The increasing disempowerment of the computer user (was: Experiences/guidance on teaching Python as a first programming language)

Ben Finney ben+python at
Thu Dec 12 03:21:38 CET 2013

Larry Martell <larry.martell at> writes:

> On Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 8:42 PM, Roy Smith <roy at> wrote:
> > rusi <rustompmody at> wrote:
> >
> >> Many assumptions need to be verified/truthified/dovetailed
> >> starting from switching on the machine onwards for this to work.
> >
> > At the time that [Kerningham & Ritchie] wrote [the C programming
> > language], very few people who used computers ever got anywhere near
> > the power switch :-)
> Nope. Long before that I was working on computers that didn't boot
> when you powered them up, You had to manually key in a bootstrap
> program from the front panel switches.

That's done by the *operator*, not the user. Most people who *used*
those computers worked at terminals at a distance, and usually separated
by a locked door, from the computer's power switch.

> (And no, this is not a takeoff of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.)

The pendulum swings back and forth. Computer users are once again
blithely handing all their agency and choice back to centralised
operators (so-called “could computing”) who follow an agenda not of
those users's choosing.

Just as in the bad old days of 1960s centralised computing, complete
with computer operators who dismiss the needs of their users. And who
hold unquestionable authority to dictate how the computers may be used,
regardless what the users want to do. Only, now we get worldwide
unaccountable surveillance as part of the deal.

But you tell the users of today about that, and they don't believe you.

 \         “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all |
  `\    others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking |
_o__)                          power called an idea” —Thomas Jefferson |
Ben Finney

More information about the Python-list mailing list