March 22, 2007

Three on Computer Science

  • Eugene Wallingford has a bunch of posts on the recent SIGCSE (Computer Science Education) conference:
    I haven't gotten through that much of it yet (this is a very in depth conference report!), I can say that what I have read is great. Lots of insight into the challenges of teaching CS.

  • ACM PROGRAMMING CONTEST SHOWCASES TOP TECH TALENT FROM AROUND THE WORLD and the results are in. Here's a snippet from the press release:
    The top five winners were Warsaw University (Poland), Tsinghua University (China), St. Petersburg University of IT, Mechanics and Optics (Russia), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (U.S.), and Novosibirsk State University (Russia). This international competition, now in its 31st year, is hosted by ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), a society of more than 83,000 computing educators, researchers, and professionals worldwide.

    The international competition took place this week in Tokyo, Japan, with 88 teams competing in the final round. Earlier rounds of the competition featured more than 6,000 teams representing 1,765 universities from 82 countries.

    The only U.S. university to finish in the top 10 was MIT, which placed 4th. Other top finishers from the U.S. were California Institute of Technology, at number 12, and the University of Texas at Dallas, which was tied for 14th place with 12 other schools.

    I'm happy to not that the University of Waterloo (Ontario) finished in 9th, a great acheivement. The other Canadian universities also finished respecably; the Universities of Alberta and BC and Toronto all tied in a big log jam at 14th and Calgary got an honorable mention. The problem set is here.

  • Is Computer Science Dead? asks academic Neil McBride.
    Neil McBride argues that computer studies are a dying discipline, evident in the dwindling student numbers in university CS departments, in the plethora of new jobs in the 1990s that were reduced to a trickle and are only slowly making a comeback, and an ongoing view that IT is a job for geeks and social misfits.

    "We long for the days when assembler programming ruled, when programming was exciting and leading edge, when distributed computers were being created and there were uncharted vistas of applications to be written, and single applications such as ledgers and transaction systems transformed businesses. But that is the past. Today the ship is holed below the waterline."

    And another alarmist article! More trouble stirred up by McBride!

    Actually, both articles are quite balanced, with lots of experts rebutting McBride's alarmist views. I think the consensus is that the crazy boom enrollment days of the dot com explosion are not coming back, but that computers are going to continue to be ubiquitous in our every day lives and that people are going to be needed to build and maintain those systems. Computing is going to continue to be a good career choice with lots of opportunity for doing cool things but without the sense of entitlement and guaranteed riches from the 90's. It'll be more like a regular career choice, with ups and downs but with generally good job opportunities as there are actually shortages in a lot of areas.

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