Even if you are of the opinion that CS is math, and coding doesn't come into it, you will hit a coding wall early on.
In fact, every exercise in CS has this problem. You add a new thing (eg inheritance), and it breaks. But not only that, it might be broken because of a banal little syntax problem.
And that's just what you consider code. If you put in the wrong compiler flags, it breaks. If you can't link because something needed rebuilding, it breaks. Want to avoid it? Learn how make works. Huge number of options, which you won't understand, because you're a novice.
Oh and learn git, too. And Linux. Just so you can hand in the homework.
Compare this to the rest of university. I'll use my own experience.
- Engineering subjects tend to revolve around a small number of vignettes. Here's an aircraft engine in thermo. Draw some boundaries, apply some equations. If you get it wrong, your tutor can still see if you were going the right way. Once you've learned the relevant points, it's not hard doing some rearrangements and plugging in some numbers.
- Economics essays are basically bullet points. Miss one out, you still have an essay. Which you can hand in without knowing git.
My CS program was really easy and I still don't know how people who hadn't put hundreds to thousands of hours into picking up that stuff in the years before college made it through. Many didn't, I guess. With some programming background on top of that it was pretty much a cakewalk for me, but the poor n00bs....
This, I think, is the core issue. Like most of us here, I started playing with computers as a young child, from a Timex Sinclair 1000 as a pre-teen to a Commodore 128 as a young teen, then an Amiga and beyond. It wasn't work, it was fun, a hobby. And more importantly, by the time I hit college, I had literally thousands of hours of practice just being immersed in how computers work.
I started tutoring other students in CS for some beer money, and it was a real shock at how awful otherwise very intelligent people were at what I considered utterly trivial questions. But they weren't trivial. They were only simple if you already had a complex, detailed and well-worn model of how computers work running in your head. Without that, even simple computer tasks may as well be written in cuneiform for all the good it does the genuinely new student.
I'm not even sure it is possible to take a young adult who is truly computer illiterate and have them succeed in a technical major. At least not in a standard 4 years. There is simply too much foundational knowledge you need to have before you can even begin the real work of learning what to do.
I had the advantage of having a department that assumed we were computer illiterate (I went to an HBCU in the late 00s: lots of low-income kids, very few had PCs of their own growing up, let alone college educated parents) so there were a lot of resources dedicated to tutoring, TA involvement in labs, and building a community around our department. It sort of felt like being in a sports club. Every freshman was assigned am upper-classman mentor and every mentor I had took their role seriously. If I didn't come around for a week I got a phone call. If I struggled I got extra help, and my relationship with my mentor was something that came up if I started slipping in a class. We also had advisors based on our interests who were constantly throwing REUs, internships, and events into our face.
When I went to grad school at a majority institution it was like night and day (no pun intended). Lower level students were often left hanging on a vine and were only paid attention to if they were already successful. The TAs weren't actively helping students, only passively so. I left there thinking there were probably a lot of kids who got turned off to the major because they didn't get the help they needed. Poor kids especially had it rough because they often came from a situation like mine, households with one computer that they were only allowed to use if they were using word write a paper or something.
I say all that to say I think you can teach a young adult to succeed in a technical major in 4 years, but it takes a village. If you immerse them in a community built around that technical major, it becomes a lot easier to get them up to speed.
It really bothered me that I wasn't able to successfully tutor more CS students, and many folks that I know would have (eventually) loved it and thrived in the discipline dropped out due to their inability to get over the hump.
It sounds like from your experience direct, constant mentoring (along with a highly motivated student!) does work.
I do remember watching other people trying to figure out how to use a mouse or the most basic stuff. I've already studied algorithms and data structures and had a paying programming job. Most of the CS work seemed trivial but I did learn some math. The math did get hard so the degree was definitely not a breeze. Even with CS there were areas that were less trivial like computational geometry or numerical methods but I had the advantage that coding was a non-issue so I could focus on the essence.
Many many many years later, I still often make the mistake of assuming things that look trivial to me are also trivial to others. It's just so hard to tell whether something is universally trivial or just trivial because you've done it so many times.
I wonder if the current generation's "playing" with their phone/computer/tablets gives them an advantage over the previous generation. I do work with quite a few sharp young people but I don't know whether they had programmed before going into CS or not, I guess I should ask...
Contrast this with the 8-bit era: devices made of multiple clunky components large enough to manipulate and simple enough to fully comprehend, shipping with "user manuals" that look like today's programming textbooks or service/maintenance manuals (where those exist today at all), a readily available developer environment giving full access to the hardware, tinkering with hardware and software as a matter of course to get anything interesting done at all... The experience is very different indeed.
When I was a tween I was building my own desktop, installing drivers, trouble shooting driver issues, trawling log files, and even dabbled in a little bit of python here or there when I had no idea what I was doing.
None of that is even a thing on the black box of of a touch screen device.
It is a shame that this is no longer the default option, but it can be done for people wanting to get an educational experience. I wonder how easy it would be to build a computer with a little kid?
(He also just about jumped for joy when he saw the color-changing LED fan I put on the case.)
Obviously at that age he doesn't quite have the manual dexterity to do the work himself, but I let him touch the RAM as I installed it so he could feel it click in to place, and showed him how to close & latch the CPU lever.
He appeared to really enjoy the experience. The next time one of the offices I work for retire some desktops, I may clean some up and partially disassemble them, so he can 'build' one himself. I really want to impress on him the fact that things that look complicated can be understood, if you just break down the task into bite-sized chunks.
It's a great little system. It teaches the commandline and python programming and it lets kids do things like play minecraft then change the code to make it run differently.
What surprises me is the lack of consolidated resources addressing these basic pain points. I don't think it would be hard to come up with a list of examples just by looking at a normal work day and taking a step back; really evaluating where you're relying on basic knowledge to do even the most mundane of tasks. Once you've been doing this for a few years those tasks are just that - mundane - but for beginners it's having difficulty with those basic parts that is a real turn off. "How will I ever be any good at this if I can't even download code off this thing called Github". If someone could point me towards some kind of existing resource covering a bunch of different areas in this way I'd be really interested in having a read.
On a related note, I'm reminded of one of Dan Luu's related essays on debugging , which I recommend reading if you haven't already.
For example, if I wanted to teach a kid to use an Arduino, I'd start them off getting an LED to blink by telling them which wires to plug in where, and what code to type in. If they were good at that, maybe I'd have them make it fade in and out like a macbook light.
That way, when it comes time to learn about voltage and current and P-N junctions and bandgaps and PWM and cross-compiling and memory maps and bootloaders, they'll have real-world examples to relate it to.
The difficult part, of course, is even if I thoroughly test the instructions with a clean VM and hardware, the instructions can still fail - like if they've installed a different version previously and there's some sort of conflict.
*Or at least, interesting by the standards of the course
Perhaps the lesson was "read the error message; if it doesn't help then take that as a call to produce useful errors in your own programs"?
For a job, I had to get python working on Windows, and it took me a few days to get it in stalled correctly on Windows. Even after years of coding experience.
The issue with Windows is it is designed to explicitly hide the backend functionality, and modular accessing and modifying of it to the front end user, so when you do need to do something of the sort, it's more difficult than linux, and even after using linux operating systems, macbooks I find difficult to work with because comustomizable things are hidden to the average mac user.
That being said, a linux operating system is probably daunting for a first timer.
HOW I LEARNED COMPUTER SCIENCE
I only minored in Computer Science, and like others, did not even know what it was until I went to a tech college for Electrical Engineering. I grew up in the deep south low on the socioeconomic scale, noone in my family even went to college ever so I just had had no exposure to computers or even the idea of computer science before.
It seemed cool but daunting.
1. I got a part time job in tech support to help myself get acquainted with the parts of computers and technology that you need to learn so that when you do Computer Science you can focus on Computer Science.
That side job was 15hours a week over two years and it helped me learn alot about troubleshooting, viruses, computers, I reimaged hundreds of computers and learned how to make my own isos, take apart and put together computers.
It made my computer science courses in relation seem ideal and the technical bottlenecks of working in different environments whether operating systems, relatively trivial but yeh, I had to double up on my time commitments and turn my college job into tech work to catch up.
2. once I learned what a linux operating system was, I started using only minimal versions of linux, so I would be forced to learn more about how computers work to do everyday needed tasks, along with all over layered projects and school work on it. This helps ALOT.
You want to print something, you need to install or update the drivers, you want a functionality that you didn't know could never not exist on a computer, now you learn how to figure out what to download, what rpms are learn alot about options you have from opensource packages many people have made.
Now you are aware of hundreds of gaps/needs in functionality that have not been written so you could try something and have a realistic project to work on.
You have access to other peoples code...etc...
All of this from googling about printing drivers and why you have access denied....
the learning curve is steep but its hard to learn about this world any other way.
WHY I DID NOT MAJOR IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
In regards to Computer Science, there were a few reasons I did not end up majoring in it despite really liking it, and now taking coursera courses from Stanford and Princeton to supplement my desire 5 years post graduating to go back and learn more and shift to full time software development.
As a disclaimer, these are all really a result of my mental approach/reaction to a growing desire to learn more Computer Science.
1. I really didn't have the self esteem that I could do it in four years.
I knew I could excel at Electrical Engineering, but Computer Science seemed like a whole new world I could not learn in four years.
2. I went to a pretty good engineering school, and the kids in Computer Science had basically been coding since they were 8, so for me I felt like the competition was high and I could not stand a chance.
3. In retrospect that was not the case, and in fact the people I did know in Computer Science were very welcoming and encouraging to me coming into it, but I really didn't believe I could do it.
I regret that approach now, and I could blame it on all things academia in Computer Science, but it was really my reaction to the sentiment echoed here already that it takes years to really feel comfortable with Computers, programming and all of it in context so you aren't constantly wondering what youre not understanding or spending hours trying to set up varied work environments because you've never used a terminal before.
It is a continual effort and Computer Science, more than any other major or practice, is a new lifestyle and way of thinking, and a lifelong commitment to learning.
For me, I have continued on this path and continued to code for years after college and work on independent and group projects, and taken on coding work in my jobs in relation to electrical engineering. Just now at 26, being first exposed to Computer Science at 18, do I feel confident about my ability to learn and do well as a software engineer that is not a code monkey, working on computationally challenging problems where scaling, algorithms and data structures are a core part of design and implementation to make something successful.
You just have to keep trying, and in general, in regards to computer science or elsewhere, this weeds out alot of people.
SOME INTERESTING THINGS
As a final note, I would say the most daunting part of Computer Science in college was the perception I had about the experience and practice of Computer Science majors versus mine. I felt really ignorant in comparison and had no realistic way to convince myself I could compete and do well amongst kids with 10+ years experience.
Perhaps the value of this post is to say. I overcame alot of obstacles socioeconomic and otherwise to get into college in the first place.
I made a 4.0 in a private high end highschool and had and have a good work ethic and intelligence.
I even went to an engineering school and majored in Engineering.
Despite all of these layers of statistical thinning, I still didn't feel I could cut it as a CompSci.
If it is challenging for someone who is otherwise very smart, exceeding well by all academic metrics, has a good work ethic and is already in a school offering a good Computer Science program, wants to learn Computer Science, takes entry level Computer Science courses and makes As in them, and still doesnt feel confident about Computer Science, then there is definitely something about Computer Science, that sets the barrier high for learning.
It's definitely a DIFFERENT way of thinking, and I think the barrier to that new way of thinking is not a barrier for learning in most other places perhaps maybe save linguistics, which is also extremely difficult to become proficient in if you did not grow up in a multilinguistic environment or are not constantly saturated in living in a multilinguistic community.
You need to saturate yourself in a new way of thinking, and for me it is incredibly rewarding and translates into every other part of my life and allows me to think more objectively and logicially, creatively and efficiently than I have knew I could, but I think it is the way of thinking that is the learning barrier, along with the multilayered skills needed to navigate complex computing environments, that keeps people from Computer Science.
If you don't mind me asking, did you apply this approach to specific programming languages? I'm curious which ones you tried to learned and ended up sticking with, and why.
On the other hand, Java is really nice for algorithm testing, and writing for classwork.
It's better to have actual projects to work on. From there its easier to center around a framework, but I still prefer C/C++ but I am learning to appreciate Java the more I develop GUI applications and test more complex algorithms.
You have to like it to do that, I really enjoy it.
Thanks for clearly articulating this in 6 words: "Stupid Computer Shit we all know". This is something many people aren't willing to acknowledge (aka tribal knowledge gained from lots of trial and error).
It perfectly summarizes what pg tried to communicate in a 2013 interview  where he said founders who have been "hacking for the past 10 years" have an enormous competitive advantage over founders who haven't i.e. female founders when it comes to starting technology companies.
Unfortunately, the tech press  went out of its way to grossly misinterpret what pg was trying to say .
I think a lot of us have forgotten how strange and frightening a blank command line was the first time we encountered it. And how long it took to actually get comfortable with it. Even a windowing system is weird if you're not used to it, and lots of people use those for years and years without ever actually feeling like they're in control of them.
Knowing where the boundaries lie, how to protect oneself from unrecoverable situations and how to get oneself out of bad-but-recoverable ones puts one at ease in front of the keyboard. The absolute n00b (which we all were, once) gets lost navigating directories. The experienced user loses their boot sector, curses, sighs, then fixes the problem. They aren't put off by finding the solution to their problem is to apply a patch to their kernel and compile, and so on. It takes time to reach that kind of ultra-power-user level of competence and confidence, it's hard to teach, but it's enormously useful for letting you put the concerns of basic (ha!) computing in the background and focus on the task at hand (programming, for example).
There were so many idiosyncrasies my coworkers knew that I had to learn (anyone know how to push the F22 key?) The terminal didn't function in any way I was familiar with at all (no ls, cd, mv, nothing). The "filesystem" was basically for interoperability while the actual system ran with a concept of "libraries" instead of folder hierarchy.
I ended up having to take basic lessons on the system.
It really gave me an appreciation for "stupid computer shit we all know". It sucks to be in a position of not knowing that stuff. Suddenly the most basic functions becomes monumental tasks.
BBC Computer 32k
It’s all about what you know...
I figured most other classmates were the same. However, the amount of skill variation I witnesses as a lab assistant where intro course students would plead with me to basically complete their assignments after I helped them once was mind-opening. Horrifically formatted code. Unable to use copy-and-paste keyboard shortcuts--or any keyboard shortcuts, really. Unable to run and debug code. Unable to find where in the file system the compiler or their commands were running. Unable to understand file system permissions, etc.
There was a huge valley between those with no experience that just wanted the CS degree for a well-paying job, and those that already had CS experience and wanted CS for a well-paying job that they would enjoy*
To be honest with you, that teacher sounds like a real tool. All that that can possibly achieve is to breed various subtle forms of animosity, either among classmates or towards engineers or towards the teacher or the course.
I can see this being a joke. Entire subfields of mathematics have been built on the assumption that Riemann hypothesis is true. He probably assumed that everyone in the audience would know this, which is not unreasonable.
Thanks! Now I feel like an idiot.
But it is not an important skill for persuading people, or for cheering people up.
There was a good class on Coursera a while back called "Startup Engineering" which did cover some of this even though it wasn't the focal point of the class.
Of course, it would be impossible to cover every little detail - but a class dedicated to SCS would still be super useful.
However, my thought when taking it was that if I were a freshman taking this who had minimal experience with computers, I'd have been pretty lost. Not so much because I couldn't have handled individual aspects of the course but there would have just been too much new from the practicalities of a programming environment to a lot of the basic programming concepts to the more theoretical aspects.
I couldn't explain how to make it make sense if my life depended on it. It just happened.
Loop, increments, semi colons, returns, recursive everything was a deterrent. But this wasn't the real problem. The real problems were the teacher and the rest of the class. Pretty much everyone else, most of them were from the that city or other cities and had been doing CS from quite early on - many of them had their own computers to my surprise (it was quite pricey back then), as they didn't face any challenges and the teacher expected me to just go at the same speed and catch up somehow. I tried to seek his attention and get some help with the challenges I faced and he would just say a thing or two and move on, or ask a student to help me who'll help with "no, you have to put a '==' there, not '='" and I would never know why. At that time of of struggles books confused me more. I was shocked to see years later that why they didn't use C&R and why Robert Lafore and some Indian authors. Why? Also, this was also the first time I was introduced to the purely commercial nature of education where the "connection" in the class was missing right from the start which I was used to having been to boarding schools and semi rural schools.
I failed. Miserably. Again and again. But I still kept the course throughout 11 and 12, though I had a strong urge to drop it in 12 (just before the board exam; the one that matters and you get a certificate for this) and opt for something familiar and straight like Economics or Sanskrit which was I really good at. I don't remember why but I guess it was the urge to prove myself or get something that will get me or job or so; as that's what I had known about CS. I can't recall.
Anyway, for some reason my seat during the board exam (during CS paper; your seats change for all the papers) was diagonally behind my best friend who knew pretty much everythiing in the paper and I ended up scoring 3 marks higher than him out of 100. He's still cross about it.
Well, I never recovered from those initial CS trauma days. I still feel daunted by anything new in CS and get stressed. First I try to avoid it and question the need of it in the first place (like I did when I was asked to move to frotend/Angular from Android) and after a few weeks or few months when I have my hands dirty with it and I find it easy like muscle memory I look back and wonder why I was worried about it and it repeats.
tl;dr at least in CS you get immediate negative feedback
It's fun to observe the teacher's reactions sometimes when it is apparent that the student presenting is clearly heading towards a train wreck of some sort due to misunderstanding the question, not being rigorous enough, or just being generally confused about the subject matter. Occasionally I've seen professors at the math dept get this visibly pained look in their face as they watch a CS student abuse their beloved math in particularly horrendous ways.
I don't know how many times I've been trying to fix something with somebody, and an error dialog comes up, and they dismiss it instantly, before whatever content it might hold has a chance to flash across their retinas. Then I have to get them to do whatever it was four or five more times, before they calm the hell down and let me read what the error message is telling them.
Taking Calculus I in college most of the class had taken the course in high school. The most advanced math course in my HS had been Algebra II/advanced geometry. So they were ahead but it wasn't insurmountable, it was still math.
A classroom CS student trying to get an application to work asks a SCSWAK repository for assistance. One notepad app is suddenly 2 terminal windows with EMACKS? (at least it wasn't vim) on one and the other lots of lists go bye and quick commands are being entered while asking where the file is saved. "Nevermind, found it." The file contents show up but no editor was opened. Then there's all kinds of key combinations that no sense on the EMAKS just to move around! (add in more to the story).
One is still getting used to the operating system while the other has logged thousands of hours plugging away at the CLI. (Remember MUDS?) How the heck are the next 2.5-4 years going to be if the classroom CS couldn't follow anything he just saw?
Being around a bunch of SCSWAK who seem to naturally grasp everything can scare off students. IMHO the instructors for the low level CS courses should talk about this and get the classroom CS students to realize they can do just fine in the courses and SCSWAK are great resources if you can't find your answer on google. Also, the best way to actually learn something is to teach it. Thus, there's an opportunity for the SCSWAK group.
Incidentally, this is also why we see so many "experiments" in production code, which is the downside.
I would say that this basically screams "badly taught programming". Missing semicolon does not take down work, it just needs to be put back in and ide should help you.
"Even if you are of the opinion that CS is math, and coding doesn't come into it, you will hit a coding wall early on."
I mean it seriously, programming is easier then math. I am telling that as someone who always liked math.
"And that's just what you consider code. If you put in the wrong compiler flags, it breaks. If you can't link because something needed rebuilding, it breaks. Want to avoid it? Learn how make works. Huge number of options, which you won't understand, because you're a novice."
This is not something novice should be dealing with.
"Oh and learn git, too. And Linux. Just so you can hand in the homework."
As I told, badly taught programming that takes in people who know nothing and then proceed as if they already learned stuff in the past.
The point is that the incidental complexity is there, and that it's something that has to be dealt with, to even begin to get to the fundamental part of the problem.
That you have to be using the right IDE (and learn how to use it, and learn to recognize it's attempts at helping you with the problem) does not refute the point, it's a perfect illustration of it.
CS isn't harder. CS has high incidental complexity, the crap you have to deal with just to be able to work on the problem within a real world environment.
If you can teach programming to 10-year-olds without it being too frustrating... on the other hand, I suppose you could argue that younger people will have an _easier_ time, for the same reasons (human) language acquisition is easier for children. I dunno.
I'm not sure how it relates, but what I think was _really_ an immense aid to people of any age learning programming in the 80s was that computers and software were _simpler_, meaning that you could very quickly approach the level (at least at first glance) of 'real' software with what today seems like 'toy' software. The text adventure games I started writing as a child weren't actually _fun_ for anyone to play but me, but they _looked_ like a real text adventure game that other people played, they had the same form. Or the ascii-graphic blackjack game. There was gratification with a pretty low bar.
I have no idea how I'd become a programmer today. It's an entirely different path. People ask for me for advice, and in my head, I'm like, well, first be a child in the 80s with an Apple IIe, then start writing for the web when all you need to know is HTML and you write it in Perl cgi-bin... I have no useful advice.
I do have a CS degree, which I got in the 90s.
Like someone mentioned logo or the old basics - if kids start in that environment they pick it up quite easy. They pick up concepts (wtf variables, yes does not matter how they are named, conditions, for cycle, functions) and there is instant gratification and little complexity. Just playing those games with little robot and arrows that "programs" it or simple scripting language in some game already makes much difference.
Then you can move on compiler and java or C - because basics are out of the way and it is the time to deal with what you call incidental complexity. Basically, one concept at a time. It is a bit as like teaching quadratic equations to people who were never taught normal ones nor much arithmetic.
At some point between Logo and bachelor's degree, you run face-first into that complexity, which is the "wall" the commenter atop this thread was referring to.
I'd be willing to bet you could create a CS course using nothing but Logo - and it would probably be better for students than what currently exists.
In his book "Mindstorms", Papert discusses the faulty idea that Logo is only for children, and that it isn't a language that can be used to develop complex software.
The fact is, it can. In fact, Logo is pretty close to Lisp in its functionality.
The most complex piece of Logo I've ever seen was a few decades ago in an issue of the Rainbow Magazine (for the TRS-80 Color Computer); it was essentially a game of Monopoly, with full graphics (and probably sound too); I'm not sure if it did any kind of file i/o - but I know Logo supports all of that and more (especially current versions of Logo).
Seriously - if you think Logo is only for kids, you're missing out on a very fascinating language.
Is it? Quote from the Logo Manual, 1974:
All complete LOGO statements are imperatives, so that an operation cannot stand by itself. If you type SUM 17 26, Logo responds with the error message YOU DON'T SAY WHAT TO DO WITH 43. In contrast PRINT SUM 17 26 is a complete statement. The computer will print 43.
I mean, you can teach concepts one at a time and still be demanding and require certain speed. I am not saying it should be easy. You however should separate those concepts from each other and teach them one by one. Otherwise you just relying on them to have it "picked up" randomly which is not an expectation other majors have (like physics or math or biology).
Eventually some people got me back into Flash development (I had dabbled before and had a couple sort of popular things on Newgrounds, and they were asking me for help). I then made a couple of games that were super popular and realized I probably wasn't in the wrong field after all, and eventually went back to college and finished my degree. It was easier the second time around, and I had much better teachers.
Now I've been in the industry for about 10 years and have worked on all sorts of different types and sizes of programs and learned and used dozens of languages and technologies.
That was back in the 90s when I had that semicolon problem, and I'm pretty sure compilers have improved since then, because I usually see compilers catch missing semi-colons pretty much exactly where the problem happens nowadays. Also there was no Stack Overflow back then, and most forums weren't terribly helpful either, and programming blogs were a lot less common and comprehensive.
I remember specifically that I had difficulty wrapping my head around the concept of linked lists and there seemed to be no where to find that information besides my professor who was a real jerk and said, during his office hours, the specific time he's supposed to be available to help students, that "if i didn't understand it during his lecture he couldn't help me" and two old books in the school library that had a few paragraphs about it each.
Yeah - that's been replaced by C++ compilers b0rking hard on errors in variable templates and such (and leaving you just as confused as to where the problem really is).
/wish I was making this up...
I learned java in high school as my first language, and I struggled to get the IDE properly set up - it definitely slowed down my understanding.
We don't expect law students to have been amateur lawyers in high school; it's a bonus if they have been in the debate society or have taken a personal interest in the subject, but it's not necessary. I don't see why CS should be a special case, aside from a misplaced attitude of exclusionary elitism.
If you can afford a video game console, you can afford a raspberry pi (or equivalent.)
> We don't expect law students to have been amateur lawyers in high school
No, but we expect math majors to have done some math before they get to college.
I don't disagree with you that most people can be brought up to speed in less than a year, but it's also not unreasonable to expect first year CS students to have had some programming experience. Computers don't cost thousands of dollars anymore.
If you are a boy, video game console is something that is bought for you often times whether you really want it or not. Raspberry pi is likely not and you don't know it exists. And even if you know it exists, you need computer to upload code to it and then you could have just use that computer to code. I know that it is easy to code when you know where to look, but the biggest hurdle is that many kids dont know where to look. Instead, they are told there is something magical and hard about it.
I remember being told that it is hard or that I cant compete because I am (presumably) just learning and other kids "already know a lot". It was bs, but that is where it is for many kids.
Seriously, I knew straight A students who were more hardworking then me and had good grades in math (meaning no dummies memorizing stuff) were under impression I have some special brain because I can program. All the myths around cs tend reinforce such nonsense.
If a kid can't type "how do computers work" in google, they probably won't become a programmer. Are we really wringing our hands over that?
> All the myths around cs tend reinforce such nonsense.
There's another bit of nonsense around CS that a lot of people here believe - that there are all these secretly good programmers out there who just don't know they're programmers because no one ever told them how to start, and that they might not even know what programming is because it's so difficult to get started.
I find it nearly impossible to believe that there are all these smart people out there, surrounded by technology, with hacking and computers in every TV show, with the President telling them to "learn how to code", Bill Gates' name dropped by rappers, Google in everyones' pocket - and no one is typing "how does my smartphone/videogame/internet work" and reading the results?
Like, who is still walking around like, "I got good grades in school and knew people could become doctors, but I didn't know people could make computers go! Why didn't anyone tell me?!"
Are there other problems keeping people from breaking into the industry? Absolutely. Is "not knowing where to look" one of them? There's no way that it can be, not anymore.
The idea that we block off CS as a subject for only those who've taught themselves some programming is absurd and elitist. While we may expect Math students to know Math before Uni, it so happens that 99% of high schools teach the level of Math we expect them to know. In a lot of countries it's compulsory. Same goes with most of the sciences, we expect the level that schools will teach. Unfortunately most schools don't teach programming, and those that do often don't do it well.
If a kid cant type "how human body works" in google, they probably won't become a biologists. Somehow, being constantly surrounded by all those bodies and dogs and grass they did not learned biology. Except that they come to college and do learn. But realistically, "how do computers work" is such a broad question that it does not have to do with anything. It is literally irrelevant question to anything practical.
But that is literally this culture I am talking about - the conviction that if you already don't know stuff and was not interested in the past, you are not talented point stop don't even try. Math teachers nor chemistry teachers assume that - if you are curious now are happy with you learning now.
> that there are all these secretly good programmers out there who just don't know they're programmers because no one ever told them how to start,
They are not secretly good programmers. That takes more then just aptitude. But yeah, a student with good memory and basic math aptitude has genetics for programming. There is nothing special about us. The hardest part of beginner is to figure out what makes sense to learn and what not.
> and that they might not even know what programming is because it's so difficult to get started.
Well, it is difficult when you don't know what to do and get told you probably don't have aptitude first time you struggle with something. It is easy if you learned from simple concepts, either because you run into right game or because you run into good teacher or book.
Exactly like any other learnable skill - math, chemistry, law, physics and so on.
> "with hacking and computers in every TV show"
That has nothing to do with reality. I see sword fights in many movies too.
> "and no one is typing "how does my smartphone/videogame/internet work" and reading the results?"
What does that question have to do with building sofware? Like, real world software with real world homework that suddenly out of nowhere expects you to have skills that were not taught previously.
What does that question have to do with algorithms? Programming languages? Whether the students would be more attracted to solving problems side or building things side or theory side or software engineering side, your how does videogame works is largely irrelevant. Plus the answer will be high level overview of memory/cpu and such.
> Are there other problems keeping people from breaking into the industry? Absolutely. Is "not knowing where to look" one of them? There's no way that it can be, not anymore.
You did not suggested a single practical place for beginner to learn stuff. Only few very general question that does not necessary lead to programming - most of them would lead to electronics at best. And such good resources exist, but none of your suggestions lead to them.
The "breaking into the industry" is far away from "starting with programming". But then again, that is part of nonsense around this. I know people who found a job with very little knowledge in small company just because they looked confident and hiring manager was inexperienced. Few of them even became good programmers, although they created huge mess on their way there and had to rely at politics a lot. But somehow, a honest student with good results in pretty much everything else is assumed unable to learn the same, because he is less good at pretending.
You're way beyond the scope of the original discussion.
Someone suggested people would drop out of CS due to the grief factor of - for example - breakage due to missing semicolons.
Another person then suggests that maybe it's a good idea that CS majors have some experience programming before they enter the program. Note: some experience - no one said you need to have built a "real-world" team project before going into a CS program.
Then all hell breaks loose because, apparently, getting online and reading a couple tutorials and screwing around in a browser-based programming sandbox (there are tons), is something only wealthy people with college educated parents can do.
Sorry, but I don't believe that.
Why not offer two tracks? People who have never programmed before have to take a 6 month intro to computers course, that people who know how to program can skip. The people who skip the course can then either use the extra time to take other courses or graduate earlier.
Having the free time with access to a computer to "screw around" on and knowledge of the existence of browser sand boxes are absolutely tied to class.
Beyond that, I know a lot of poor kids who don't have video game consoles, and there literally isn't $50 in the budget for something that may or may not produce any value (not to mention the monitor, the peripherals, and taking up vast amounts of time on the family computer -- if one exists -- to figure out how to use it).
I have extended family living in rural Utah who don't even have a computer -- they use their phones for the Internet. You can debate back and forth about the cost of a phone vs. the cost of a cheap Desktop, but people need phones to function in society, for better or worse. Try figuring out what to do with a bottom tier smartphone, a limited data plan, and a Rasberry Pi that just arrived in the mail.
I volunteer at the Boston Museum of Science, working in the Tech Studio/engineering department, often showing off the latest "engineering toys" -- Little Bits, Rasberry pi, Scratch on an iPad that controls a Lego robot... Rich kid parents ask "Oh, where can I get this?" It's not a big deal for them to drop a couple hundred bucks on flavor-of-the-week programming toys. Poor kid parents are often interested and enjoy playing around with it at the Museum, but never ask about getting one themselves. It doesn't even occur to them.
Beyond THAT, there are a lot of majors that don't cost a lot of money. You can use the argument "X doesn't cost much to learn -- why haven't you done X before on your own time?" to apply to anyone.
There are now computers that cost as little as taking the family out to dinner at McDonalds. Probably a hundred million more people (yes, however, not every single person, ok) have the means to learn programming compared to when I was a kid.
Acknowledge that, because it's amazing.
Right. This type of democratization is EXACTLY what allowed me to climb the social ladder out of the rural midwest into a Top 15 university and then Silicon Valley. As a teenager, all I needed to teach myself coding and advanced math was free time and an Internet connection.
What makes you bring up gender over race or class ? There are more middle-class Asian and White women in the field than lower-income African-American and Hispanic men.
Agreed, and when it comes to CS, programming is the easiest part. People who fail to see this are probably the ones who only know programming and no CS.
Say you apply to study marine biology but have never been to the seaside then sure, you might do fine, but really I'd be wondering why you weren't taking a gap year and doing some self-directed study at a beach (hey, that sounds fun!).
How do you manage expectations for courses/modules/whatever from both sides (teacher:student) without such things.
In theory can one easily go to a USA Uni based on relatively unrelated abilities - lets say history and cooking? - and leave with a degree in Electronic Engineering? If there are no subject-based pre-reqs why does one need to declare a major, or is that done later?
My UK degree was modular so I could have done something quite similar, but I was assessed for entry based on abilities pertinent to a nominated degree (not the one I ended up with as it happens). Modules still had [relatively loose, unassessed] pre-reqs such as reading particular books or understanding specific concepts.
Somewhat related to your point, letting novice programmers get CS degrees doesn't fix the problem because there is still a performance gap which results in a hiring gap. If there is problem with demographics having unequal experiences, while colleges can be tweaked to keep the inequality from growing, it is far better to fix it where it comes from.
It's far simpler to say than do, but our society needs to find why the gender skew in high school programmers happens and stop it.
In the UK you start to specialise at 13/14
I and I bet having a GCSE and A level in Law would help for wanabe lawyers
Linux wasn't required for entry-level courses. At the time, they were taught using C++ and a Borland IDE on Windows.
Similarly, source control wasn't introduced immediately. I'm pretty sure CS101 assignments were turned on paper, in addition to email.
And the department offered many options for lab time, office hours, and tutoring. I worked as an undergraduate TA for 2.5 years, which basically meant holding lab hours 3-4 times/week for 2-3 hours at a time, in addition to grading assignments and exams.
I also started a CS program in '95, with practically no previous programming experience. (10 PRINT "HENRIK IS THE BEST", 20 GOTO 10 doesn't count)
One thing our university did though was that the introduction course was in Scheme, which evened the playing field immensely, because most of the kids who could program were self-taught in Pascal or C, and where pretty stumped when confronted with a functional programming language.
But my university's approach didn't help the abysmal graduation numbers either, there were so many classmates that dropped out during the first year. A bunch dropped out because the programme was an engineering programme, and they failed the math parts, but did good on the CS parts. Most of those switched to other programmes that were more pure CS and were successful.
But there were a lot of students who just lacked that elusive thing that makes a person a good programmer. There's been a lot of studies, and lot of previous discussions on HN of those studies, but the jury is still out, we have no idea how to effectively screen people for programming ability. The only thing we can do is toss them into an education and see if it sticks. The original article asks:
> Isn’t it reasonable to expect that people with an aptitude for math, physics, and engineering will also have an aptitude for CS?
And the answer is a resounding no.
Funnily enough, this whole thing ties into the problems of recruiting good programmers, another HN staple topic. We can't tell if someone will be a good programmer before an education, and we can't even quickly tell if someone is a good programmer after an education, or even after years of working in the industry! If there was a quick way of identifying good programmers, we wouldn't be in this mess.
Agreed. Apart from understanding logic, complex math is such a small part of development. I would say programming requires the overlap of knack for math and a pure creative interest like painting. That's much, much rarer.
During the dot boom, there were plenty of CS grads, but after the dot bomb and the market dried up, people lost interest. Also, the pay and incentives aren't nearly as good as they were during the dot boom.
Add off shoring, constantly pushing down wages, and the fact that most US businesses make programming miserable, that's probably most of the big picture.
You mean a pure creative interest like maths, surely ;0)>
There are solutions to this problem as well.
JMU and GMU (high quality, but not top-tier, state schools) both offer pure CS degrees, but also a spectrum of multidisciplinary programs in "IT". One of my current summer interns is wrapping up a degree in info security, with a heavy dose of programming. The other intern is a straight-up CS major. Both appear to have the programming chops to join the workforce as typical application developers.
Of course, in my experience coming in to a CS degree as a techie didn't actually teach me how to make a living writing code. Most of the useful stuff I had to learn on my own time. The connections I made at school helped, but the value of the actual classes was low.
So perhaps a CS degree isn't intended to teach anything to anyone.
However, in general, the idea that you need to already be a programmer per-college to major in CS is somewhere between wrong-headed and toxic.
Where would you have them start instead?
Bumble through learning to program without the theory behind any of it?
That seems like a cart-before-the-horse scenario.
Alright, so both the hard sciences and CS have less traffic than say business, but then physical science has been growing and CS has not, and so we've solved nothing.
So we have a huge increase in CS majors in just 6 years. What could be the explanation for that? I would say that CS has become both more rewarding and more accessible in the last decade.
More rewarding because with better browsers, and with smartphones, you can simply do more stuff. And those who graduated in 2009 started studying just before iPhone, before Google Chrome, HTML5. Long before Tesla and SpaceX were household names, long before we again believed in AI and robots. The field has simply become more and more interesting.
More accessible because of Codecademy, Udacity, Udemy and the rest of the bunch. 10 years ago, learning to code meant reading books that were already outdated when you bought them and spending days in frustration trying to install whatever language you had decided on. Before you did as much as a hello world. Unless your friends knew how to code or you were enrolled at an educational institution you didn't have access to tutors. Today, you can get great tutorials online, and you can learn JS, python and many other languages without the hassle of installing anything. And once you are up and running, there are a plethora of libraries, modules, frameworks and ways of deploying which mean that you can do in weeks what before could take years.
Interestingly there is also a giant bubble at 1985-86 which wasn't match until around 2010.
http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/1982/ shows a couple of noteworthy events (Tron and the commodore 64).
Perhaps another reason for low numbers is the difficulty in the major HN has two posts on the front page about it today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14438601
Perhaps the difficulty combined with the ability to more easily detect cheating/being easier to cheat in the classes are contributing to a slower than desired growth. Given that when plotted out computer science appears to be one growing faster than many others suggests that it isn't that few people major, it's that the science is new and barriers to entry are high? (Annecdotally I know my college had additional barriers to pursuing CS focused on pre-reqs and grades, it's possible a lack of quality CS teachers is causing this as it is so new.)
I never really made the connection of "building websites" to actual computer programming, so CS didn't even come up for me.
but now its 2017 and I went back to school and just graduated with a degree in CS.
If your engineering project doesn't work, there's no pretending that it does. It's the ultimate in fairness :-)
Yeah, that's marketing's job.
I find those strong in programming may be prolific in what they write, but often have to rewrite portions as they encounter problems with their design. A more probe and prod sort of solution to the problem, where you feel your way through. I often do this. On the other hand, I have known people that take quite a bit more time up-front to think about problem areas, and end up programming generally what they thought in the beginning (with some delays as they stop to reexamine problems as they come up, but generally before too much time has been wasted on an incorrect solution). I strive for this.
Being able to do both at roughly the same time, so you come up with a good model that you quickly get implemented, is what I think makes a good programmer. I think a great programmer is someone that does that but also sees interesting new paths that others often miss, leading to more elegant solutions more often.
Clarify your terms. There is a huge difference between willing to take on liability for your faults versus slinging code.
Eh, it snuck in there. I specifically changed programmer to software engineer in multiple spots to disambiguate it because I was talking about "programming" as an act distinct from applied CS. I missed doing so at the end.
> There is a huge difference between willing to take on liability for your faults versus slinging code.
Based on your assumption of what I meant, it sounds like you have something you wish to express on this point. Perhaps you should do so in more detail?
Imagine if anyone who "knew enough about doctoring" could drop out of undergrad and "become a doctor" without any license or credential.
'Cept physics. Misalign a mirror or shake the table and all your experimental data is bogus, and you don't find that out until you've analyzed your data and realize it's nonsensical.
I suspect other hard sciences (chemistry, biology) have similar issues, but am not familiar enough to judge. I started out as a physics major and switched to CS in my last semester...CS is hard, but not nearly as hard as the hard pure sciences.
An example from math: you make one tiny logic error while composing a proof and miss it until you start rereading, then you might have to start all over again from scratch.
As someone with degrees in non-CS engineering fields, I mostly find the idea that programming on a stable computer has a high frustration/grief factor to be pretty funny.
"If you can't recompile a linux kernel by the time you graduate, you have learned nothing. Oh, yeah, also, we wont teach you that - it's just something you will run into. "
-- Professor Norman S. Matloff
Isn't that what makes CS easier? You get immediate feedback. You know if it will be right or wrong before you even turn it in.
So you have to sit there and make sure it actually works. I'm not a programmer, but I took CS courses. Debugging your homework is fucking awful. I understand it's a skill necessary for programming, but it's awful. Especially when the bug is a mistake that is unrelated to the topic of the homework.
I remember pulling an all nighter trying to figure out why my problem set didn't diff correctly. I must have spent 20 hours on a single bug.
In most other subjects, there are ways to get most of the feedback in one go.
Most student-written test suites I've seen are not nearly this thorough.
Say you could learn to build aircraft engines, understand how the economy works (which has a huge influence on people's lives) or learn how to make a computer print "hello world" on a terminal screen and how to efficiently store data. Most people wouldn't choose the latter. It's actually quite hard to describe what computer science is and why it is a science.
Or the other end of the spectrum, where you are a cube-dweller, who shuffles endlessly to Scrum meetings, does email, enter garbage into JIRA, and once in a blue moon gets to write a little code that might possibly be executed as part of some faceless, soulless enterprise monstrosity.
Also, in the end, big companies like Google and Facebook are IT companies, or advertisement companies, and they are after your private data. I guess most people would rather choose a more noble goal in life.
And finally, tools created by big companies such as Google docs perform worse than wordprocessors of the 90s. Yes, they allow collaboration now, but still, they are perceived as slow. In people's minds, IT is not progressing much.
I took ML in person at UIUC 4th year / graduate cross-listed level, and the 3rd year Stanford algos course on Coursera (supposed to be identical to the material in the actual course, yes yes though feel free to laugh b/c it's Coursera). These classes were interesting, but about as challenging as typical second year math/physics classes. They are peanuts compared to senior math/physics classes.
That said I still think CS is more challenging than most majors, it's just that the "few" is much more highlighted because there is very high demand. Certainly way higher demand than math/physics, and more demand than other fields that are still reasonably challenging like engineering, pre-med, etc. It's definitely the field where some reasonable increasing function on both demand and difficulty is maximum.
Now I'm looking at git again in my free time it's a pretty nice tool, and I can't imagine that I loathed it so much when I had to use it for a course.
What we need is people who understand the complexity we constantly throw more shit on top of; it's only going to get worse the more data points and networking we have to deal with. Pretty soon we're going to have a massive network of autonomous vehicles on physical, country-spanning networks of roads. For this we need systems people. Not front-end developers. The sad thing is that most programmers are absolutely useless when shit hits the fan.
You can't expect someone without git experience to fix broken repository.
Furthermore, I think that there are too many tools programmers are expected to know, and git is one of those. Git is a nice tool, but I don't think that 'real programmers know git' is true per definition. Above all, git is a TOOL; and one could use SVN or mercurial to achieve the same in most circumstances (of course sometimes SVN is an inferior choice, because it's not distributed).
I agree with the rest of the post though. There are reasons to prefer C above other programming languages. However, I think the best approach would be to learn the C-style and learn multiple similar languages, to be aware of the differences.
The programming people do most of is incredibly easy. Stop perpetuating the myth that programming is hard. People have changed careers to programming using week-long courses. No, they're not working on OS design, they don't contribute to the Linux kernel, but they work as programmers.
Don't kid yourself people, most of you work on CRUD shit. For every systems prgorammer there's a thousand front-end monkeys. Most of you work at such a high level it's basically just lego, glueing components together, with your hundreds of .JS files in your project, none of which you wrote. This is what most of you actually do. Complete packages like Rails... a six-week course can change people's lives (not a bad thing).
There is programming that is hard, it's just that that is not the type of programming most people do, and it's becoming more and more rare.
One major difficulty in programming is maintaining consistency and stamping out ambiguity. When you throw together dozens of libraries to create a new one, the problems of inconsistency/ambiguity are as hard to solve -- or possibly even harder -- than in your own code.
If you've got an 85 IQ and memory deficits, it's going to be a real struggle to even be productive slapping together static HTML pages.
Only somebody with zero experience with wet lab chemistry or biology could ever write the above with a straight face.
At least you can fix a missing semicolon. If you screw up a long-running organic synthesis, or you kill your bacterial colony around generation 2,000 all you can do is start the whole thing over.
The author's point was that the early unforgiving nature of programming could possibly be a factor in the potential lack of growth in the field.
As for git, that only takes a few days at most to learn to the level you need to use it in school, at least if you're even remotely technically minded.
In undergrad CS courses I learned about, oh, databases, algorithms, data structures, inheritance, and so on. In undergrad math courses I learned vector calculus, abstract algebra, linear algebra, numerical analysis, differential equations, etc. In science courses I learned organic, physical, and inorganic chemistry, some of quantum mechanics, how to use instruments ranging from: mass spectrometers, gas chromatagraphs, infrared spectrometers, UV-Vis spectrometers, flame emission spectrometers, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometers, as well as cramming "free time" during the weeks/weekends with lab time. If anyone came up to me and asked "so, do you think studying computer science is more difficult than vector calculus or quantum mechanics" I'd laugh in their face.
No, CS is not uniquely difficult among college majors. I'd say there are a few major factors why CS majors haven't grown at the same pace as others. One is that the number of CS majors ballooned in the '90s when the industry started blowing up, and it's been a bit inflated since then. Another is that a CS education is treated as a necessary and sufficient pre-requisite for becoming a software developer and it's really ill-suited for that. Software dev. is not scientific work, a lot of what they teach in CS programs is not hugely applicable to being a good developer, and a lot of what you need to be a good developer isn't taught in Universities. Parallel to that, you can jump into the industry "running" if you just start coding and getting experience and learning while doing. That is often a superior way to build your skillset, build your network of colleagues, build your resume, and start making money instead of digging yourself into student debt. So a lot of people who enter the industry go that route. That also has it's problems but on balance it's probably the better route for most people.
>In fact, every exercise in CS has this problem. You add a new thing (eg inheritance), and it breaks. But not only that, it might be broken because of a banal little syntax problem.
That can be said for math as well, switch a + for a - at any point and the whole solution crumbles down, or use the wrong method of resolution and you are in for a world of pain.
>Oh and learn git, too. And Linux. Just so you can hand in the homework.
Again, comparing that to math, learn all the different notations used just to understand what the problem asks of you.
Point being that any scientific course require a part of self study to get what you are doing.
Although I can certainly agree that the way CS is taught now interwines many basic things that should be on their own course and could do with some reorganization, even though it's hard for universities to keep up with the way most of current day tech advances.
I also had some papers where your grade was based around functionality, where there were several milestones, so as long as you got it partially right, you got some marks. For instance, in one paper, we had to implement RIPv2, but we got partial marks if we only got parts of the spec working.
Then there were papers where you had a final goal, but even if your code didn't even compile, they'd take a look at it and if you were on track, you'd get partial marks. For example, we had a paper where we had to control a helicopter reading data from a rotary encoder and other inputs, and use PID control. We had our PID control backwards so the thing wouldn't even fly, but the code was otherwise correct.
Of course, you probably won't progress very far career-wise (or maybe you'll become a manager...) if you never venture out of the little box. But the amount of effort you'll have to invest to reap a solidly upper-middle class income is pretty minimal.
If you spend 2-3 years in industry and don't get fired, you probably know how to code well enough to satisfy your employer. And at that point you're probably gonna get more (career) value working on soft skills like planning projects, managing expectations, navigating bureaucracies, etc.
At age 14 I used to copy BASIC into my Atari 600XL, QBASIC into my old 5150 and 486 PC, some HTML in the 90s, some Python, Perl others here and there.
So I tried to go for CS about ten years out of school and Java got me.
My brain just doesn't seem to like programming.
That is not true. You do not put your "whole tower" back together again when you move cursor and type the missing [';'].
With programming, you have plenty of tools that detect errors for you. With maths you sometimes will only see the error after somebody else (like the tutor) point it for you.
Therefore you can be much more efficient when programming than when doing proofs and other maths stuff.
Except with economics, as you point out :)
They should know linux/unix/gnu before they start on anything cs related.Are you really suggesting the people that don't know anything about computers should be taking cs?
Git would have made debugging the missing semi colon a lot simpler because it makes the divide/conquer approach simpler.
I think his point 1 is underrated. CS degrees are flat because aptitude is flat.
You can compare CS degrees to other degrees over time at nsf.gov:
We have more grads than ever, but they are dumber than ever (we have the data to prove this), getting less difficult degrees.
I have a bad feeling that we are running up against some diminishing returns on education and hiding it with numbers like the total number of grads. The number of grads for difficult degrees and the quality of grads seems to be another story.
> In 1970s 1-in-2 college grads aced Wordsum test. Today 1-in-6 do. Using that as a proxy for IQ of the median college grad, in the 70’s it was ~112, now its ~100.
More stats: https://email@example.com/why-is-computer-science-enr...
In the early 2000s it was widely perceived as the economically smart thing to go into a technical field other than CS, especially petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, and similar areas, or maybe even better, a non-technical field like law. They had higher pay and were seen as more stable employment options. CS employment was seen by many people as unlikely to ever fully recover from the dotcom crash, partly because of mass outsourcing. So unsurprisingly, new enrollment numbers were low, and some departments at smaller schools even closed. Then from around 2005, CS began to be seen as a lucrative again, and enrollment has been steadily rising every year since then. Universities have responded likewise by reopening CS departments, hiring more faculty in existing ones, and increasing class sizes (so enrollment growth is actually considerably outpacing faculty growth).
This does not look to me like a market that fails to respond to economic incentives, but exactly like one that does respond. Maybe it ought to respond even faster, although if it did in general, the CS-degree crash of the 2000s might've been even deeper than it was.
No, what you described is called "misleading with data" at best and "lying" at worst. There is a clear dip in CS on that plot that is suffered but none of the other points. Moreover, the growth is below the rate of increase in college graduates.
The post then spends a bunch of time musing on why CS enrollment supposedly doesn't respond to economic incentives, even though responding to economic incentives, i.e. rising and falling together with tech booms and busts, is precisely what the data shows it doing.
Edit: better said here, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14441423
winrar! Came here to say that. ctrl-f says you're the only other person to remember it.
This is why I never believed the "There is no STEM shortage" stories. They were mostly based on the assumption that all STEM grads were qualified to work in STEM. That's not true in any field where you can complete a degree with a C or D average.
I find it unfortunate that some of the larger software companies filter out applicants based on the school they graduated from, but I understand it. The companies have to have some sort of filtering mechanism, because many colleges clearly do not.
There's no one to hold companies accountable for having a unjustifiably high or low filter. And frankly I don't think anyone outside of CS has gotten those filters right any more than CS has. An incorrect filter turns into "Well, there's no one qualified to work for us" or "Well, all of these candidates failed to do the job" which leads to incorrect assumptions about the labor pool, which is what's going to bias your hiring decisions.
There are companies out there hiring for A+ students that would be just as well off with a C or D average student because what the company is doing day-to-day is too far from what university was like.
I mean you've spotted what you claim is a clear inefficiency. Your guys could be taking the jobs that Infosys and gang are taking.
Yeah, I'd need millions to be convinced to do something I absolutely don't want to be doing.
This is true IFF we assume that gpa accurately reflects qualification to work in industry.
I was in the boat of not caring about school (although I did get a B) and it worked out - but anyone following that path should understand its an up hill climb.
"Salary" is the wrong metric to consider. The "interesting" metric is "salary minus cost of living". And this is stagnating even in NYC and SF, since the costs of living are rising.
Not in terms of tech jobs.
Depends on where you work. If you work at an actual technology company that "gets it", they'll have parallel management and individual contributor tracks where you can make as much as a director-level person as an IC, or more.
The only point about this test is it's specific to native speakers of English, but if you were born in North America than it surely applies to you even if your parents speak another language.
What of high IQ individuals who are born into low- or middle-class families, who didn't have their parents read them 19th century British novels, and therefore don't know what a dowager is?
You don't need your parents to read things for you.
That doesn't match what I see in the ground. I get 10-20 interns a year on my teams from big state universities and liberal arts schools with CS and stem degrees.
They tend to be awesome. The best ones outperform most of the consultants you find.
Nothing you say relates to IQ stats about the median grad. If CS enrollment was up, it would push the needle I'm sure. It's not. You may as well be saying, "What do you mean most wine is bad? I drink good wine all the time."
That's their hypothesis. So their hypothesis isn't that CS student IQs are dropping.
Are you also comparing this over a long timeframe? 112 in the 70's -> 100 now means less than 1 point every 3 years. You probably can't notice a difference that small year over year.
What does 2017 have to do with IQ?
Actually I think IQ is more relevant now since we have lots of incompetent people holding degrees.
the "college for everyone" experiment is grinding our society into paste and generating enormous debt burdens for an entire generation. time to end it.
those with aptitude for programming can learn programming without a college degree. let's find out just how flat aptitude really is. all we know now is that aptitude is flat in the institutional environment.
But bio and ag sciences are beating out Psychology, which is a bit of a reversal. Biology isn't easy, especially not any program with a requirement for organic chemistry. Could that be b/c the big midwest and southwest universities (Iowa, Texas A&M, etc) have large bio/ag programs to support that industry in their region?
Also, there is a lot less myths about biology around. Nobody assumes you have to be some kind of nerd to learn it, nobody assumes there is special in-born ability for it totally different from all other kinds of intelligence (like is often implicitly assumed even with things like operating system configuration), there is much less cultural bullshit about "hackers and their culture" around.
By contrast, even though it is the same subject matter, chemical engineering is (correctly) perceived as being vastly more difficult than chemistry because it requires reasoning about complex system-level behaviors that has no analogue in chemistry. This creates the oft-observed effect that being skilled at chemistry has surprisingly low correlation with being effective at chemical engineering despite being the same domain.
But realistically, a.) memorizing that much is hard b.) my friends who studied chemistry said that it becomes much easier when you understand how it works.
chemistry and chemical engineering has very little to do with each other, despite the name. chem eng is focused on scale up while (organic) chemistry is focused on novel mechanisms
But, unlike CS, there isn't this assumption that you've played around with organic chemistry and/or chemical engineering in your spare time if you want to major in it in college.
Physical Chemistry on the other hand...
Btw, I have done quite well in life, not sure where she ended up; probably chasing some other kind of "grade" these days, lol.
In Michigan the universities have a lot more focus on automotive because that's what runs the state. Agriculture runs a huge portion of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and other nearby states.
The choice of what to study is not a rational decision but a social decision. People follow their friends, guys go study what the hottest girls he knows are going to study, parents push kids to study fields that they themselves perceive as high-status like finance, law or medicine.
The biggest problem with computer science degrees is that it is a relatively new field and it hasn't been embedded in society as high status yet. This will change, but it will take generations for it to take effect.
The field is obviously difficult but you don't have to be a genius to get a CS degree, it doesn't require much more determination to study ridiculous amounts of jargon for law or medicine degree then to understand complex discrete mathematics problems. The social cost of "failing" a law degree is much higher (parents complain son of X did pass and he had similar SATS) then failing an engineering degree (parents understand "it", they don't understand computers either).
I'm not sure status plays into it, but I think you're onto something in that it's not fully established yet. If you want to be a doctor, you need an MD. If you want to be a lawyer, you need a JD. If you want to be an engineer in the physical world (civil, mechanical, nuclear, chemical, etc), you need that degree. But if you want to be a developer, you just need to demonstrate and ability to do it. You can have your degree in a completely different subject, and you're still able to get the job. I've even seen places that preferred hiring mechanical engineers and physics PhDs to write code. Likewise, there's no professional accreditation board and certifications are often viewed negatively by employers.
In time, as programming develops as a discipline, one of two things will happen. Either these barriers to entry into the field will spring up and the CS degree and subsequent licensing exam will become a prerequisite for working in the industry or programming will become a part of the curriculum for many other disciplines and the days of being a specialist in programming will he over. But it's still new enough that neither end state has been reached. And in the current state, the only purpose of a CS degree is to learn. On paper, after four years in college, you'll be a less desirable hire than someone who spent six months in a developer boot camp and then got 3+ years of industry experience.
I'm not saying a CS classes are worthless...I greatly enjoyed everything I learned in them and I feel I'm a better developer for having taken them. But the degree, itself, is no different than a math or physics degree when applying for work, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's not as popular as a major.
A big reason was I did math on what my future loans would mean to me to get a bachelor instead of just my associates.
Sweating through the nuke program for 3-4 more years (extra compared to college), having no debt at the end, and a program that if you complete it is more valuable than a lot of degrees.
It also seemed that there were two types of programmers. The Office Space guy, that is a cost to their company. And the Cult Of IT guy, that pretends to only think about IT. I wouldn't have the patience for the first, and after learning enough Lisp to make simple macros (and rip apart some of Paul Graham's mediumish ones) I realized that I just saw a system that does what it's told (and probably wouldn't be able to keep a straight face when Cult Of IT people worshipped beauty).
But most people don't know that.
They don't know that you can make $160,000 total comp right out of undergrad by going to a mediocre school where other students are not bright, failing every test but getting B's and C's from a generous curve (because of your competition) and studying Leetcode for a month.
Looking at the graph, it's also super important to see the context before 2005 -- that start date adds significantly to the misleading impression this graph is giving.
Math had more majors in 1970 than it does today. Physics has only grown by 50% in the last 40 years, and both have had huge dips just like CS had.
I was coming up with some explanations myself, but now I think I reject the premise, and feel like the right question is: why are so many people majoring in CS and so few in math and physics. More math and physics people can code than ever before, it seems like they'd be able to score coding jobs and be more prepared than a lot of CS grads.
I'm not very surprised by that: not very many people are smart enough to do math or physics, while computer science is much easier.
Meanwhile, the fields that are larger than CS are the engineering and biomedical ones. I feel this is a bit vulnerable to how you slice it though, e.g. the number of CS graduates are presumably more numerous than any particular type of engineering (mechanical engineering etc). It's a bit of an accident that all those fields are grouped together and computer science is not. (This could have been otherwise, e.g. in Sweden you can study both of an MEng in "software engineering" or a BA in computer science, and the content is quite similar.)
Contrary to the worry that not enough people are majoring in CS, what this shows is that CS is growing out of the relatively small math/physics group and into the larger mass appeal groups.
And maybe what this shows best of all is that Biomed is through the roof.
On the whole, CS has grown slightly more than 3x since 1980 and biomed has grown slightly less than 3x since 1980, but those are the top two sciences.
If I divide 2014 numbers by 1970 numbers, here's the "overall" growth chart for all majors in the data that Dan Wang linked to. Sliced this way, CS is the fastest growing major in the sciences by a long, long way. That is somewhat unfair since CS is the newest, the number is big because the field was tiny in 1970. But, this is a more fair a way to look at this than the article, IMO.
30.67139364 Homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting
30.23195558 Parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies
24.9501675 Computer and information sciences
10.74267782 Communications technologies
8.78051143 Communication, journalism, and related programs
8.572651945 Health professions and related programs
8.110091743 Legal professions and studies
7.519924099 Multi/interdisciplinary studies
6.286681303 Public administration and social services
5.83438043 Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities
3.348484848 Engineering technologies
3.152990722 Visual and performing arts
3.077888251 Biological and biomedical sciences
3.017448623 Area, ethnic, cultural, gender, and group studies
2.862768308 Agriculture and natural resources
2.609677419 Theology and religious vocations.
2.201486523 Family and consumer sciences/human sciences
1.631956912 Architecture and related services
1.402989257 Physical sciences and science technologies
1.358694318 Philosophy and religious studies..
1.074811362 Social sciences and history
0.92876882 Foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics
0.881133825 Mathematics and statistics
0.773109244 Military technologies and applied sciences
0.717323278 English language and literature/letters
0.097729516 Library science
Oh, wait, this is actually the biggest revelation to me so far: Engineering has actually shrunk a little, and Math & Physics have shrunk a lot. CS is growing, not shrinking.
Here's a plot of the sciences as a percentage of total majors, this is more indicative of the growth of each field relative to other fields than either the absolute numbers or the delta plots in the article: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xuxithrti6nyljm/majorsSciencesPerc...
And compared to more majors: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wkronio6arxsrjs/majorsPercent.png?...
- the perception of U.S. manufacturing (affects engineering) '80s: http://www.epi.org/publication/manufacturing-job-loss-trade-...
- perception of CS (dot-com & bust: '94-'01):
Showing the longer term change is really cool.
I'd upvote multiple times if possible.
I remember the way they taught it was VERY dogmatic Java/OOP. Putting aside my personal feelings on those subjects, that's like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the ocean without a life jacket. I tutored some other students, and picking up the language AND the IDE and the debugger and understanding compilers -- it was too much. I remember trying to learn java as a kid and being baffled, and then picking up QBasic and basically getting it immediately. QBasic teaches you some awful habits of course, but for a beginner it's much easier to reason about and it will teach you how to think like a computer. I'm not suggesting we go back to teaching QBasic, but it has to be something other than Java. I think CS departments throw everyone in the deep end with an awful curriculum, and then act surprised that everyone leaves except the hardcore nerds that already knew these subjects before they got to school.
There were basically the people who could program, and the people who could not. You could see the double bell curve in the grade statistics.
Dehnadi & Bornat (2006) was the seminal two-hump paper, which was widely circulated but never peer reviewed. In 2014, Bornat (who was Dehnadi's advisor) retracted it.
However, the situation is an odd one. None of the data was ever called into question. The basic methodology has seen criticisms raised, but has not been clearly invalidated. Several subsequent experiments (Dehnadi, 2009; Dehnadi et al.,
2009; Bornat et al., 2012) confirmed, at least, that the aptitude test consistently produces two humps.
Rather, Bornat issued his retraction in the face of his commentary on the studies. He described having a bad reaction to SSRIs in 2006, and subsequently making a large number of wild and grandiose claims about the work. These included calling the aptitude test "100% accurate", flatly stating that some students couldn't learn to program, and publicizing third-party claims about gender in the data set.
This is all very weird. The study stands uncorrected. Dehnadi seems to have gotten caught in the crossfire, since his paper was retracted for extra-textual reasons. No one has really settled the question of how predictive the aptitude test is. The only major follow-up I've seen, out of Toronto, is simply wretched. (They used CS course grades after curving to argue about distributions!)
So: double bell curve. Not proven, not retracted, still widely supported by anecdote.
I honestly wish I'd picked a more interesting major, like electrical engineering or physics. I feel like I could learn the things I've learned in a few months (which may or may not be true).
Computer science is just not very hard, while physics, math, and engineering is. I think the guys from other fields can be more successful programmers, just because they are smarter (more used to solving hard problems).
In computer science, the only course that required a little bit of creativity was algorithms. It was stuff mathematicians are practically trained to do (be it not in exactly the same setting).
Maybe we should be asking whether computer science as we know it is too broad of a field to meaningfully explore in a Bachelor's degree.
We should probably think of Computer Science in the same way. Instead of just vanilla CS, we could split a CS BA/BS into just as many specific concentrates: assembly, architectures, crypto, data related anything (management, safety, security, databases), etc.
But they don't have to learn it all in school. The way for CS to cut itself down to a manageable size is to concentrate on the traditional "hard core". Compilers, operating systems, plus some newer (i.e. from-the-1970s) stuff like networks, distributed systems and concurrency.
As always, people will cry that they never (ha!) do such stuff in their real jobs. But the more day-to-day stuff can be learned on the job. The stuff I listed is where university-style learning can offer a real advantage.
Stats/calc/algorithms weren't hard, I needed practice. I did every question in every textbook and followed up with the prof when I didn't understand how something worked.
Computer science actually pulls together all these different disciplines into one. By that metric, it might be the hardest. But really, nothing is easy or hard, it just takes practice.
As someone who had significant exposure to the world of mathematics for a working professional (4 years in an excellent PhD program) and who codes for a living, I find that what I did in grad school was multiple levels harder than what I do now, or what I get exposed to in the inane CS-focused interviews of some companies. The abstraction level is seldom, if ever, matched.
What about if you have to derive and prove the correctness of the formulas used instead of just memorizing formulas without background?
Funny how both of us are dismissing stuff neither of us did in school :)
I should note that I did study a year in California. There, the computer science was much harder, and the math was much easier (scored straight A's in math courses literally without any effort, and nearly failed the operating systems course that I took).
It's easy to dismiss the difficulties that arise in software as properties of the language, platform, framework, etc. that you're working with, except that we're a few decades into this whole software engineering thing and we're still inventing (and re-investing) tools to solve "simple" problems. Which, of course, is also true in many other engineering disciplines. Sure, the scale may get smaller or larger, but base issues like "this problem would be easy if I could just temporarily disable gravity" or "I've got the perfect mechanism for this if we can allow one solid to pass through another when we assemble it" still crop up with remarkable frequency.
One might reasonably start to think that estimating the difficulty of problems is, in and of itself, harder than it looks.
I picked a pretty good school and we got in depth with assembly, graphics, databases, functional programming, etc. In my time there, I wrote my own programming language and VM, a working raytracer, a neutral net project, and much more. I appreciate having a good solid base in a wide range of computing science concepts.
One of my co-workers are currently doing a degree in a much less prominent school in town, and the classes are much less involved, pretty easy, and sometimes just weird. She doesn't even bother to go classes most of the time. She really isn't learning much that she doesn't know already.
If I had gone to that school, I wouldn't have learned much that I didn't know already either.
The same is true of EE programs. My degree is in EE with CE emphasis but work as a SE now. I've interviewed a number of EE background folks from well known schools and it's very clear they had a completely different experience than I did. Their experience was much less rigorous in terms of the physics/mathematics involved.
Relatively often while trying to help a fresh-from-school hire I'll ask myself silently "when and how did I learn this" and realize it happened before my first day as a full-time software engineer. But it's fairly evenly split between coursework that has proven itself to be better-than-average or through some fortuitous internship experiences.
aside, i interned at a nat'l lab and I wonder if there are any reliable predictors for how good of a training opportunity an internship will be. I think mine was good because I got a lot of attention from two smart people who had more experience and a decent grasp of many best-practices, though they were both relatively fresh from (graduate) school themselves.
As a self-taught programmer, I think you're downplaying how much you can learn in a CS program. I don't pretend to know as much as a CS major. I haven't spent time learning compilers or DB internals, and probably haven't studied CS algorithms enough to pass an interview at Google or Facebook.
Regarding the CS curriculum, an undergrad EE curriculum is similarly shallow: it's a sampling of many different subtopics that often are only loosely related (E&M, DSP, circuits, control theory, devices, etc.). Undergrads won't be experts in any one of those fields.
Since I graduated (grad school) in EE, I've told myself each year that I'll jump from my EE job to a programming job, since I enjoy programming more. But it's getting harder and harder to justify. Will I be leaving a senior EE position for an entry-level software position? Does that make sense at 30? Why am I the oldest person in the office when I interview at a startup? Why is the interviewer fixating on compilers and database internals?
If I were to do it over, I'd get a degree in CS because that's the most direct route to the job, and education continues on the job. Everything else was a diversion. And you're seeing the grass as greener on the other side of the fence regarding engineering/physics curriculum. Learning how to solve physics problems doesn't make you smarter or a better programmer.
I might be downplaying CS programs, I just experienced one of them. In that program, I had no chance to learn compilers, operating systems, electronic circuits, assembly language, or any math. In hindsight, I'm not sure if this was the right choice. I did learn about those topics, but just in my spare time. I was able to pass my CS program while barely going to lectures (which may sound nice, but in practice I did not make any friends; it was a terrible time). I could just as well learn this on the side while studying something that is intrinsically more interesting, like physics or electrical engineering.
At the other hand, I was able to double major, and it's not hard for me to find a job now.
I found a very sweet spot in Embedded Systems programming, which by nature is more or less an intersection of the two disciplines.
I wrote an operating system and a simulated CPU implementing (a subset of) a real-world ISA in my last semester - both comparatively in-depth things. Of course I did have to choose that, and in so doing, I chose a semester of hell.
Similarly, doing an intro-level survey of all of those topics won't leave you with much; there is a concept of depth-over-breadth that I think is lost in programs' attempts to sound rigorous by bundling in everything under the sun. However, none of those things you listed are 'small' topics and could very well be majors on their own.
My school was a liberal arts college, and still required a decent amount of math for the undergrad CS degree.
I've known a few folks who had these kinds of degrees and I'm not sure their schools did them a service graduating them without a proper curriculum. At most schools with C.S. majors, they have alternative majors for people who don't want to do the intensive Maths and Sciences and they're usually called something like "Information Systems" or "Computers for Business" or similar.
My undergrad degree was a BS in Computer Information Systems, and I still had a ton of math. The main change from CS to my degree was replacing the higher end maths like Calc2+ and Physics2+ with business oriented courses like finance and economics.
I graduated from undergrad in 1999 and I think since that time colleges have tried to make CS more 'friendly' to non-geeks. This has unfortunately meant lowering the math requirement.
At the state schools in my state, the curriculum generally consisted of math up through and including three semesters of Calc + Linear Algebra + Discrete + 3 semesters of calculus-based Physics with labs + two semesters of algorithm design and formal methods (which I count as math courses) + Stats + an Operational Research course. You could also swap one of the sciences with a semester on diff-eq if you wished. I think you could get a math minor if you took something like 3 more higher-level math courses and a dual major wasn't that much more after that. It was brutal and I think the second highest number of required credits of any major at the school after EE. It wasn't uncommon to start a semester with 100 students in the class and end with 8-12 at the end.
The non-CS "Info Sys" or "Software Engineering", etc. dropped all the calc, linear algebra, OR, formal methods and required only two semesters of science classes that did not require any calculus (they were called something like "Physics for Business" or something) and no algo design. They actually had fewer classes than the CS major, but the rest of the gap was filled with major specific courses like finance or econ or whatever.
It's way more difficult(if done correctly) than probably almost every other degree except physics, math, and maybe chemical engineering.
I don't know where you got your degree but I felt like I was challenged immensely in my curriculum..with algorithms, upper level maths, cryptography, distributed systems, etc. etc.... but I really worked 80 hours a week to try to get the stuff, even though I could have scraped through.
And taking the degree has helped immensely in industry...it didn't teach me any specific technology, like a bootcamp teaches a MEAN stack, but it made me fluent in the industry...so I am easily able to pick up new tech rapidly..which I credit years of studying computer science in college.
Which is the goal of college...to get you fluent in the world you're majoring in..not necessarily any specific tech, you're supposed to learn that stuff yourself, and it never stops.
As for the industry...that was a huge disappointment. My first job I felt like 'the best office worker'...it didn't have the revolutionary cutting edge feel I wanted.
My current job is way better, but there's a lot of shit jobs in the industry, because you work directly for business people, who typically have no higher motive than money, and you're basically the best paid worker in the 'Rat Race'....
Also, there's way less status than being a doctor, lawyer, or nurse. People dont even remotely understand what we do, therefore there's no connection for them to grant us status.
I would also add that university in general, is more about approaching new and hard topics, and finding a good way to learn and digest them. In computer science you also get to do it facing fascinating topics like lambda calculus or the mathematics behind cryptography.
I actually did Engineering but work in code every day. I noticed much the same as you: it's a million little topics. Control theory, thermo, digital filters, a bit of coding, and so on. But having come at it from another side, I figure the lesson is that you can learn any topic you like, the procedure is the same. Read something, try it yourself, search for solutions. If it's hard look at the prerequisites.
I suppose it's a bit more obvious when you study Engineering that you're not going to use all of it. But after a few years you realise that you use a lot of it. There's this meme going around about "The 20 most important equations". I think I used them all either at work or in uni.
Imperative programming (learned C#, nice course),
Computer science project (program something in a group),
Logic for computer science,
Computer architecture and networks (terrible: no practicals, just an exam),
Graphics (fun, but only learned how to write shaders in glsl),
Modelling and system development (we learned working with UML diagrams; the course was way too 'soft' for me),
Software project (again, program something in a group. we did something for a two-man company with a delusional CEO, which went bankrupt while we were working on the project),
I filled the rest of the curriculum with math courses. I have to admit the whole thing (not just the CS part) looks so meager when I look at the courses I followed. Can't believe I spent 4 years on it.
To give a counter view, at the university I attended we went deep into the processor, effectively building a simple model from NAND gates all the way up to an optimized CPU pipeline. The class had one of the most interesting grade curves I've every seen, with no B's, and very few C's. Most grades were either A's or D's.
That would allow a deeper theoretical basis but also time to link those to reality through concrete examples. But then, you'd probably lose more of the class...
You know, graduation quotas & all.. :/
That's interesting. The most common complaint in my program from students was that we weren't actually learning how to program. Actually learning how to use a language was considered (for the most part) a "technical detail", and the course was very heavy on algorithm analysis, theory of computation, math, how operating systems function on a theory level, writing a keyboard interrupt handler for a small embedded OS to support backspace (^H) and erase to beginning of line (^U), using threads with locks, etc.
> Computer science is just not very hard, while physics, math, and engineering is.
I think that depends quite a bit on the school you go to. I think the CS program at my school was quite hard compared to the math program. My school was by no means top-tier, and I was very self conscious of that for a while. Then I met a good friend that had a degree from Berkeley's CS program, and over the years I've come to the conclusion that the main difference between his CS program and the one I went through was the quality of the teachers, and I think it was actually a fairly small difference. Much more important seemed to be what you wanted out of the program, and what piqued your interested and caused you to follow it deeper (and good teachers could help quite a bit at this point, as they might have deeper knowledge of specific subjects that could help you).
My point is that I do not believe that CS is necessarily much easier than those programs from what variable experience I have with them, but CS is fairly wide in what it touches, so unless you decide to dive in deeper on a subject, you are likely going to be getting theory plus a survey of what's available. That said, if your school focused more on that actual art of programming than the theory, than might lead to different (but not necessarily worse) outcomes. People go to college for different reasons, and a good many in my class that were complaining about not getting much experience actually programming were looking for college to train them for a programming position immediately after college. That wasn't necessarily what I was there for, but that doesn't mean that a college putting a bit more of that in their program is doing the wrong thing, they're just responding to market realities (i.e. what their students want).
> mathematical theory behind cryptography
In our algorithm analysis class, we had to write a paper on some known algorithm examining its function and complexity. Being security conscious and having an interest in cryptography, I chose Diffie-Hellman key exchange. A lot of the benefit of college is making your own opportunities.
Exactly this. While working for a Fortune 50 engineering conglomerate, a colleague participated in a Career Day at the local university. He interviewed ~50 or so students, a mix of undergrads and graduates. He claimed that of these he found about two of them who might be able to do Fizz-Buzz. That's crazy!
It is entirely possible that my school took this a bit too far (or that might have been the norm at the time). At the same time, some students were complaining that our major wasn't treated the same as others, as our lab time didn't count for the same amount of credits as other majors. For example, I believe a 2-hour of instruction and 3-hours of lab time class for chemistry was 5 credits, but 4 credits for CS, leading to more in-class time required than some other majors. I personally didn't care, and didn't even know about it until my last semester. Depending on how you look at it, it's actually not a detriment, but a bonus of the major.
That said, the electives available to CS did have more practical experience, such as the OO programming one taught using Java (I graduated probably a year or two before they switched from C++ to Java as the main teaching language).
I spent my four of my five school years in France, and one in California. Where did you study ?
I saw the quality difference in the two schools I attended. One had profs teaching by the book and the other had profs that wrote the book.
There is a great deal of difference between different schools, which I think explains much of the varying experiences people have.
I mentioned in a different thread how simole it is for my travel-nurse of a sister to get a new job (her stints around the Bay Area paid ~100k and she only has 2 years of experience).
Developers jump through hoop after hoop for employment, this wouldn't happen if they were in demand like a nurse. The market is just responding appropriately, though maybe not how the masters would prefer it.
I don't have trouble finding work and often need to bring on additional help. The hoops are cultural.
So what's your point? You are not a traditional employee. You are a company...it would be weird for them to make you jump through so many hoops.
Companies are treated better than employees in the market.
It's also difficult to believe in an oversaturation of developers when their salaries are at record highs -- that only happens when demand increases relative to supply. There is no union, and minimum wage is nowhere near what developers are paid, so supply and demand is the only explanation for the increase in developer salaries over the past few years. In an oversaturated market, salaries would decrease, not increase.
If there would be actual shortage, companies would find a way to work with people who want to work from home (I know it is less effective and not for everything, but if you are really desperate you find a way) or part time or with people who are not quite cool at beer but will work. Companies being picky about things that are not strictly speaking ability suggest there is no shortage. It means companies are in position to be picky.
Depending on how you define "good", I would dispute the assumption that every company deserves good people. Information about what a company is like to work at spreads fast enough for good people to avoid them. There are plenty of such companies.
Why would you compare developer salaries to minimum wage? You should be comparing them to the wages of doctors, lawyers, and CEO's.
The difference is that IT usually sucks so much that nobody notices.
But yes, due to its openness, that you don't need the relevant degree to find employment as a SWE or ML engineer or data scientist (lol - data scientists today, such a bastardization of 'scientist'), it is I agree very competitive, especially if you're just starting out.
Interviews measure a shibboleth with a glancing relationship to relevant skills, which is more based on expedient and clever solving of the toy algorithms problems you'll find in college than the actual quality of a developer's output. Different companies' interviews attempt to measure the same skills in different and subjective ways, yielding different results.
Centralization on an evidence-based standardized test for the "prove your skills" part of the interview process is one of the best outcomes we can hope for. Ideally it would be open to non-degree-holders. Include per-component scores so companies can choose which areas they care about more, avoid grade inflation so similar candidates are distinguishable, etc.
That said, I have no problem with leetcode algo questions, as long as the interviewer is only checking for your ability to think, communicate, and hands on experience with a few basic programming approaches (using hashes, recursion, structuring code etc.), which they are in fact excellent gauges for. If balanced with other types of interview challenges, it's not a bad way to assess. (but yes, it crosses the line if they care about the perfection of your leetcode algo; again, most do not)
I usually get a fairly straightforward phone screen/on-site interview.
I've only had to do a handful of interviews, but they've always been extremely mellow (my last one took place on a chairlift) and I've been practically begged to take each job. Then again, I'm in Wyoming, not Silicon Valley so that may have something to do with it.
In Michigan with 10 years experience, I don't usually have trouble landing work. In some cases, they're practically begging people not to relocate away for the much higher wages.
But when I've applied to positions in Seattle, even lower-end ones, I've always been rejected. Across a dozen companies in coastal markets, everyone seems looking for any reason or excuse, no matter how trivial, to reject any candidate they meet.
* = I picked the three big pricey "coastal" US places that came to mind, it's entirely possible we're talking about different places :-)
This sounds like a funny line, because the best form of begging would include money.
I'm in bioinformatics, so not pure tech, though I did interview for several straight tech-companies last year and my experience was very poor. Multiple phone-screens, having to work on side projects, on-site multi-hour interviews, white board exercises, etc.
My sister the travel nurse literally spends 2-5 hours on the phone every time she wants a new position. That generally includes 2-4 phone screens with potential employers. Then she gets offers and picks which job she wants. Are your interviews really that simple, it takes less than 5 hours to find a new job? You spend a few hours on the phone and then get immediate offers with relocation if needed?
> You don’t need a CS degree to be a developer
With another catch. Basically, a lot of people don't intend to go into the tech industry right away. No, they end up in it because it's one of the faster growing industries with decent financial prospects.
So they learn something else, work in a different field for a bit (or a low paid retail job) then end up going into tech where the jobs and money are.
Not everyone is 'passionate' about the subject.
And I think at least some of us observe this and think "I'll study a related tech field and then take a job that also uses CS - that will let me grow a wider skill set than if I just studied CS." Because it isn't too difficult to get exposed to CS basics while pursuing EE or math, etc, and a wider skill set can be a valuable thing to have - you generally have more freedom in the development of your career, more opportunities to shift around and prevent burnout/boredom, etc.
It would be interesting to build a matrix showing how degrees in each STEM field are tied to jobs in each STEM field. Because I suspect CS funnels much less into the other STEM fields than vice versa, providing a view where a CS degree is tied to a narrower line of work, and hence more at risk to future market changes.
To be fair, the job prospects in many other STEM fields aren't great. You most likely won't get a job with a BS in physics doing physics related work, considering how many physics PhDs there are that didn't remain in academia for one reason or another.
If this is the reason people avoid this job, maybe we should stop lying to them about what the work actually is.
I've been asked by various close acquaintances and friends if they should try to get into IT (mostly as programmers), I've told them they should really be passionate about the field, not think only about the money, otherwise they would have a really bad time, psychologically speaking.
It's become the most popular major at Stanford.
At Princeton in just 5 years from 2011 to 2016 it grew 3x to become the most popular major from 36 to 130 majors. At Yale in those 5 years, the number of CS majors doubled (though it's not the most popular major there).
In at least 3 states now the single most popular job is software engineers (30 years ago in just about every single state it used to be driver), and I imagine that trend is only going to continue so you will see more and more computer science majors.
Everywhere I go, computer science departments are crying out how much enrollment has swelled, and they can't keep up. Intro CS courses are typically 400-600 students.
Every article that describes CS enrollment uses the terms "exploding" and "surge".
Even in 2014:
This certainly feels like "fake news" to me.
The number of CS majors has exploded.
Interestingly, the three professions I mentioned above all have graduate degrees, whereas software developers have B.Sc. credentials, if that.
Probably 95% of software jobs play a supporting role; the business' primary focus lies elsewhere (e.g. finance, military, advertising/marketing, health care, engineering, etc). That relegates CS and its practitioners to be a cost center rather than a profit center -- like janitors and accountants and HR -- never a star, at best a 'utility' player, a commodity. In almost all workplaces, software/IT is seen as 'the cost of doing business' -- a liability to be cost-minimized and outsourced as much as possible and then dissed by the board whenever 'players' enter the boardroom: professionals like MBAs, MDs, PhD engineers, bankers, lawyers, etc.
It's likely that the wiser more perceptive undergraduates have some inkling of CS' underclass status. It's even more likely that females and those with social and financial ambitions are aware of the limits inherent in any role where one must stick one's head inside a computer every day for, literally decades. Then at age 40-to-50, some 20 years before retirement, these software auteurs are widely regarded to be 'over the hill', and thereafter in decline until death lays them off at last. (And their job is taken by a 22-year-old.)
It's little wonder that CS doesn't attract freshmen the way honey does flies. Aside from its attractive starting wage, in too many ways a CS degree portends 2-3 decades of social isolation and indentured servitude, followed at midlife by obsolescence and oblivion.
At the end of life, is it possible that any programmer will ever look back on their days and shout, 'My greatest dream has been achieved. I have truly changed the world!'
IMHO, the answer is no. I believe THAT is why students are not flocking to CS programs. CS is not a road to significance.
The US's banking industry's reputation took a big hit in 2008, and it has become increasingly common for top university students to head into tech over finance since then. Not to mention, firms like Goldman Sachs are replacing many of their traditional traders with software engineers.
Outside of top law schools, the prospects of law grads have diminished greatly over the past decade or two. And some varieties of lawyers, such as patent trolls, are especially frowned upon -- the opposite of "top-tier" and "distinguished" in the eyes of many.
And I don't think the pool of potential doctors and the pool of potential software engineers overlap much at all. I would guess that the number of university students deciding to be doctors instead of software engineers is quite small.
The same goes for lawyers working in cities. Many law students are underemployed, but overall there's a much higher compensation ceiling.
Management consultants weren't mentioned, but a large percentage of top grads end up there, being groomed for executive positions in Fortune 500 companies.
Many of the Ivey League students gravitating to tech are likely envisioning themselves as founders or C-suite executives, not engineers. Outside of the SV bubble, software engineer is not a top-tier job. Nor is it a particularly well paying job. In SV though, it has prestige.
> Many of the Ivey League students gravitating to tech are likely envisioning themselves as founders or C-suite executives, not engineers. Outside of the SV bubble, software engineer is not a top-tier job. Nor is it a particularly well paying job. In SV though, it has prestige.
My general rule is to follow the money, and at most companies the compensation levels don't look like engineering is a prestige position. Not bad, to be sure, but definitely outside the inner circle even at many companies where it's a core competitive attribute.
This isn't new: during the dot-com bubble, there were plenty of people who got decent numbers but the people getting rich tended to be management, sales, etc. with all of the talk of “passion” and highlighting the lucky few winners looking suspiciously like a way to get people to donate enough unpaid overtime to make someone else very rich.
However, the technology industry, especially up and coming start-ups, and the established players like google,facebook, or apple are some of the most prestigious companies to work for, in some ways surpassing that of McKinsey or Goldman Sachs in the eyes of an everyday person.
OK, I'll buy there's something to that. But keep in mind that students' choices aren't made purely with a clear-eyed understanding of how things are now. They are made in part based on an understanding built up over time, some of which reflects how things were when they were when growing up. In particular, parents and other advisers who have a lot of pull can easily be acting on the basis of a decades-old view of the world. So even if things are shifting, current actions could well be lagging behind.
Late 2014 I landed a part-time job in web development, that role then moved to full-time and I transitioned out of the Bachelor program as I was learning more valuable work-related skills at my job or in my spare time.
Since then I've advertised to employers that I'm part way through a bachelor, willing to complete if they believe it's necessary but otherwise not interested. I'm now earning just above the average cited in the article and have no intentions of returning to school.
I know of a few classmates that are in the same boat, they got a part-time job, transitioned to full-time and quit schooling.
In my opinion, the fact I was studying was critical in landing the first job but useless afterwards once I could prove my ability and worth. I doubt people who only completed a degree could compete at technical interviews against people with a self taught background.
If you invest a finite amount of hours in the first category, you are pretty much guaranteed you will have something to show for it. Not easy, not simple, but you will get results.
Comp. Sci. is a black hole. You can blow ten hours on an obscure logic error. Students know from experience that their tightly budgeted schedule can be wrecked, and they can miss deadlines for reasons that seem out of proportion with the payback. This impacts their other subjects as well.
BTW I've a 50-year career in IT. The sum total of my academic qualifications was 1 week of FORTRAN. The rest I learned on the job.
Software is about the only career I can think of where there are movements created to inject social status into it so that people get into it who are only interested so long as it comes with social status/trendiness.
The major also doesn't fix the thought process. You either have it or you don't.
Maybe I just live in developer bubble and don't know any better, but I've never seen a movement like "Girls do Plumbing!", "Black girls construction bootcamp" or "Mining for equality!".
We try to add diversity, but it feels so manufactured. Society has evolved the games and roles we play. It will evolve further down the line as well. What is considered acceptable for men, women, westerners, easterners, low-income, high-income will all be noticeably different in 100 years.
Culture adjusts with time, and we see that in our current society, women often takes roles they feel more fulfilled with rather than those which might earn them the most money.
I guess you could make the argument that they're falling into traditional family roles with men being the bread winners, but I've seen many single women on their own peruse the same ends.
Maybe we should all find ways to do what we love instead of being like the guy in the Futurama poster with "You gotta do what you gotta do."
Let me give some examples to see if I can build a picture. On the technology end of things, I used to go to the conference SEG, which a lot of deals for technology are made on the side. I've not been for the last 4-5 years, but they used to be really aggressive about their use of booth babes. For example, I remember one year where there was a vendor where I could get my shoes shined by a group of women wearing bikinis, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats while having the sales person talk to me about whatever widget they were selling. Similarly, a former coworker used to hire what were called "technical models" who were pretty women that could talk shop that they'd used to drive sales. Now, is this unique to oil? Nope. However, I felt they were pretty aggressive about it.
As far as oil rig work, that's interesting for a couple of reasons. One, roughnecking is one of the only fields left that pays extremely good money for limited amount of education. Two, most of the managers that I met did a certain amount of time working on rigs to cut their teeth and they very much viewed it as a rite of passage into upper management. I mention these two things because it turns out rig work is important both for providing wealth to those with little education as well as a path to upper management. Now, as a women, is this an inviting environment? Well, let's see; there are very few women doing it right now, so it's likely you'd be one of the only ones at the operation. Further, depending on the assignment, you could literally be trapped either in the middle of the desert or on an offshore rig with literally no where to go in case there was a conflict with the other personnel. Alternatively, you could take an assignment in a place like Saudi where you have to completely cover yourself and not drive whenever you're off compound. That sucks and every woman who enters the field knows that it sucks.
That said, would oil management be excited if a bunch of women wanted to do rig work? Absolutely. Each of the companies that I've worked with absolutely had outreach programs to attract women. However, it's hard because overall it's an extremely hostile environment. Further, it has a long term affect because the current oil culture encourages a certain amount of rig work to cut your teeth for management and if women aren't getting that then they're at a disadvantage for those positions as well.
What to do? Honestly, I don't know. Personally, I think there's a chicken and the egg problem. If there was magically a big cohort of women who wanted to get on a rig, I think many of the problems I mentioned above would be moderated. Though, certainly, disadvantages while working in the Middle East persist. However, it's unlikely that such a cohort will magically appear. Till then, part of the point of outreach programs is to create small, incremental improvement until these problems fix themselves.
My sister is also a mechanical engineer she worked on remote mine sites for a while and then at a power plant. She took a few years off to have children and now has no desire to get back to that kind of lifestyle. She works for the government now.
Now, this is not to contend whether these programs are good or bad. I have my own opinions. However, I will strongly say that the contention that computer science is unique in this regard is factually incorrect. Programs exist across a broad selection of fields.
My statement is unclear, but the "udacity/anyone can be a computer whiz!" "koding with karlie" vibe that is pushed is very different than anything else in the world.
Software is unique in that it IS something that anyone with the minimum amount of the right talents can learn to do well on their own -- that's just the nature of the internet and how software is distributed/documented. It ISN'T, however, something that just anyone will be good at. Not everyone is suited for the type of information gathering and thinking that it requires.
I would never delude myself into believing that I have the correct talents to be an accountant, a lawyer, or an artist. Why is this type of attitude normal in software?
It obviously makes business sense for companies like udacity to sell the idea that it's easy to gain a textbook understanding of it, but the culture surrounding it tries to take it much further than that. Companies are expected to force their demographics instead of sharpie-ing over the names on every job application and just choosing whoever the fuck is most qualified for the job. If the interviewer is legitimately sexist or racist, you have some much deeper set problems that aren't going to be solved by ordering them to hire certain demographics.
You could even argue that women have an upper hand by being scarce!
And then you have bullshit evidence like "companies that hire diversely are more successful", when in reality this is a classic correlation/causation fallacy where the largest and most successful companies can afford the extra hiring hours and turnover of hiring the wrong candidates.
And for what it's worth, I suspect that if most people were willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to create art, you'd find that many more people can create reasonable art than you would otherwise believe, because we've talked ourselves into a model of artistic talent that seems to hold that it's a binary switch, rather than something like any other skillset, where some people are more talented, but where almost anyone can develop some ability in it if they put in time and effort. I'm not a naturally talented basketball player, but I can run and play defense and hit a reasonable jumper in a pickup game, because I've spent a lot of time over several years learning how to play and then playing a bunch of games.
On the STEM front, a quick search immediately pulls organizations like National Girls Collaborative Project:
and Girls Inc.:
that provide either focus or programs for outreach in STEM more broadly than computer science. Now, I don't know the exact numbers for whether programs for pushing for women in CS are greater in number than STEM. That would be interesting to know precisely. Mostly, my contention is that, yes, there are organizations that are attempting to encourage young women to entering STEM fields beyond software.
Now, at a city level where I live, I have noticed anecdotally that there's been a push for software based businesses from the local government. Though it's difficult to know for sure, my opinion of this push toward software as opposed to engineering is because the apparent investment in creating a new software company is lower than the investment in creating an engineering company. Engineering tends to be a more regulated field and often requires more expensive equipment. As such, I believe the city is interested in businesses that could have a large economic impact for a relatively low amount of investment. Now, is this so easy? No and I believe my city government's actions are somewhat misguided. That said, I doubt that where I live is unique. I do believe there's a national push for software based businesses because the apparent investment is low and the payoff is high. Along with that will be programs to encourage underrepresented people to enter the field and these programs will be visible. But, again, I contend they're not unique.
I think people greatly underestimate what software developers actually do. To most of non-computer related folk we are just monkeys who bash keystrokes.
I'm not saying we do some rocket science, however in this profession a lot of online research is required to even do a simple things, and to most of people it is annoying to do so they give up.
I'm full-stack developer for about 10 years but still have to google MSSQL connection string or how to center stuff vertically in css.
Or you could look at the documentation. People did simple and complex things with computers for decades before google existed.
A, I only care about the demographics when it's convenient (i.e., the career is prestigious)
or B, "yeah well I support men in nursing and women in construction too!", despite there not being a similar effort in the known universe to force demographics in these fields.
It's weird that the politically correct opinion seems to be that it can't be accepted that a natural gravitation towards certain professions or acts based on gender is real.
That's not saying that those fields are perfect but, say, a female/Hispanic/etc. accountant, paralegal, etc. won't be the only person fitting that description at most meetings. Skilled trades often have skewed gender, ethnicity, etc. ratios but they also don't get anything like as much attention so most of us are unaware of the problem or efforts to improve things.
Computer Science is a focus for these efforts because it's a high-status, high-pay career that has exceptionally poor gender/race balance. Much like Wall Street and corporate america in general:
Technology is also unique in that between the different over-represented minority cultures, people with poor social adjustment and tolerance for "boys will be boys" creates an actively hostile culture for women.
> I think it is also the only career which people try to inject diversity just for the sake of it.
Well when you think about the reach of software in the modern world, it can influence anyone. Whereas diversity in plumbing might not be important, having different points of view on a programming team can mean the difference between having your product take off, or fail.
My cynicism says that diversity is a result of baizou, not any actual accounting of some magic spread where different and useful ranges of thought are spread in equal proportion mapping to a species of bureaucratic classification of diversity as noted in sex and skin color and nationality.
All teams have different points of view. This has nothing to with "diversity" or gender. If there's a female or two on the team, great, but don't force it, and her opinion has no more value than the opinion of her male colleague.
Forced diversity (of what? be specific, ethnicity? skin color? religion?) is not a requirement for multiple points of view.
Yes, that's quite likely. Diversity is important in this field, as in any other, for a number of reasons. The two most important are that is the brings diversity of thought, which should always be welcome in a supposedly fact-based intellectual field, and that it is a signal that we as a society value ourselves and our peers well enough to not treat anybody as second class citizens.
You're promoting a form of corporate doublethink where filling out bubbles of sex and race is automatically analogous with some platonic ideal where every single variant of human being had this amazing differential that'd waiting to be exploited.
But instead it seems a very cynical game where the superficiality of diversity conquers honest evaluation of needs and ability.
A cynical understanding of human nature and society serves a person far better than the opposite.
People want to do less work than more work. For people involved in acquiring, placing, and managing human resources, an easy way to signal "work"/"useful work" is by parroting the line of superficial diversity.
That's my experience at least. I win far more bets by assuming the worst of intentions than the best in these hiring games.
In the military you see a big push for "diversity", especially in relation to sex, where all sorts of carrots are trotted out just to have a platonic makeup of sees in the armed forces. Nevermind that one of those sexes has an ace in the hole called "pregnancy" which the mil. Bureaucracy will bend to accommodate.
Nevermind the disastrous effects on morale and confidence in command this brings to some poor bastard from Nebraska who goes through all sorts of shit. If he gets a girlfriend, or God forbid a wife, he faces the risk of absolute cuckery on that side. If he messes around with whores and the command is looking for a scapegoat, they'll bring him up for ucmj charges. Meanwhile if his girlfriend/wife messes around with boys on the base, she has no repercussion for her actions.
"Wait, what about the pregnant female soldiers?"
Easy office job and easy promotion because higher-ups would rather have eye candy over a more disposable resource (competent males).
What gets me is the total denial of this facet of human nature by those who push "diversity".
Could you share the reasons you have for believing that?
Are there any proofs of this assertion?
This kind of ignorance brings up the major social issue of technology, something similar to the "Smug Lisp Weenie" issue.
Many young people are idealistic and want to get into a field that will change the world for the better, and going into a field where the status quo for success is how well you can implement math for a faceless entity is not very appealing for many folks, regardless of their ability to do so.
You might be able to memorize hundreds of kernel functions or visualize abstract data types, but is what you're building actually solving the problems of your community or your society? Does your job tickle your brain enough that you don't care if you're building auto emission cheats? Is this kind of thinking truly "intelligence" when the ocean is acidifying and urban lifestyles are shortening our telomeres?
Do you really think that the type of person that is suited for connecting extremely disparate information is at all common? Sure, anyone can hop into a job at an established company with established tools and documentation and write glue code, but to me that is very different than the type of person that genuinely has a talent for software.
Being able to memorize bullshit or excel in academia means nothing.
That makes a CS degree inherently less valuable than almost all other degrees out there. Why would employers request a degree saying you know your stuff, when they can just ask you to prove it directly?
I was recently st a meetup and met a guy I went to school with. When he was in the process of acquiring his masters degree in physics, he was contacted by Google, who wanted to employ him. He went to an interview (which, apparently, was several interviews by different people all working for Google), and he got the job and moved to Ireland to work for them. Moral of the story: get a degree which offers the greatest value for money, and learn CS in your spare time, for free.
Are you suggesting that those developers who lack a CS degree but can program effectively nonetheless don't really know "computer science," and therefore are weaker applicants?
By extension, are you suggesting that most developer jobs have a need for applicants well-versed in Turing machines, automata, language parsing, trie data structures, and so on?
You seem to be saying that demonstrating strong coding ability doesn't correlate to strong academic CS ability, but I can't imagine why you would bother to point this out unless you felt it was strongly relevant, in which case you must also be suggesting some variant of the above arguments.
In the formal sense, pretty much - most actual CS is pretty irrelevant to day to day development as it's pretty much a specialized branch of maths (note that the CS department I did a degree at is now part of a maths department so I'm perhaps a bit biased).
"strong coding ability doesn't correlate to strong academic CS ability"
Again I would agree with this - I had a supervisor who never wrote any code but he was very well regarded in his niche area - his area was purely mathematical.
you can learn computer science without needing a degree at all
Then proceeded to give an example of programming, which is not the same thing.
I agree with the assertion that one can be a successful programmer without a CS degree but let's call a spade a spade.
Maybe a lot of prospective students perceive (correctly or not) that all the best jobs are already filled by talented people and the competition for those is intense. If you didn't get in at the right time when the industry was in a massive growth phase, you're more likely to get stuck in a dead-end job.
That's not to say that there's anything wrong with Java. I just have trouble imagining an insurance company paying some Java developers to do basic research on fundamental computer science problems, or writing a new operating system or programming language or database.
Also laziness, virtue signaling, dilettance, and genuine interest.
Majoring in computer science is like majoring in English with hopes of becoming a writer. Or majoring in economics with hopes of starting a business. You'll get all the theory. You'll mingle with all the lifers. But because you try to come into the guild at age 18, there's a risk of narrowness/tunnel vision.
The people majoring in stats, math, physics, etc. may work on more interesting problems during their college years, or develop a more holistic sense of how to come at big new areas of learning. Meanwhile, the opportunities for non-CS majors to pick up programming skills via electives or non-classroom projects are huge.
Where Dan sees a problem, I'm seeing a healthy diversity. The U.S. is able to come up with enough software talent as is, drawing on many different pathways. Why insist that everyone be trained the same way?
To take the B-tree example: I've run across a number of people who I feel are more apt to blame "the database" for being slow; "it can't handle the load" being one of the excuses I've heard used as a "reason" to switch to an entirely newer database that "scales" better. The real reason that the DB isn't scaling is that the queries being run aren't properly indexed (i.e., there exists a B-Tree that has the column being queried, but that B-Tree nonetheless cannot effectively answer the query without reading millions of extraneous rows) and a fundamental understanding of how a B-Tree works is missing. (I find this most often arises on B-Tree indexes indexing multiple columns, e.g., for an index over (a, b), people mistakenly believe the index can effectively answer range queries on b without specifying a.)
To take the abstraction example: in a project I currently maintain, the codebase is incapable of doing anything other than being an HTTP server: the incoming JSON is handled at the lowest levels interacting with the storage systems, and those same storage layers generate the response JSON. (Though each is filtered and mangled a myriad of ways in between, but it's all dicts and lists, from top to bottom.)
> the opportunities for non-CS majors to pick up programming skills via electives or non-classroom projects are huge.
You're not wrong that these opportunities exist, but in my experience, while they do indeed teach people how to code software, they do not teach people how to engineer software. A math/physics major may only need their simulation to run on their input, but building stable server-side systems that won't wake you up in the middle of the night is a different thing altogether.
You might find this, for old versions of Windows Server, in a trade-school IT degree program. You're certainly not going to find it for Linux in a regular Computer Science program.
Given this, why would someone want to get a CS degree, usually at a significant cost, when their coworkers will happily cover the same content while getting paid to learn it? To put it more succinctly, given this, what is the business case to expect increasing enrolments in CS? You will always have some who are passionate about the study, but it seems unlikely that the segment of passionate people is growing over time at this point. CS is not a new field of study anymore.
(In the BTree example, I find people often think they understand how BTrees work, so they're not going to raise questions, since they don't know what they don't know.)
But you seem to be looking at this from the owner/employer point of view, which I am not sure represents the type of person who would be studying CS in the typical case anyway. At least once you get past the early startup phase, if the business even started in software, these people tend to disengage from the day-to-day development to focus on the business. In that respect, if technical debt is a real concern to them, they would provide more formalized coverage of these topics to all employees to ensure that everyone understands B-trees, or what have you, at the level the business deems necessary. Since that is not common, it may not really be the operating concern you make it out to be either.
Surprising that there's no discussion of CS as a "tool" discipline in the same sense as math and stats are, especially at the bachelor level.
When I consider that "Engineering" comprises far more distinct disciplines than "Computer and information sciences", stats on the former are quite dismal. This becomes even more evident at the master's level: for 2014-15, the number of master's degrees conferred in all engineering disciplines is ~25% less than the number CS bachelor's degrees in the same FY.
perception of dullness
Many people find the idea of staring at code all day, regardless of potential for remuneration, boring. Worrying about every little character, futzing around with compilers and debuggers, and reading manuals isn't many people's idea of fun.
Over the years, several non-developers have commented on this to me; "boring," "dry," and "dull" were generally the adjectives used. It's also perceived by many (rightfully) to be especially prone to the "retrain on your own dime" issue (which has become more common across industries and jobs, but in software dev is particularly acute.) The idea of spending your weekends having to learn a new library or brush up on your fundamentals to interview yet again isn't appealing, and it wouldn't surprise me if younger people were already very clued into this.
"Most desired career among young people: 'YouTuber'":
(also, this is one of the main reasons why females are deterred from joining)
However people in MBA programs are quite open about their intention to make it true.
At the same time we see Dilbert, We the Robots and Office Space all showing the mind numbing reality of what is software development. Games look amazing and every kid wants to be a game dev, until they hear about the months of 16 hour shifts, the insane deadlines, the rooms filled with devs, artists, animators, QA/testers and writers sleeping under their desks to get a title out.
In fact, I would bet that the graph in the article corresponds inversely to how easy it has become to learn programming on your own. From manually copying code out of a magazine when I was a kid, to stackoverflow today.
I submit that the coders who DO get degrees are people who really enjoyed school (for reasons unrelated to learning), people who didn't really know what they wanted to do in life and school was expected of them and/or the path of least resistance, and people who are much more into research than the average developer.
I was fortunate that my engineering program had two semesters of Java. We spent more time hand drawing logic gates than coding in the intro course and so it wasn't until the second (data structures) that I realized it was something I wanted to pursue. It was too late for me to change majors at that point, but not too late to take internships and then a job as a programmer.
University came out of a tradition of being educated for education sake, not to build job skills. Even computer science doesn't teach you how to be a software developer. It's an academic study of computers.
Windows, as far as I know, doesn't come with any programming language built in. You can do some shell stuff or js in the browser, but you can't make an application with that (easily.) And that stuff is hidden away and not encouraged, you have to do research to find out it's even there.
And mobile OSes are even more locked down. As mobile devices replace desktop computers for the vast majority of people, how are they ever supposed to get into programming?
In some sense it is easier than ever to get into programming. Programming languages are better, the internet makes learning resources much more available, there's libraries that can do whatever obscure thing you want to do. But all this is hidden away in a secret world that most users will never venture into and don't know exists.
I know this sounds like it shouldn't be a big deal, but I really believe it is. I was so intimidated by learning programming that I put it off for a long time. It seemed like it would be very complicated and difficult. When I did try to learn, I tried with C++. I also early on tried to program stuff with batch scripts and was put off by how limited it was. Eventually I tried another obscure proprietary language that I found through clicking on an ad. All of these were terrible choices for a beginner who wants to learn programming. But I didn't know enough to know they were terrible choices.
If someone had installed python on my computer and showed me some simple examples I could play with, I would have been so much better off. Eventually I stumbled across a blog post showing how to open up the developer console on a browser just by pressing F12. And some simple example stuff in js. It's like an new world just opened up to me. I know some people that had a similar experience with the computercraft mod for minecraft, of all things.
If you want to be self-employed and save money on taxes, you need to show that you have skills that are rather sophisticated and having a degree is basically a certificate for that requirement.
Also most companies think, if someone can get a technical degree at least they aren't complete morons.
Mine required students to pick at least 1 concentration (1 included software engineering which taught things like software testing)
Lots of developers come into computer science through physics, maths and other peripherally related fields and discover they're good at computers.
Finally, it's hard to continue to work on a degree for a pittance while your less capable buddies are raking in 6 figure salaries. At some point the words 'opportunity cost' will start to appear in your nightmares.
As I read the into, I think the author touched on a lot of the reasons I was starting to think of. A lot of people do boot camps (which are overpriced for-profit garbage btw), community college programming classes, etc. I know people out of this programs that understand bigO notation and do all kinds of fun scaling work and I know CS majors who can only program Java/C# and don't know what a SATA connector is. You get out of your field what you put into it.
As far as women in our field, I hesitate here. I don't really think it's the hostile landscape. I've worked with several female engineers. Some are amazing and good designers. Some are terrible. The ratio to good/bad males, in my limited non-scientific empirical view, seems about even. I also haven't really witnesses women being treated badly either and I've worked in five cities and several jobs over the past two decades. What I have seen are entire groups of people being treated like crap in hostel work environments, not limited or segregated by race or gender.
I feel there are also not that many people in our field (both men and women) because it's...pretty horrible. Seriously, we sit in front of screen for 8 hours a day watching the world tick by, often doing our best to design the best we can to be bolted onto old decaying crap that should have been retired a decade ago. Or we build shiny new products that benefit the few and have tons of crazy requirements that come out of no where that nobody wants. There aren't as many women in engineering because in general women chose jobs that are more rewarding even if they're lower paying. I think we could all take a page from that philosophy, if we didn't live in a world where we were afraid of ending up on the bottom or without enough for essentials.
I can honestly only two about two years at a time in IT these days. I've embraced the Sabbatical (http://penguindreams.org/videos/taking-a-sabbatical/) even though I realize it's probably not sustainable long term, and also realizing my earnings in software give me this unique advantage, that most people simply don't have.
Civil/Mechanical engs, Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Biologists etc, all get out in the field and/or get to work with people all the time...
In tech it's the same flourescent lights, same keyboard, same office, same people...every day for 40 years? What kind of quality of life is that? It's literally the definition of the Rat Race, tech people are just paid better.
This is a very legit reason for not entering the industry, and I think and is probably the biggest reason for the lack of csci majors.
On a broader note, I don't believe a generally accessible job (i.e. not requiring some unique career path or tons of sacrifices beforehand) can be both well paid and rewarding. We're paid really well because we generate lots of value and we're relatively scarce, but at the end of the day we're just the requisite meat component in somebody's money making machine. It's bound to be not too pleasant.
1) It's hard. Very hard. Unlike most other subjects you can't fluff through it. It works or it doesn't.
2) Every programming class is a ton of work. Even if you're great at the subject, it's generally your most time consuming course.
3) Because of #2, if you don't know from Day 1 that this is your major, it takes forever to get through the coursework.
4) More than most majors it's very hard to take even the intro classes if you haven't done it before.
Perhaps because of all this, most CS majors I know are people who just couldn't imagine majoring in anything else.
I would be surprised if the aggregate of all of those degrees didn't meet or exceed the trend of the others.
If a university has 100 spots for CS, then even if twice as many people apply for CS in one particular year, there will still be 100 people (but with higher SATs, presumably). There is some flexibility here, but it is limited - those 100 people require a certain number of faculty and grad students to teach them. They need a large-enough building with the proper facilities (you can send students to classrooms in another building sometimes, but it's not optimal). The campus can't just accept more than the students they planned for without preparation, and those plans are made long in advance.
If a university sees a field is popular, it may work to eventually be able to accept more applicants. But it might not decide to do so - popularity among students isn't the only factor considered, there are many others, like ease of acquiring funding and grants, likelihood of undergrads becoming graduate students (and whether the university wants more or less of those), etc., all of which require multiyear planning and also have various political factors.
tl;dr It's worth seeing if we can find data on the number of applicants, and not the number of graduates. It's possible the number of applicants has been increasing.
Why isn't it drawing more engineers though? I think CS is seen as the risky choice for an engineering job. There's been multiple tech job boom and bust cycles over the years. Why pick CS when most branches of engineering pay almost as much and don't have nearly the risk?
Another thing I've seen happening firsthand is other professions getting dragged into the CS sphere. I know multiple electrical engineers that spend their days writing code now. Circuit design is becoming largely automated, they just need coders that understand the circuits. Same with marketing, I know a couple guys that majored in marketing who spend their days tinkering with WordPress. Finance too, basically all trading has some level of automation. Probably half the people writing code now never intended to. I like to think this, at least in part, is why so much code appears to have been written by satan.
I've always been computer savvy and would have loved to have gone into programming, now I'm trying to prep to go back to school for computer science, so I think it may be relevant.
But even being good with computers I was never really a good student in high school, and due to moving around, parents divorcing etc, I had huge gaps in my math education(I still don't know my multiplication tables). To the point that I never really thought I was good at math until I got to college.
By the time I got to college though I had already put years into becoming a graphic designer, it was my career path and I could graduate faster if I stayed on it. So I did, because I was so close to finishing. I've regretted it ever since.
Now I'm older, wiser, full of regret and better at math, so now I'd love to go back to school or attend a boot camp, but I'm legitimately broke, and I have no idea how to pay for it. So I keep trying to learn on my own, from the occasional book or youtube video.
TLDR: Math education was lacking and required, I was already on a career path, have regretted it ever since.
Edit: certainly there are programming jobs that require a solid competency in mathematics. However there are many that do not.
Roberts suggests the issue with the 80s "crash" was an inability to meet demand. As such, universities began placing restrictions on incoming students. If it's damn near impossible to enroll in THIS major, I'll just go elsewhere. While this next link is primarily for women, you can see every other STEM/Law/Med domains grew, while CS did not . Likewise, university "retraining" was no standardized, so you may not have gotten the training you needed. Fast forward to today, we say the university system is broken, but the only competitor right now are the recruitment boot camp or the "learn it yourself" model. Regardless of your opinion of any of the three, it is clear they are attempting to be products in "handling the demand".
To counter "anti-nerd culture" and "immigrants" as bullet points - seriously? That's stuff we complained about 20 years ago (in the 2000's). Nerd culture is mainstream now that we've got billionaires everywhere and outsourcing didn't take "all the jerbs". This points sound more like parroting the concerns of the past.
I started with Basic in elementary and PHP in middle/high school and by the time I got to college - young arrogant me was like, "what is this C/java noise and why do I need it when I can already do all this cool stuff with php!". I didn't really start appreciating CS and how it applies to software engineering until much later.
Correlation does not imply causation. Disparate outcomes do not imply disparate treatment. Nobody in the right mind looks at the 94% of child care services jobs being filled by women and exclaims "Aha! Systemic sexism against men, matriarchal oppression afoot, we must address this social injustice!", yet all common sense falls apart when it comes to STEM.
Good talk on the subject here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gatn5ameRr8
The decline or slower growth relative to other fields requiring similar kinds of intelligence may be an interesting question--or it may not be, but the posted article doesn't, in my view, present any compelling case for either answer.
There was a drop in relative growth because several years before that, the dot-com bubble burst and women fled the field. He says he didn't see that in the NCES tables he looked at, but for pete's sake, that's the first link on Google! (3)
you're missing a point here.
Younger students, K-12, have little exposure to computer science concepts or even programming in general. Sure some schools are great but many public schools in the US are average at best.
A) Enter the market without a major. Work for a low but decent pay for 4 years (with yearly pay raises) and then use the experience to move elsewhere and jump up in salary.
B) Spend 4 years without any pay, get out of school and end up with an entry position, work 4 more years and then move to a position that offers a good salary.
Needless to say that I went with A) and am not regretting it at all.
As someone who graduated shortly after the bubble burst, I can attest that yes indeed we did have a hard time. I had a year of professional programming experience under my belt (took a year off) and still couldn't find anything for a long time. Eventually took a job making 24k at a failing company that was a nightmare to work at, quit that and did tech support for a county library district (they needed someone who could program but didn't have the budget to hire a developer) making 35k for a few years. I kept an eye on the broader market during that time but it seemed like everything required 10 years of experience.
I'd say that the decreasing percentage of women in computing has also hurt. When I starting working almost a couple decades ago at Cray, they had significantly more women in programming. Today, most hard sciences graduates are women, but only about 25-30% of CS graduates are women. I don't have a great answer why this fall-off is happening, but it seems to be a symptom of cultural issues. Maybe it's the influence of VCs and the bro culture bias of finance? I honestly don't know.
Whereas I have found such software on multiple ocassions written by mathematicians or persons in some other field, e.g., physics, etc.
As a user of software, I do not believe that a computer science degree is of any significance in terms of the ability to write good software.
The blog post makes a comparison to Liars Poker. Perhaps it should be noted that the author of Liars Poker majored in art history. It was not necessary for him to have a particular degree in finance to do his "job". That was the point of book.
The question to ask today is whether one needs a degree in CS to write good software.
I can assure you that software you've came to value and rely on was written by "computer scientists".
So yes, your comment does sound like trolling. That or you're just completely misinformed.
I use TCP/IP but I did not choose it. There were many competing protocols. It just became the default.
I am not going to argue about this but many of the folks who wrote the software that I actively seek out and value had degrees in Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and/or Physics. I might use different software than most users.
The authors were not CS majors. It is what it is. Maybe this means nothing. But to me it means, at least, CS is not a prerequisite.
I am not denying the contribution of Computer Science as a field or the work computer scientists. And I understand why kids major in CS. All good.
I am just referring to the practice of writing software. I would question anyone who argued one must have a CS degree to write great software.
So I assume you use linux or BSD? I can assure you both of those were created primarily by computer scientists.
>I use TCP/IP but I did not choose it. There were many competing protocols. It just became the default.
Who do you think designs these competing protocols?
>many of the folks who wrote the software that I actively seek out and value had degrees in Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and/or Physics. I might use different software than most users.
And yet this software you seek out runs on an operating system designed by computer scientists, compiles with compilers designed by computer scientists, and is distributed via protocols designed by computer scientists.
> But to me it means, at least, CS is not a prerequisite.
Who said CS was a prerequisite for anything? Most of the venerable algorithms we study in computer science weren't designed by CS majors because CS wasn't a major when the algorithms' designers were in college.
>I am just referring to the practice of writing software. I would question anyone who argued one must have a CS degree to write great software.
Of course great software can be written by someone without a CS degree. John Carmack doesn't have a CS degree. Donald Knuth doesn't have a CS degree. John Backus, Grace Hopper, John von Neumann, Alan Kay, and most of the other CS luminaries didn't have CS degrees. I have literally never met anyone who would argue that a CS degree is necessary to write great software.
You've changed your argument from "I have never used any software written by a 'computer scientist' that I came to value and rely on", and "I do not believe that a computer science degree is of any significance in terms of the ability to write good software" to "there exists great software written by people without CS degrees."
You've moved from a arguing an absurd and utterly false point, to constructing a straw man.
To your earlier point: "computer science degree is of any significance in terms of the ability to write good software".
In pursuing a CS degree you will engage in in depth study of the algorithms and data structures necessary to create complicated software. In order for someone who didn't major in CS to create complicated software, they must either study these algorithms and data structures on their own, or use a library written by someone else who has.
It sounds like trolling to CS majors because if you don't know CS, you wont recognize it where its used, so it will seem like its not used at all. Most programming jobs don't need CS very often, but thats because all the core CS is usually packaged in a library already and we just reuse/abstract the bits we need. BTW Michael Lewis got a masters in economics before working in finance.
I have long believed the weekend HN crowd is wiser than the weekday crowd.
I have also believed that CS may contribute to the urge to write "complicated software". Your admission reinforces this belief.
I like software that tries to avoid complexity. Any lazy person can write a complicated program, get it to compile and run. The world is full of such software. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to avoid. But that is different from consciously selecting it and we cannot infer that usage under these circumstances implies approval.
rk dewar, dmr, djb, a@kx, etc. none of them majored in CS as far as I know. Despite the lack of a CS "education", I still value and rely on what they produced. I consciously seek out such work.
The point of my comments is simple: a CS degree is not a prerequisite to writing great software. Call that a strawman if you like. I still think it is a point worth making when someone is blogging about low numbers of CS grads.
Of those CS majors who write software, I see others with no CS degree, e.g., PhD in maths instead, who write better software. Conclusion: ?
Difference between earning a masters in Economics and actually needing that knowledge to do one's job at Salomon Bros. If the degree was needed for the knowledge it provided (versus window dressing for interviewers or clients) then I certainly missed that part in Liar's Poker because I recall the book arguing exactly the opposite. Back in those days I had a friend who was a Philosophy major and was extremely successful on Wall Street.
Note that the separation may also be temporal ("...and now it's time to redo the UX").
This spring, I failed about about a third of my pupils in the intro class and in following data structure course.
If this holds true for future semesters -as it has for the past few- only around half actually make it through data structures.
CS is hard, and not just because of how exacting the syntax is. It is completely new for many students. Engineering is hard, but a student has expectations they could draw on from math and physics. Same with biology related fields and chem related fields. There are expectations from high school a student can draw upon.
That's like working with cars, you need fewer engineers, and many mechanics and technicians.
Coding is like a spoken language. It's not so hard to write and fix code and there is already a lot of business involving just that, so my guess is that many students just learn to code and don't really do real CS.
The computing industry keeps growing and growing, so it means you need more technicians to keep up with growth, not nice degrees. Of course it's nice to have PhDs, but good luck training them. Education relies on constrained resources.
Because I'm not smart enough to get into MIT/Stanford/UCB/CMU?
IIRC, I didn't particularly enjoy the actual CS classes, instead I'd spend hours playing with the Sun workstations and tinkering with how commands and code interacted. I could care less about Universal Turing Machines but became the defacto sysadmin for our tiny cluster. None of that counted as course credits of course.
Consider the building trades. Employees in that industry don't study "Building Science". Architects study architecture. Engineers study engineering. Craftsmen in the various building trades study in apprenticeships.
Why not admit that computer scientists should study computer science (a valid and useful area of study in its own right) and instead develop a full-fledged degree program for the various skills involved in the software-development industry?
I seem to have the only working mirror which includes his graph, though the link to the original on his site is: http://i2.wp.com/danwang.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bache...
I think that new developers are exposed to more complexity earlier on and so they are more likely to get overwhelmed. It's not quite the slow-paced discovery process that it used to be. New developers have more visibility of the road ahead... And it's a damn long road.
Math and programming.
I was very bad at math, but I already learned programming in high school. This enabled me to do the programming classes without learning too much and put the saved time into math classes.
Also universities value students who are good at programming, because they are cheap labour for their projects. Seemed to me that only <50% of the students even wanted to do programming, so they had to think about other things to make the profs happy.
"Oh you will work for 3-6 months for me and all I have to do is let you graduate? I'm sold!"
2) If you studied prior to early 90s you were probably stuck on a shitty system. E.g. VAX writing in Turing (a version of Pascal). Horrible editor and very painful with many nights in the basement lab.
The programming is incidental to solving real world problems. If your job is to crank out code which envelops someone else's design solution, it doesn't really matter what courses you took in undergrad, as an undergrad education of any kind is just a very broad introduction to many things, in the hope that one will "stick" for employment.
Just because a few 17/18 years olds think iphones are "kewel" does not mean that CS /IT / STEM jobs ae high status.
Take the UK no techie/stem leader gets the really high honours CMG KCMG, GCMG or as yes minester put it.
Bernard: “Of course, in the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for Kindly Call Me God.”
Hacker: “What about GCMG?”
Bernard: “God Calls Me God.”
Anyone notice the irony of this thread being right next to another HN thread titled: "As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating"?
Moreover, I have taught a variety of introductory to computing courses to non-CS majors (ie. humanities and business) and what I've found is that a number of students (particularly women) really enjoy the computing classes and say they wish they had majored or minored in CS, but they didn't know what it was until they took the class. A few actually do switch into a computing related major afterwards, though not necessarily CS.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but while many people know how to use computers and technology, many people don't actually understand how it works. Because of this, Computer Science is a mystery to most people and so they don't consider it. This is in part why I am excited about the CS4All movement at the K-12 level... simply exposing Computer Science or computational thinking will go a long way in attracting more people to the major.
Alternatively, another reason why you don't necessarily see a growth in CS majors is because programming is not restricted to Computer Science. Most science and engineering disciplines involve programming now and many curriculums will have programming courses. This is even true in humanities (ie. digital humanities) and business (ie. data analytics) where coding is becoming a desirable skill. If you had a deep interest in say economics and needed to develop some programming skills to simulate models or evaluate data, you can gain these skills and knowledge outside of the CS major and I think that is a good thing.
With this in mind, I think a lot of CS departments will need to consider the shift from being a "destination" major to a "service" major where a significant portion of the teaching load is to non-CS majors who want a minimal core, but not all of CS. A flat growth in CS majors does not necessarily mean a lack of computing or programming education in general.
Finally, I would say that in my department, we have seen record growth in the past few years (from 50 a few years ago to 150) and that is caused a number of problems. This is not restricted to our university as noted in "Generation CS" from CRA:
So for us, the challenge for us is not growing the number of majors but how to manage the surge in a sustainable manner.
In my freetime I still try to cargo-cult learn CS. I tried a lot to give up computers, but I couldn't.
Maybe a CS4ALL movement can filter out kids who have a mind for CS and inform their parents about it. I suffered a lot from the notion of not being able to study CS. Especially the first couple of years of college were the worst.
On the other hand, as you have experienced with the record growth, most of the young people get into CS degrees. Maybe CS is more a passion among teens like music/painting. It may as well be a trend of our century. In the 19-20th century young men generally wanted to study painting, now we want to study CS. Because computers promise creativity, autonomy and inherently give us an identity, because we think we're "gifted".
Particularly the latter. A lot of people break out in hives at the thought of spending the next forty five years glued to a computer monitor.
Hypothesis, gedanken experiment. Award all hackers who are able to support themselves, not necessarily as developers, but having to do with computers, with a CS degree. The curve fills right in.
I decided to apply for a programming job to earn some money and get back to college the year later. 8 years later... still didn't go back and no intention to.
While personally we might never need an algorithm expert, we’re using a lot of software each day. PCs, smartphones, stupid phones, cars, home appliance, they all run software which required many algorithm experts to make.
I would say Machine Learning is particularly "hot" right now, with the anecdotal evidence being that many ML conferences (like NIPS, ICML, CVPR, etc) have been experiencing better than linear growth.
Introduction to CS class in high school was what got me hooked in the first place.
Financially, there is no way I could afford a CS degree today. People like to make the argument that its 'not much' because you'll get paid your entire tuitons worth in one year of work! But, thats not true for everyone. Infact its not true for many. Perhaps if you already live in silicon-valley-esque areas, maybe. But if you don't, Microsoft, Google and Amazon aren't waiting at the door for you. So what happens when you get a degree, and you don't get a 'good' job out of it right away? You probably end up in retail, putting away your entire paycheck into your tuition when you can't defer it anymore. Or, you get a low-paying 'tech' job that burns you out of the field.
But, even if you can afford it, can students go through with it? If any self-respecting developer went back to college now, after owning a house, having a family, y'know, a life, I think they'd drop out in the first few months, for what we would then count as perfectly understandable reasons. But for students, both colleges, and society, treat them like vessels without need for things like privacy and ownership.
Colleges play the game of forcing students into classes that have nothing to do with their majors. For example, speech classes. Yes, these are nice to have, but I am an adult, and I should be able to choose how I spend my money. In the system today, you are at the complete mercy of what the college tells you to do. Don't like it? Too bad. No warranty, no returns, its gone.
College tuition and overall living amenities are quite terrible in most locations. The state (public) university here charges the same amount as commercial apartments across the street, for a dorm room you share with another student that is smaller than your kitchen. Infact, only one building even has a kitchen, so you're stuck with your meal plans, which are during times when you have classes. Oh, also, if you miss a meal, you don't get that money back.
If you're a male, and want to live near the college, you are at a disadvantage for rent. Girls are more preferred for renting, to the point where these places are girls-only, are cheaper, and are the closest to the campus. Cheaper as in, a few hundred less than a dorm room, and you actually get your own room.
Add ontop that this college purposely built in fast-food restaurants, over-spend on decoration and marble counters for their cafeteria (and other places), have teachers with superiority complexes and are generally incompetent - I don't think its a bad choice to avoid that altogether. Even if you're working at Walmart for years in the cheapest apartments, its still most likely better living conditions.
If colleges actually wanted to invest in education, there are a million ways they could be doing that. Thats not to say that all colleges are like this, community colleges can be better at costs and what you need, but students are never told about any of this. They are given a list of options. "Pick one".
After the dot-com crashes, and 9-11, and lots of the ridiculous paychecks dried up, people left the major in droves. I remember my university in particular went from having to turn away students from the CS major to having major recruiting events for CS in the span of just a couple years, with huge swings in faculty count and facilities.
One thing that really came out of all this I think, was a better understanding by the public that CS != programming major, and companies were looking for programmers. It was then perfectly acceptable to take an easier major that focused on programming and get the same job as the CS student who had to endure a much more difficult course load. There was also an effect in industry as people who endured even harder majors found they could simply make more money as programmers and had the mental tools to get up to speed rather quickly.
I remember distinctly at my school at least, that students self-sorted majors by perceived difficulty in a way not too dissimilar and not too much out of agreement with the famous xkcd "Fields Arranged By Purity" https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/purity.png
IIR the sorting went something like: any Liberal Art < any Soft Science < Information Technology < Information Systems < Biology < Software Engineering < Chemistry < Computer Science < Computer Engineering < Electrical Engineering < Physics < Math
My school peers all sort of used major as a badge of rank in social functions even though it was kind of useless and stupid. But I think it also connects to this chart, by all accounts I've heard, there's a vast oversubscription of Biology majors and the way the market handles this is to introduce more hoops or very very low pay. In other words, it's virtually impossible to get a great job as a biologist without getting a PhD in the field. Chemistry is similar. But the same isn't true in CS on up.
* Feeling that I can learn programming on my own, and wanting to experiment with something I wouldn't otherwise teach myself in college
Of course CS != programming, but in my head at the time I saw them as the same. I'd been teaching myself programming since I was a kid, and I knew I'd be able to teach myself whatever I needed to know if needed. Thus I felt that it made more sense for me to study something totally foreign to me that I wouldn't otherwise learn on my own.
* Fear of living out the rest of my life like the movie Office Space, everything being so damn predictable
This was before software engineering was considered "cool" or had any prestige. Being a software engineer and sitting at a desk all day in a gray cubicle writing enterprise software or whatever sounded boring as hell. As a socially awkward introvert with no other skills, I felt that majoring in CS would inevitably lead me down that comfortable but unfulfilling route, which frightened me. It wasn't just the fear of living a boring life, I just hated the predictability, knowing that I'd never be more than some boring code monkey with a decent salary (though not finance/doctor/lawyer money) and boring job (at the time I clearly knew absolutely nothing about entrepreneurship).
* Not feeling passionate about programming anymore, and feeling like I'd never be able to compete with all my classmates who are so damn passionate about it (and not caring anymore)
A lot of people in the field seemed to be super passionate about programming, coding all day and all night. I had gotten into it at 12 years old because I wanted to make video games, but as my interest in video games was receding, I realized I wasn't really as into it as I thought I was. I felt like there was no way I'd ever be able to compete with my competition who lived and breathed programming.
* CS is boring
This was a huge revelation for me. On one hand I loved programming and thought it was awesome that I could do what I considered fun and get school credit for it. But at some point I realized that although I love the programming part, I found the CS I was being taught mind-numbingly boring. I couldn't care less about sorting algorithms, binary trees, graph traversal algorithms, and most of the other abstract crap I was supposed to learn. I just didn't see why I had to know that stuff.
I've realized that I get super interested in this same material when the knowledge is directly necessary for something I'm trying to build, but otherwise I couldn't care less.
* CS is hard
I thought math was easier, which was honestly part of the reason why I switched to math. Given the obsession companies have on GPA, it was a logical decision.
* Fear of becoming like my classmates
I was a socially awkward introvert, and I wanted to be social and extroverted. I don't know how it is now, but at the time the CS department had the highest concentration of socially awkward introverted weirdos, not to mention the complete lack of women. I remember working in the CS lounge once and facepalming at cringey jokes. I didn't want to be around these losers lest I become one of them.
* Wanting to work on more important problems
I think the industry has a tendency of thinking that software engineering problems are the most important problems facing humanity right now.
For some reason I thought majoring in math would give me the toolkit to solve the most important problems in the world. Maybe I was too brainwashed by those movies where some genius in a flash of revelation scribbles some equation on a whiteboard.
* Wanting to make a ton of money
Software engineering money was good, but I didn't like how quickly and steeply the money topped out. I didn't want to enter an industry knowing that my compensation would cap out at $200k/yr (I don't think the tech giants were dishing out $300k/yr all-in comp packages to new grads back then, or if they were I wasn't aware). I wanted the sky to be the limit, which is why I became interested in finance (again, I wasn't aware of entrepreneurship at the time).
Of course going back I probably would've majored in CS because the interview process in the industry skews towards CS knowledge, and math eventually became boring and too abstract and isn't as relevant.
My main difference in perspective with this article (I'm hesitant to call it a disagreement, because it's more a matter or perspective than any specific conclusion) is that I don't think people need to be consciously aware of market or societal forces and pressures to be powerfully influenced by them.
I think anyone who wonders why more people don't major in CS (as well as other fields claiming a "shortage") should read the chapter on pay and professions from Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations". I don't think they need to read it and accept it without critical thought, just be aware of the perspective - that there are a huge number of inter-dependent factors, other than pay, that powerfully influence the desirability of a profession.
Here's a link:
This is all pretty intuitive - if you want people to take on tedious, odious, or dishonorable work, you may have to pay them well.
I actually think CS, and programming, may be a more unpleasant profession than people recognize. Huge open offices, back visibility, SCRUM meetings that deny long term thinking and autonomy, constant technology churn, age-related employment issues, and, yes, specialized visas that mean employers can rely on captive employees who can't leave the field and have limited rights to leave their employer, all these things do mean that CS may be a much less desirable field for people with academic talent. Also - while wages are high, this may be the Silicon Valley effect. A job that pays an average of 120k, but plays this consistently in smaller, less expensive cities, may be more desirable than a job that pays 150k on average, but where 95% of the employment is concentrated in a place where the median price of a house is $1.2+ million.
I really don't think young people need to have analyzed this to be influenced by it. There's a reason we call it the "invisible hand".
In short, if it is rational to avoid this field, that's probably enough to conclude that these are factors in deterring workers from it. I don't think you need to prove hyper-awareness specifically of these issues.
Keep in mind, people who are capable of learning to code and work in software development teams do have a high level of capacity for work and study. They have a lot of options. I'm not sure that software development, as a field, is all that competitive with the other things they can do.
In short, people may be behaving very rationally by avoiding this field.
Looks like the those who voted me down had more success in getting more people into CS.
It's seeing the code monkeys of life being manipulated by people who are adept at manipulating humans and getting higher status and pay for it.
Think of a lot of technical positions in the military. They get bossed around by non-technical people.
(Seems to be back now.)
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14443522 and marked it off-topic.
Doesn't matter if they can draw near-photorealistically or pick up a new foreign language in mere months, or perhaps breed fascinating variants of plants in all manner of ways in their dorm room just off intuition; if they can't pass CS101, if their mind doesn't work their way, they're not really that smart.
I taught myself near photo-realistic drawing, it's a mechanical skill--craftsmanship; had I continued to invest more time in perfecting the technique I would have got to what’s considered photo-realistic. My Spanish was decent after four months in Spain. Not once have I thought these things to indicate me being “very smart”.
I doubt having a mind that works a certain "special way" is vital to do CS; seeing heterogeneous groups of students graduate yearly.
You can draw really well, AND speak Spanish easily, and program! Wow! Congratulations, man! You must have a really versatile mind. Be proud.
But don't imagine that anyone who has more trouble than you learning these things "must not be very smart." That would make you a bit foolish.
Just because it was easy for you and hard for others doesn't mean that you are smart and they aren't, simply that they have different sorts of leanings and talents than you.