new years resolutions

Cliff Wells clifford.wells at
Sat Jan 4 20:53:06 CET 2003

On Sat, 2003-01-04 at 11:05, Laura Creighton wrote:
> <snip>
> > Ah, but you are equating "computer background" with "CS background"
> > which ignores a large segment of knowledgeable people.  There is a guy
> > at my work who built a serial IO card using nothing but a pen plotter to
> > etch the circuit board, a small processor (and a couple of support
> > chips) and his own custom firmware.  I doubt many CS majors could do the
> > same, yet they would somehow exclude his POV in favor of their own,
> > despite the fact that their entire world ceases to exist without people
> > like him.  Ask yourself, is computing about software, or about
> > hardware?  Obviously both, but I can assure you that hardware without
> > software is far more useful than the reverse <wink>.
> > 
> > -- 
> > Cliff Wells <clifford.wells at>
> I don't think that dividing 'csc == software' and 'engineering ==
> hardware' is the best possible way to distinguish between them.  A

Well, clearly the world can be divided in any two ways an argument
requires.  I usually divide it into "people who agree with me" and
"people who are wrong".  It makes my position so much more defensible ;)
As an aside, you personally usually get lumped with the latter, unless
you happen to agree with me, in which case you're the best <wink>. 
Anyway, my rather arbitrary division (perhaps mis-equated) was useful
for making a particular point.

> more useful question, I believe, is 'do you hunger to build things, or
> just to think about them'?  (Some people do both about equally, of
> course.)  The distinction is important for people who are considering
> getting a degree in computer science.  Some of them do quite badly at
> it because what they want is a degree that will help them build the
> programs they dream of creating, and instead they are persuing a
> degree that will help them think about thoughts they have no interest
> in thinking. This is a very bad fit.

Unless what you want to build is a compiler or operating system in which
case CS becomes indispensable (and then welcome to the harsh world of
engineering ;).  I think this situation is best approached by learning
to program, *then* learning the theory.  When you've had some real-world
experience building software, it suddenly becomes easy to see how much
apparently esoteric CS can be applied to real problems.

> proto-Scientists who mistakenly head for the Engineering, or
> Engineering-Science departments tend to do much better.  They become
> Engineering professors. This is not necessarily good for the
> Engineering professions -- graduate engineers in all fields generally
> spend their first few professional years discovering they have studied
> way too much theory, and not enough 'how to recognise a really bad
> engineering design based on the practical experience we have in
> building things'.  By the time they have learned that, they have mostly
> forgotten the theory that was crammed into them at university ...

>From my own experience, it isn't so cut-and-dried as far as type of
personality.  I tend to dislike applied mathematics (preferring pure
theory), but get bored by CS theory, preferring actual applications.  

But then I spend all day on the 'net and don't get anything done anyway

"The world is divided into two kinds of people: Those who divide the
world into two kinds of people, and those who don't."
    Robert Benchley

Cliff Wells <clifford.wells at>

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