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Comment Re:The elegant simplicity of slide rules (Score 1) 220

I have two slide rules which I still use. The skill I use the most is estimating calculations for reasonableness. I don't think they teach that in school anymore.

In 1968, after I came back from Vietnam, I started selling the first "truly programmable" desktop calculator. It was one of those "Nixie tube" machines you were talking about, and it was made by (Wait for it.....) COMMODORE! My competition was Friden and Marchant. The Friden machine weighed almost 40 lbs and could memorize 45 steps. Our little magnetic strips could only record 30 instructions, but we could do loops and recursion. The Marchant was a two-part unit with a 30lb desktop unit connected by a big cable to a desk-side unit with about 30 lbs of magnetic core memory.

I remember my first big sale: Bell Telephone in Minneapolis. My little 30-lb Commodore fit in my briefcase. I put it on the buyer's desk and said, "Listen." He said, "I don't hear anything." I said, "Right." then I opened the door to his office, which opened onto the main floor where hundreds of people were working their mechanical calculators (with the associated noise). I closed the door again and said, "Listen." He said, "We will take 250 of them. How soon can you deliver?"

Being Commodore, they almost screwed up the order, but I did get them delivered within a month.

Commodore had some of the cleverest designs and some of the worst business practices of any company I ever worked with. Ten years later I was the first in my town selling the Commodore PET. I could have sold 10 or 15 a day, but I couldn't get them, and sometimes when I did get them I would get 80% DOA. I had to order 5 at a time, prepaid, and any RMA systems meant I had to prepay and order 5 more in order to have enough on hand. 10 years later I still had the same problem with handling the Amiga.

Ahh, the good old days...

Comment the whole program should be re-thought (Score 1) 445

What problem does the so-called "gifted" solve?

Without knowing the exact problem, it is hard to tell whether the solution is working, right?

A problem exists when either:
1. there is a discrepancy between what you want and what you get, or

2. there is an opportunity being missed and something desirable is not being acquired/achieved.

Now, in my little universe, I operate under a few assumptions:

DATA is everywhere
DATA classified becomes INFORMATION
INFORMATION that describes how the world works becomes KNOWLEDGE
KNOWLEDGE helps us make better DECISIONS

In order to transform DATA into DECISIONS, we learn certain SKILLS

So, in my little universe, the ideal education system would be one that increasingly improved a person's ability to turn DATA into DECISIONS and produce people capable of executing appropriate ACTIONS under a variety of common conditions. This means a continuous system of introducing DATA and new SKILLS to transform that DATA appropriately. It has nothing to do with race, religion, or ideology, but has everything to do to with the individuals' current knowledge level, cultural desires and skill-set. In my little universe, each individual would be moved along the line according to their level of interest and ability. (Darned if that doesn't sound a lot like a Montessori school!)

Labels don't count. "Gifted" has absolutely no objective referent; it is only an arbitrary comparison.

Since I see the problem so differently from people who are trying to tweak the current so-called "solution," I have no place in my little universe for evaluationg your alternatives.

Comment define "gifted" (Score 1) 445

I find myself objecting to the word "gifted" as applied to students (or anyone). It seems to me the level of skill has less to do with the innate genetic makeup or god-given gifts than the advantages of the learning environment.

I didn't always feel this way: My daughter went to Montessori school and was always in the advanced or gifted programs in Public High School. I'm now convinced that she acquired these "gifts" as a result of hard work, great teachers, and good parental coaching and encouragement.

I also think the researcher had an agenda, but I think the main problem stems from two false premises:

First, I think it is false that you can manufacture "educated" citizens in the same way as you manufacture consumer goods. I suspect the whole concept of "Public" Education" is fundamentally flawed.

Second, I think the assumption that a disparity in numbers between races or cultures in the USA reflects deliberate racism is flawed.

I also disagree strongly with many current arguments on "egalitarianism" and the war on "social differences," but that is obviously a discussion too big for a /. forum.

Comment define "introvert" (Score 1) 307

Extrovert and introvert lack precision as definitions. We have put labels on people as a matter of convenience, and then act as if those labels are real things.

The scientific approach would be to find out what works under what conditions for which individuals and then apply those approaches as needed, right? Maybe the arguments against the scientific approach are disguising argument against public schooling, government-defined education standards, or classroom schooling in general.

Many people use the Myers-Briggs personality inventory to pigeonhole prospective employees, students and customers. The Myers-Briggs test suffers from the same lack of precision, but is somewhat useful in classifying peoples personality styles for purposes of communication and work processes. People who aren't familiar with the MB are surprised to learn that those who score high on the "Extrovert" scale are usually very self-centered. Their "sociability" is usually directed toward making themselves look good. They constantly interrupt and argue with people, and do not really work well in teams unless they are the "leader" or part of the leadership group. In fact, it may be that having a high-scoring introvert on the team brings down the performance of the whole team.

Scoring high on the "Introvert" scale does not mean you are not "sociable." There are other factors that determine whether a person works better as an individual or part of a group. There are actually other, more scientifically relevant ways to determine social behavior under different conditions, but those may not be as convenient as a 30-minute quiz.

This article is another case of taking useless information and dressing it up to look like it has scientific relevance.

Comment Way behind the times! (Score 1) 289

For many years, many of us thought that this was the bewst way to produce good software. Perl programmers admire "programs that write programs" (Something that us LISP programmers have been doing for decades). Programs like Rational Rose and Embarcadero and even Eclipse can generate pretty dang good code from models (UML), and there are dozens of good generators out there built on things like FSM design. James Martin wrote books in the'70's called something like, "Software which is Provably Correct" and System Design from Provably Correct Constructs" which used a logical design model (HOL) to generate good programs. IMNSHO, coding is the least productive use of a Software Engineer's time.

Comment It's about time! (Score 2) 157

Yeah, Economists (and I'm an avid amateur) use a language that is not precise to describe behavior that is not able to be precisely measured. Take the word "rational" for instance: Rationality in psychological terms implies something on the order of optimization in general, while rational in economic terms is optimization for individual behavior. Yes, an individual may change to the faster moving line or lane, but that only has a cumulative effect on the mass of behavior, and does not add to strategy as a whole. Individual behavior does not advance knowledge of the subject; it is only the accumulated effects of individual behaviors that reveal Economic behavior and may reveal Economic principles.

The closest thing we have in in tech terms is "emergent systems" and economics actually closely resembles an experiment in complex systems.

The other imprecision is to generalize about Economists. Some Economists are idealists or philosophers and deal in theory only, trying to determine "the way things should be." Some Economists are technologists and are mostly concerned about using the information to manipulate outcomes. (Many negative effects are a result of Economists who do both of these!) Somewhere in between these two types is the Economic Scientist whose main concern is finding out what is going on, proving that it is valid, and who can use the information to actually predict Economic behavior. It seems to me that machine learning actually serves the Economic Scientist.

Comment Re:Keeping up (Score 2) 242

I've been programming since 1965. I did programming 'cause I liked it. Then I started taking high-paying 3 month contract jobs and it all went to hell. Once I escaped the electronic sweatshop I started to enjoy programming again. These days, on the verge of retirement, I do almost no contract programming (unless the job is very interesting) and today I am involved in a small number of projects that totally interest me.

What is the outcome of marketing your skills on social media, etc.? Mostly un-inspired positions at un-inspired companies doing mediocre work. Then countless interviews, competition for the position based on irrelevant criteria, judged by people who don't have a clue. These positions are better suited to people who are inspired by money and benefits, not programming. Old programmers like myself seem to be more interested in job satisfaction than money. And making these jobs hard to get doesn't increase their desirability once you get them.

IMNSHO, a good thinker using Rational Rose or Embarcadero and optimizing the output can outperform and out-create most of the young code-doggies. I'd rather be the one creating the tools like Rational or Embarcadero.

Old programmers have special skills and talents that younger programmers haven't developed yet. Companies who want these skills and talents might be better off recognizing that the pool of people with these talents are different from the just the general pool of programmers. If they really want these skills and talents, they should use the right bait and fish in a different pond.

But then, if you are an old programmer looking for income, the price you have to pay is the effort needed to market yourself where the interest is.

Comment The nature of transparency (Score 2) 83

I'm surprised that it hasn't been done before this. In high school, (Many, many, many years ago...) we were taught that things were transparent because "light wave could pass through." In reality, we now know that in transparent materials, a photon striking the surface passes some of its energy to the next molecule, releasing another photon, which does the same, etc., etc., until finally the last photon is transmitted to an almost unobstructed medium (air, in our case). The key question has always been, "What is the difference in atomic structure between 'transparent' medium and 'opaque' medium?" The second question has been, "How can we change the atomic structure of supposedly 'opaque' materials to work like so-called 'transparent' materials without losing the characteristics that make the current 'opaque' materials useful to us?"

Ceramic research has been on the edge of this discovery for years.

Comment Anti-Republican Justice? (Score 1) 510

Abuses abound on all fronts, but I'm surprised no one is looking at this for the political motive: The current administration is very good at deflecting criminality of Democratic politicians and very good at smearing as many Republican politicians as possible. I suspect that the reverse will be true when Republicans regain power. It's our fault: We keep electing politicians who forget that they are supposed to protect the rights of EVERYBODY, not just their party members. How cool would it be if voters voted for competency rather than just team affiliation?

Some people have a great ambition: to build something that will last, at least until they've finished building it.