing science and stigmatization of programmers is all too common. It’s time to change that.

When most people think about a computer programmer, they picture a geeky-looking guy, probably in his 30s, punching buttons on a keyboard behind a bright computer screen in his parents’ basement.

Thinking about a software designer this way is like thinking about a metal-worker as a medieval-looking blacksmith clanking away at a horseshoe. It’s anachronistic.

With this kind of stigma so prevalently associated with computing science, it’s no wonder there is a projected surplus of over one million jobs for computer programmers by the year 2020. Not enough people are studying computer science in large part due to a lack of understanding of what the field entails.

While this is good news for my career prospects, it doesn’t help our economy.

More and more of the things we use in our everyday lives are being replaced or enhanced by computers. No, not the kind of computer that sits on a desk or folds open on your lap, but ever-shrinking ones like the computer in your cellphone, digital camera, TV remote and even your microwave, refrigerator and car.

These aren’t futuristic gadgets that don’t exist yet, but everyday household items that would be lifeless if not for the microchips inside of them.

So what do all these computer-operated devices have in common? Each one contains thousands, if not millions, of lines of software code burned onto its insides. You know who wrote all that code? A computer scientist: someone with an array of skills, including problem-solving, analytical thinking, determination and creativity.

We need to open our eyes and see the contributions that computer scientists and software designers provide. Ask yourself — are computer scientists exceptionally dull? Or would your life be exceptionally dull without them?

Jonah is the Journal’s Graphics Editor. He’s a second-year software design student.

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