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Kids, Computers And Authority 117

Spasemunki writes: "This link showed up on Ars Technica the other day. It's an article on Brill's Content on the sociological impact of a society where the younger generation has all the technical know-how, and parents are left to seek the advice of their kids on how to keep things running. It discusses patterns in computer use and knowledge, and the rising economic and social power of the young and computer saavy. Includes some words from Shawn Fanning of Napster fame."
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Kids, Computers, and Authority

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  • I attacked the culture of the US.
    Where did you find it? Just curious.
  • Just wondering, how do you know? My dictionaries fail to mention that.

    Argh, saw it somewhere. Can't remember.

    The: I don't think there are other grammar jews out there.

    Eh... what about Noam Chomsky? ;)

  • In the article, it was pointed out that many people don't even have the rudimentary knowledge of whom to call if they are having a problem with their computer.

    I was thinking about something like this the other day. At all ages and levels, people learn by observing and emulating the actions of others. This sort of learning is probably especially important during the early stages of learning, when people either don't know what questions to ask, or are afraid of appearing foolish by asking a really basic question.

    The difficulty is that because computers have not been arround for very long, we don't have many good models to emulate. Think about a car. When you were a kid, you rode along with a parent (or whomever) and watched what they did. You got to see how to steer and how to get gas, and what to do if you had a flat tire. So by the time you started to drive, you probably had a reasonable level of functional knowledge on how to operate and maintain an automobile. Now you can take that dirt-basic stuff and ask good questions or take shop classes and extend you knowledge as far as you want.

    Or take the handgun. I would bet that everyone in America has some functional knowledge of how to fire and reload a pistol. We've seen enough movies to know how to hold a gun (barrel facing away), and how to pull a trigger, and maybe even that the little lever on the side lets you change clips (or you flip out the cylinder to add more bullets).

    So perhaps things will become better when enough years have gone by that we have adults competent enough to operate computers and show their kids how, and we have movies that offer accurate portrayals of how computers are actually used (no more cracking alien computer systems with Mac laptops :P )

    Of course, VCR's are simpler, and have probably had consumer penetration longer, but my mom still doesn't know how to progam it.
  • I don't think Noam Chomsky reads Slashdot, and I don't think he defines himself as Jew (saw it somewhere, so don't quote me on that).
  • I don't think Noam Chomsky reads Slashdot, and I don't think he defines himself as Jew (saw it somewhere, so don't quote me on that).

    Well, both his parents were jewish, certainly...

    Still, there is quite a number of jewish linguists... don't know if many read /., though.

  • Bah! "Programming in HTML" is certainly a valid usage. Not less valid then "programming a VCR".
  • No, a VCR can be programmed to turn itself on and tape shows from X to Y, a lot more than display the time. HTML, at best takes contents and reformats them to look pretty.
  • I don't know how true all of this is. 99.999% of kids that I know, only think they know a lot about computers. With easy to use software, anyone can make themselves into a psuedo-guru. "Hacking" can be done with point and click scripts.

    I have seen this repeat itself over and over. Children seeking highly technical jobs, from adults with real degrees in CS/MATH. Truth be told, I am one of those kids. But the majority don't really know what their getting themselves into.

    Parents et al could catch on if they really wanted to, and here is the reason why children seem to be better at computers. Mom, Dad, and Grandma, all either don't have time, are too scared to use them, or just don't want to. May of these parents may work in a field where computers have not yet made a deep splash.

    The common sentiment around me, at least in the real world, is that any 12 year old can outdo any adult on a computer. While some children may have some real technical know-how, I don't count people who have spent a couple hours with the owners manual of their computer as computer experts.

  • by jabber ( 13196 )
    "I write my papers in Vi, but my professor insists on MS-Word95... Man! Doing all that markup and formatting is a bitch! Not to mention keeping up with the changes in technology."
  • I think you have a good point. I feel lucky to be have straddled the GUI and pre-GUI eras. ApplesoftBASIC and QBasic aren't very useful today, but they were great for learning. What are the equivalents today? Maybe Javascript is similar, and admittedly more useful, but young computer users today have to go out of their way to get past the GUI and learn how things work. Earlier systems required a higher level of understanding just to get things done.
  • IMHO, CS adapts particularly well to a distance learning format. My spouse is currently enrolled in a CS program conducted over the Internet by an accredited university. Quitting *work* is not necessary. However, I have observed that the Internet course takes just as much time commitment as a traditional lecture course. The loss of *free time* has been a necessary trade-off for us.
  • I'm sorry but all this talk about kids knowing more about technology than adults just doesn't fit the reality that I'm seeing. I feel like I'm inbetween generations on this issue being in my early 30's. I grew up in the 80's learning DOS on a TRS-80. Now, I admin a subnet at the local college in my area (90% *nix servers and clients) and deal with students on a regular basis. I'm not seeing any impressive levels of computer knowledge coming with the incoming freshmen each year. Sure, they know IM, Napster, ICQ, Quake and how to mouse around M$ user interfaces but there's a surprising lack of anything beyond surface knowledge. The ratio of cluelessness to competence seems to be just about the same between the 18-22 year olds as in the 25-50's. The differences I do see is that the younger generation has a better comefort level with the general use of technology. I think this is more noticeable at this time since we're in a transition time where computers are becoming ubiquitous in the lives of nearly everyone at some level. For those of you who are now in your teens and feel that you've got some powerful block of knowledge over your predecessors - wait. Wait five or ten years when you no longer have the free time to futz with your computer for hours on end. Jobs, relationships, children and other responsibilities have a way of taking away your edge. Unless you have the good fortune of working in the field on a regular basis you will find that your knowledge is fast becoming out-dated by the next generation. The minute you stop learning is the moment you start falling behind - regardless of your age. I've seen quite a few posts here, apparently from teens, about how they have the ability (power) to fix things their parents can't fingure out. Remember, Mom and/or Dad probably aren't ignorant, they may just be too busy feeding you and keeping the bill collectors away to even care about how this stuff works. Some of you may have the good fortune to understand this before you are the one who is clueless about what the next upcoming generation is playing with.
  • Perhaps I'm an exception. I'm Mike Greenberg; I'm 15 and go to Bloomington High School North in Indiana. I'd call myself a programmer, I guess. I can program in C/C++, Visual/QBASIC (QBASIC I learned when I was 8, Visual Basic when I was 12), Perl, and a modicum of Intel architecture assembler. I mostly program in C (occaisionally C++) and Perl, though Perl is more for quick and dirty scripting, while C and C++ are for programming utilities for myself. My skills are adequate, but not at a professional level (merely good enough to write programs that will take down my school's network via D/DoS and various mischievous things like that).

    The majority of my programming language skill is self-taught; I read a book, then I exercise the knowledge (and, most often, read the book again). I took a class at my local college (Indiana University), last year, in C++, much of which focused on MFC, which was my only formal education in programming (I wrote about that experience on an article a while back about ageism).

    On top of all that, though, I am incredibly interested in the inner workings of things. I work as a tech at PC Max, a local computer store, where I repair and build computers. I plan on learning electronics and delving even deeper into the bowels of computers. Now, none of my computing friends have the same vigor towards the internals (so far as I know). While some are excellent programmers, they are less interested in the guts than I.

    In all truth, I have no idea where I'm going with this. :) I guess I'm trying to say that it's difficult to generalize an entire generation. From what I've seen of most of my parents' generation, they're all inept technophobes. But I know that's not true.

    Mike "Despises Ageism" Greenberg
  • "You don't see teenagers making a fortune in games any more, because big business has moved into that field"

    Not really. You don't see teenagers making a fortune in games anymore because games now require design teams. This isn't because of "big business", this is because of the increased capabilities of the computer. It's possible to write your own game to take full advantage of an 8086 with 640kb ram and a 10MB hard drive. Doing that on your own with a Pentium 500 with oodles of ram is slightly more difficult.
  • Well, I don't know about why, but i do know who. Most people don't want to learn about computers for various reasons. I don't know why. maybe they don't want to be 'nerds' or something. Obviously people want to do as little work as possible and proclaim themselves 'hackers' or whatever. A good example of this is Jeremy Goodson who you can harass on his AOL screen name GameKing5. And as for "Dumb Movies. Hackers.". I disssagree. I think it was a good movie. In a Purely Cinnamatic sense. If it were meant to be a documentary, it would've blown. It had a bass ackwards side ways view of hacking. It butchered the Hacker's Manifesto/Mentor's Last Words/Conscience Of A Hacker. Whatever the hell you know it has. It's been retitled so many times i don't know anymore. And if this doesn't convince you. It has a cool sound track...
  • They're game "pads" now. That's really just 4 more buttons in a cross shape so I guess it *is* all buttons now. *sigh*
    Yeah. Driving and flying games have to be dumbed down to be playable on a game pad. Sigh.
  • It's not how many languages you know, it's what you do with them that counts...
  • When the auto industry started making Cars that were lower mantiance and mass producing them there was a drop at some point the average "car intelligence" of people dropped.

    Cars are different than CS. It's one thing if the average computer user needs to know less about the workings of the computer nowadays; it would be a completely different thing if car builders thought that physics were irrelevant to what they do.

    This has't affected our society that illfully.

    It has. It has put more and more power in the hands of the auto makers.

    It is true that there other issues such as copyright, licensing, and availability of sourcecode that end users are mostly ignorant of. However it is possible to explain these issues to the public without teaching them C.

    You have sorely missed the point. Where did I talk about C? (BTW, C is a pretty horrible language.)

    I was talking about fundamental things. Theory of computation. Formal language theory. Complexity theory. New models of computation. Parallel computing. Functional programming. Logic programming. Lambda calculus and Combinatory logic. That kind of thing that should be flourishing if this is truly the computer era.

  • Thats been my name for years, why wouldn't I sign it like that? Does it make me look cocky?
  • I agree it's not how many, But i was making a point that I don't take advantage of other peoples apps and such. I meant to express that i want to learn the low level as well as the higher level. Do you understand that?
  • Well, I'm not sure what you mean by 'cocky', but I'm mainly referring to the substitution of 0's for o's and the "I'm your master" connotation. Both of these things seem pretty common in the script kiddie community.

    That doesn't mean you can't have an obscure handle of some sort, but I can see why someone might pick up a certain 'vibe' just by looking at your name.

    Of course, feel free to ignore me. I'm just one person. If it works for you, you may as well keep it.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • The extra $40k will come as I get more real world experience. Your friend didn't come out of college and walk right into a $100k/year job... He worked up to it.

    As for exposure to different methods of programming, I get that every day. Thats what Open Source is all about. Every time I read the source code to a new project, I get exposed to a new method of programming.

    On re-reading my origional post, I notice I did come off as fairly arrogant. This was unintentional. I did not mean to imply that I knew it all when it came to programming/software design. What I ment was that CompSci classes tend to be "behind the curve" when it comes to producing skilled workers. There may be (and obviously ARE) exceptions to the norm (any vague generality is false) but MOST graduates of CompSci programs are chock full of theory, and devoid of skills.

    Could I write a compiler? Not today. Could I learn? sure. Do I need a CompSci course to teach me? No... I am capable of utilizing the tools of empowerment that the Open Source community has made available to me. I have the source code to some of the best software on this planet available for my perusal. I have the greatest programmers alive available for discussion via e-mail/irc/news groups. In other words, I don't need college, I have the internet. Am I knocking the benefits of college? no. I am saying that the community of knowledge that is a traditional university has been made available to me via the internet, and so I do not need to attend the brick and mortar institution itself.

  • I agree with you completely on this. But, are you one of those people who used a switch console to create binary code, and that's why you're posting? Or do you truely believe what you say?
  • I think it was Eli Whitney Jr. who was the pioneer in interchangeability. His factory was used by Colt to make a lot of Colt's most famous early pistols. The problem was that at the time metalurgy and casting techniques weren't good enough to make long lasting machine tools. So even though you could produce a lot of parts that were similar in order to get them to all fit together you needed specialized workers who were able to file down the parts until they fit together properly. It was quite a bit easier than hand making every single part, but it wasn't until the early 1900s that we had steel strong enough to stamp out exact replicas.
  • Old fart #1: "You kids have it easy! In my day, we had to toggle all our programs into the computer with switches. In binary. Hex, schmex!"
    Old fart #2: "You had switches? We only had one switch, and it was in the machine room, five miles away from the terminal we had to use. We had to walk five miles uphill, both ways, to enter a single bit of our program. And we liked it that way!"
    Old fart #3: "Ha! In my day, we didn't have these fancy switches. All we had was ones and zeros, and we had to bang two rocks together to get the ones!"
    Old fart #4: "Ones? You had ones?!"

    The real meaning of the GNU GPL:
  • 17 and PROUD OF IT

    of course i'm happy with my share of external female sexual stimulus too.

    rock on veryangryguy!!!!!!
  • Right now the hippie/baby-boomer crowd are driving around in SUV's, drinking lattes, and buying only "organic" foods. And just think who they were thirty years ago.

    Makes you sort of wonder who we will grow up to be in a few decades. I do believe there is a paradoxical reduction in socialization with use of computers/the internet. One the one hand you have the ability to communicate with many many more people, and much more easily. But on the other hand, you never really "know" these as well as you can a real physical human. I'm talking about the psychological implication of not being able to associate a face, a body, a human, with a person you are communicating with. Just as TV changed the "situational geography" I'm sure the use of computers and the net is remapping our psychological communication patterns.

    My personal pet theory is that as we increase the ways in which people can communicate, the communications become less meaningful. It's almost as if one is suffocating from too *much* oxygen. If we are so completely barraged by communications, what is our ability to actually maintain meaningful state accross those communications. Our communication and social abilities are only finite. We are designed to be familiar with communicating with perhaps a clan-sized population. All of a sudden the potential population with which we can develop relationships mushrooms to millions and billions. Can *all* of those relationships maintain their traditional weight and meaning? Or will handles and personas flash by without any persistent association?

    The extreme of this little hypothesis has us in some sterile world in which our real communications are limited to being a person-behind-the-counter for each other. When I go to the grocery store I interact briefly with CashierPerson. When I go to the bank I interact briefly with TellerPerson. But these are all meaningless interactions. I might as well be talking to a robot. Or requesting information from a majordomo or listserv. As the industrial revolution commoditized our physical bodies, it is scary to think that the telecommunications revolution might commoditize our minds and spirits.
  • by Phaid ( 938 ) on Saturday July 08, 2000 @02:14AM (#949418) Homepage
    Gosh, this is just like things were back in the 80's. I remember when I was about 11 or so (gasp, in 1981) and hearing about a 16 year old who had designed a VisiCalc type spreadsheet and made pots of money. And about two years later I was running the "computer system" at my high school (OK, two Apple ][ clones) with programs that tracked attendance and developed class schedules. It wasn't a Silicon Valley fortune, but it kept me in the office and out of gym class.

    But I digress. Even back then, there was all kinds of talk about Video Space Age Whiz Kids, movies like War Games were coming out, and every average adult over 35 shook their head and said "gawsh, these crazy kids are gonna run the world, I have to ask em how to program my VCR and ...".

    The point is, most people will look at a new technology and not try to understand how it works, they'll just use it the way they're told to. We take something like a PC and use it for doing spreadsheets, because even though the machine is capable of far more, our thinking has become limited to things we use every day. Kids don't usually yet have those mental barriers in place, so they're not afraid to take it apart and mess with it, and they don't have the mentality that things can only be used a certain way, so they come up with more creative uses for what the technology can do.

    The only real difference is that today the technology is more pervasive than it was then, more people have PCs so when a teenager comes up with something like Napster it gets on the front page instead of being featured in a condescending human-interest article.

    And that's generally a Good Thing. But let's not let it go to our heads: the cleverest ideas have always come from people who think outside the box, and it's always going to be easier for young people to do that.
  • There is plenty of interest in cs, it's just that most of the people interested aren't any good.
  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <paul@pjrc.com> on Saturday July 08, 2000 @02:36AM (#949420) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure a lot of slashdot readers, 30 - 35, probably remember how it was, teen guru yes, power and authority, not.

    To make a short story longer...

    When I was in sixth grade, my school got its first computer, as Apple ][ (Pac Bell, black case). I was really fascinated by it. The library had one book about the computer, which was hand written, about very simple programming in BASIC. The last several pages covered the advanced topic of FOR loops, but only briefly. Whoever wrote the thing obviously stopped abruptly, but it was a start. The librarian said they didn't have any other books, and of course she was the only person at among the staff that "knew about the computer", which consisted of how to boot the computer and run the Oregon Trial game.

    It didn't take long to go through the hand written book. One other guy, Will, also was really interested in the computer and read it all. There was a guy named Adam who was an expert and seemed to know everything about the machine. It turned out he had one at home. He was in 8th grade, and usually didn't want to help me and Will much. To me and Will, Adam didn't just have power and authority, he was a god, but nobody else, neither kids nor adults cared much about him.

    One day I got to talk with Adam (who was working on a simple text-adventure to model an AD&D adventure module), and I asked him how he learned all this stuff that wasn't in the hand written book. He told me about the applesoft basic manual that came with his computer. He said the library had the book in the back room. The librarian lied to me... they did have another book, but they considered it part of the expensive computer equipment and not something they could check out or even let anyone read in the library. After all, we were just kids! The environment wasn't anything like what's described in the Brill's Content article.

    That book was the first thing I ever stole in my life!

    I started going to bed earlier, and I had a small light in my room. I'd spend all night reading the manual, and writing basic programs on paper. Time with the computer was very limited, and they had a strong policy to be fair to everyone, which meant giving everyone equal time slices to play Oregon Trial. I rarely had time to type more than a couple dozen lines in a session, and it was usually hard to remember what the code was supposed to be about. To make matters worse, Will got to the DOS (Apple DOS 3.3, long before the PC computer) manual, so access to the disk would have to wait for another couple years. Some parts of the applesoft manual, particularily the GOSUB, were "try this... now you see what it does". I couldn't possibly bring the stolen book back to the school and use it in front of the computer, so it took a very long time to really learn most of the material.

    Still, it was great fun, to be able to create programs. I had been interested in electronics... I had a bunch of the kits from radio shack, with the scrings for connecting the wires. Electronic projects were frustrating, because I didn't have the parts and I didn't ever have money to buy them. With the computer, all I needed was my 5 1/4 inch floppy disk, and lingering around trying to get some time on the school's only computer.

    The next year Will and I were the experts about the computer, but we really didn't end up being in a position of any authority, because for the most part nobody really needed to know anything, and "knowing how to use the computer" involved being able to boot up, type CATALOG, and RUN a basic program... almost always Oregon Trial.

    In 8th grade, the school district was re-zoned, and I ended up at a much larger school, which had about 8 computers instead of one. I could almost always get time on a machine. They also had the newer Apple ][e, and they had lots of copies of the manuals, including the DOS manual the Will grabbed a couple years earlier. The larger school also had a "activity bus", intended for sports, so I could stay after school for nearly two hours and get some real time on the computer. With all the manuals, lots of time on the computer, and not having the hide the stolen property, I started really getting pretty good at writing code. Will was zoned to a different school, so I was certainly the only guru, but it really didn't matter. Only a couple other students were really interested in the computers, and they were always nervous about being a nerd. I was already there, and while it sucked, I more or less learned to brush off insults and hostility from my classmates. Back then, it was seriously uncool to be interested in computers.

    Late in the 8th grade year, there was a science fair, and because computers were going to be the "next big thing", they had a computer science category. The school brought in some actual programmers, because it was well known that the one teacher who had the one and only (lame) computer class knew far less than I did, and was probably less knowledgable than some of the others as well. My little program was a tiny stats program, as I recall for track teams, simple stats for each runner per event. It loaded and saved data to the disk, had menus, data entry screens, on-screen data table display and some simple reports that went to the printer. I won the contest, and somewhere in the evening my folks talked with the programmers and they convinced my parents to buy me a computer.

    I spent a lot of time with the computer... a lot of time. I finally had all night sessions in front of a real computer. My parents were concerned that I spent too much time with it. I spent a lot of time playing games, but also a lot of time coding. Like most other kids at the time, I spent a lot of time copying programs. It wasn't until much later that my parents got the clue that I really was knowledgable about programming, for a long time all their thoughts revolved around how much time I was spending on the computer. Of course, they never needed and certainly didn't want to use the computer, so they never needed any advise and never even had an opportunity to see what I could do.

    High school wasn't much more accepting of being a geek, but there were more of us, and there were a bunch of people who were indifferent, so it was much easier to avoid hostility. Like before, there was one teacher that knew about computers, but much less than I did. Over those years I learned a lot, and I wrote a really nice database program, with bits of 6502 asm code, which was mainly used to track a collection of copied disks.

    One summer my folks arranged for a special class about interfacing hardware to the computer... and it was a great experience. The instructor really knew a lot about both software and hardware, and the other guys (no girls) in the class were guys just like me. One guy was a master as asm code, and I learned several tricks, a couple others really knew quite a bit about electronics. I think I was the only guy without a modem. Every day at lunch they'd all talk about various BBSs. I got a printed list of phone numbers from one of them. The hardware portion of the class was a bit over my head, and it slowly sank in over last two years of high school. Like me, they were certainly gurus at versious technical subjects, but these relationships or authority that teen gurus experience today just didn't happen, mostly because adults generally didn't need to use computers and so they didn't need help.

    After that summer, I had to get a modem. My folks were terrified that I'd break into banks, and they'd read some lame articles about "profiles" of hackers (I wonder it Katz it reading). It was nearly a year until I finally got a modem. A friend of mine got a 1200 baud modem, so he loaned me his old 300 baud.

    Getting onto BBSs was great, and I spent lots and lots of time on-line, reading and posting in boards, and exchanging email. I met lots of people, all in the local area. The computer teacher at my school was intersted in these user groups, and together with a couple other students, we ended up going to lots of user group meetings. It all seemed very natural, and I didn't even realize I was staying out until 11pm or midnight until my parents expressed their concerns. By that time I'd learned most of the things there were to know about applesoft basic, 6502 asm, and the internals of DOS 3.3. There were some other kids, but it was really cool meeting with other geeks. Some of those times were the first times I was a guru, AND someone was actually interested. I had learned quite a few tricks to defeat the floppy-based copy protection schemes, and there were always plenty of people who really, really wanted to hear tips and tricks they didn't already know. The position of authority, though, was only with other hard-core geeks... never in my family.

    In my last year of high school (1988), the school got a bunch of macintosh computers. For reasons I don't recall, a number of teachers were using them for various things, and while I quickly learned about mac (resedit, et all), there was another student who knew a lot more, and he basically took over a sys-admin role for the one server they had in the building. That was probably the first time I saw this whole teen guru thing in real action. He really did command some real authority with teachers and admin types, because he more or less controlled the network (localtalk) and was the only one who knew how to fix most of the conmputer problems.

    Well, I finally got out of high school, moved to college, away from my parents, and into, for the first time in my life, into an environment where is was "ok" to be myself (a true geek, I suppose). Things have only gotten better and better every year since then, and every year it seems that more and more people need the services of geeks like me, fortunately including employers.

    Now I'm an authority on many subjects technical, sometimes because I really know something, other times because non-technical people don't know any better. I'm certainly not a teenager anymore (currently 30), and now even my parents have to use computers, which I fix for them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "He's a sweet kid with a sword fixation and a penchant for programming languages: He's got HTML, DHTML, and JavaScript down"
    I could've swore this is "advanced formatting" at best.
    Something like this about a 12 year old usually doesnt bother me, but I see it all the time.

    "Oh, so you can code? What languages?"
    "I program in HTML."

    I can understand how the really advanced javascript can easily be considered "real coding", and I'm aware that writing HTML can be very complex, but come on. It's not even like a thin line between the two. When someone tells me they "program HTML", I expect them to be writing a browser, or stop wasting my time.
  • I know hundreds of times more about comptuers than the rest of my family, so I'm definately the technical guru, but I don't feel that my family is magically reversed because of that. When my mom says her email is broken, go fix it, I go fix it. We both understand that I know more than her, and that she can't fix it on her own, and maybe in the business world that's the equivelent to power, but for a teenager to be holding something like that over his/her parents to give themselves a position of authority seems to me to say something rather bad about the mentality of kids. Yeah, I know more about an expensive piece of machinery sitting on a desk. She still knows more about life, about money, about the world, all of which seem to me to put the authority back in her hands.

    My mom doesn't necessarily know less because she's dumb or too old to understand computers. I know more because I sit around and play with them all day while she's out in the world making money in a job she started training for before computers mattered.

    And even if this gap does exist now, it will be gone in another generation. My future kids may know more than I do when they're my age, they'll have computers their whole life, I've only had one since late middle school, but I'll still be plenty competent to use the computer for what I need. And all those kids making big bucks doing internet stuff won't really happen anymore, they've just been taking advantage of an extremely insane marketplace dying for all things electronic. Not to say that these kids aren't smart, but there are millions of smart kids, these guys were just in the right place at the right time, and far less lazy than me.

  • > well. I think it is unfortunate but I don't believe that the younger > generation has much incentive to look under the hood. With the lack of

    Well, speaking from the front lines (I'm gonna be a senior in the fall, as much as I fight it.. ), I can say that you're half right. There are two basic kinds of computer-using kids. There's the average people, those that use it for writing papers, go online and look a pr0n^H^H^H^Heducational websites. They tend to think that WordArt is the best thing since sliced bread. They also tend to mix their {their,there,they're}s, since they're totally reliant on spellcheck. Some of these folks are script kiddies. Think they're all hot with winnuke and the like. That and anarchist's cookbook. You're right, these people have no motivation to "look under the hood".. the abstraction that GUI brings them makes it unneccisary. So they'll be okay, as long as nothing serious breaks (and if it does, just reset :)

    Then there's the second kind. I am a member of this group. Usually been using computers for ages (been about 14 years now for me). Can remember specific doom deathmatches from 8, 9 years ago better than prom night (I know, I know, I'm sad.. nothing happened to make it worth remembering anyways). These young'uns definantly have the motivation to look under the hood. Why? performance, largly.. but also out of pure facination.

    So, I know, this is long and mostly pointless, but hell. I'd say that you'll have less people under the hood. But those that are can do wonders. Hey, at least Windoze is weeding out the idiot amatuers for us :)

    Thanks for reading.

  • Uhuh. It's patently obvious that she still has just as much to learn as a teen ever did. She has money, apparently, and thinks that's the end of the story. <derisive Lisa Simpson voice> Hah! She hasn't wisdom, nor maturity, nor much understanding of life. It reminds me of that other obscenity: "He who has the most toys wins." Boy, is that guy ever in for a shock! :^)

    It's quite possible they'll never realise that life returns satisfaction and contentment in direct proportion to the effort and struggle and suffering put in, not in response to the purchase of a few million dot com shares. It seems to me the entire US nation is under the impression that money makes happiness. Let 'em try. Have they never seen "Death Of A Salesman"? I suppose not. For most of them, it'll make boredom and ever increasing self indulgence, none of which will satisfy them for one minute. What a bunch of fools! :^)

    Try these instead:
    "Today I've still done nothing of value", and "He who has the most toys is bored the longest." They're a lot closer to the truth, and might allow some of these twits to find a little happiness in life before they're lying on their oh-so-expensive deathbed.
  • I've always considered my self a tech geek. Yet, I have no idea how to play most video games coming out for recent consoles anymore. Very few of them are intuitive (except the classic re-releases of old games). If you don't know the background or read the manual, you're helpless. That and it seems like there's more time when movies are playing than when you actually get to do anything. And watching kids, winning just seems to mean slamming the button faster[*]. No skill. And it's now a given that one can never possibly gain the skill to win a game on a single play anymore. It simply *can't* *be* *done* (tm). Games where better when they didn't have a "continue" option (actually cooked up to suck more quarters in arcades), because that meant one actually had to, god forbid, learn something.

    [*] I think the transition from game play that required skill to mindless game play happened first with the nintendo NES. Before the NES, standard joysticks had the stick on the RIGHT side and the button on the LEFT side. Since most people are right handed, this seemed to imply that player movement and skill were of paramount importance in games. Since the NES, the button(s) have been switched to the RIGHT side, implying that slamming buttons has become more important... with "autofire" controllers representing the ultimate in game de-evolution. Though, "game shark" cheater carts and their ilk sink this even lower. The next generation of game systems will probably get rid of the stick completely. Oh wait, they already did. They're game "pads" now. That's really just 4 more buttons in a cross shape so I guess it *is* all buttons now. *sigh*

  • You need to be careful with this subject. Knowing how to use ICQ, IRC, and Napster has nothing to be do with being in charge or being more intelligent. Anyone who buys a home knows all about mortgages and escrow, which are things that people under 25 rarely know about. Neither of these things are so-called rocket science.

    Second, think about what "out of touch" means. Usually, it refers to being outside the prime target for corporate-driven pop culture. Just because someone doesn't give a hoot about electronica or modern static rock doesn't mean he or she is out of touch. Pop culture doesn't make sense as it is. In the mid 1990s everyone was wearing clothes from the late sixties, early seventies (originally worn by people who are 50-60 now). Then *swing* came back a few years later. What the hell? This was music that people's *grandparents* listened to during World War II. And you heard people saying "if you don't like Squirrel Nut Zippers then you're out of touch." Recently I heard a high school kid putting down an acoustic version of "Higher Ground" with the comment "Man, he's butchering the Chili Peppers." Yikes, that's a Stevie Wonder song from over 25 years ago.

    People into Linux tend to be the same way with the "out of touch" silliness. Linus's dad could have been hacking UNIX in the seventies. Heck, ESR and RMS *were* hacking UNIX in the seventies. So people who insist on using more recent developments, like the Mac and Windows, are labeled as out of touch :)

    Personally, I avoid ICQ at all costs because I don't need another intrusion. Getting constant email is bad enough.
  • Technology changes amazingly fast. (big, fat Duh!) Kids are on the bleeding edge because when they start to learn, they learn what's new. The kid who knows Java or Perl probably doesn't (and never will) know COBOL or assembly language. Which is OK, they can find plenty of work with the knowledge they have.

    The danger of superannuation lies in not keeping up with new developments. You can't expect to learn a bunch of stuff when you're 16 or 17 and then never learn anything else. None of the young Turks are going to be begging for your advice on writing a Nibbles game, but if you're one of the first ones to learn whatever the next new language is, you'll have plenty to offer.

  • Okay, I think this is too funny for words.

    I love my uncle. When I was six he gave me a Commodore 64 to play with. Hell yeah I played with it. I programmed to make the thing talk. And games too. It was great fun. So when I'm seven he gets me an XT because he just got the ungodly fast 386, and all I can say is "damn"! So I played with the xt for a few months, then I took it apart and put it back together.

    * And it worked

    When dads work upgraded to even faster pentiums & 486's, I got myself a case with a 386 mobo and chip. Yeah guess what happened. Since I knew how the XT worked, I transferred all the components across. Now this 386 was fast, so I got compuserve and the internet, I hung out in chat rooms and computer bulletin boards.

    Well as you can imagine, I am now 15, custom build computers, have unix, macOS, windows, and V2 experience, do web design (I know html, dhtml, and am learning WAP, HDML, and XML, and code entirely in notepad), Troubleshoot for peoples computers, have my own websites at Nerdnetwork.net [nerdnetwork.net] and Greenbuggy.com [greenbuggy.com].

    I find the article funny because right now, where I'm standing, My nerdnetwork.net website has only been up for a few months and has several times more hits than dads engineering group. I have 5 separate email addresses, where my dad has only one. My mom and sisters have no email addresses and little internet experience. Whenever I go to moms work her employers come up to me and offer me lunch at leanne chins if I fix whatever problem their network or iMac has.

    And my gracious uncle dan has already offered me a job at a computer business where he owns part of it.

    But I'm thinking about working at Geeksquad [geeksquad.com] because they have cooler company cars. If only I could drive.

    Nerdnetwork.net [nerdnetwork.net]
  • Communication. Everyone's got ICQ, AIM, or IRC. You're not cool unless you talk to your friends on the Internet.

    What you're really talking about here is "hangout places". Malls and arcades were the place in my day. Now it's on the net. No real change here.

    School. If you know how to browse, you know how to cheat on research reports. All of your friends do it, so you want to learn how.

    Cliffs Notes anyone? Monarch notes? Encyclopaedias? The three forbidden reference sources for any school report. Again, nothing's really changed.

    Peer Pressure. You don't want to be the only person in your circle of friends who doesn't know how to use computers. And you want to keep up with
    the latest trends. Your friend emails you about some new site or program, you get it. If you want something to talk about the next day, you learn as
    much as you can. You might try other similar programs and learn about them.

    Peer pressure. Yah. That's a new one. One's tastes and knowledge of music or video games or sports got you judged as much as "PC skilz" does now. Still nothing new here.

    Jobs. Don't kid yourself. Kids are smarter than they seem. They know a good job when they see one. Gee, I can sit in front of a computer screen for 8
    hours a day and get paid four times what the mechanic does, or the gardener, or my parents!

    Same thing not so long ago with digital "electronics" (I'm talking discrete logic stuff here, not true 'computers'.) And before that it was the transistor. And before that the vacuum tube. Each new gen made the former look less skilled. Once again, nothing new here.

    Dumb movies. Hackers probably inspired more than a few wanna-be's to learn about computers. Of course, if they got far enough in their studies, they
    probably found out that what's real is more exciting than the movies.

    War games anyone? Or dumber... Wierd Science? Short Circuit? Bond Movies? Mission Impossible? Star Trek (TOS)? There's no shortage of hokey tech movies/TV in the past. Still no big difference.

    Overall nothing has really changed. Kids seem smarted today because they use tech that didn't exist in the past. Kids grow up to make more money today because of inflation. Hey a 2 Bedroom home in the L.A. sold for $22,000. Today, the same home costs $180,000. A new (and big, mind you) car in 1950 for under $2000? Oh yeah. As we all know, the biggest increases in salary come when you *change* jobs and *not* through merit raises and promotions. So yeah, the kid's new job pays more than mom or dad's job of 20 years. Things are more tha same than ever, IMHO.

  • I've owned more different kinds of computers than most people know exist, starting with a C= 16 when I was, oh, eight or so, then an Apple ][, then an Amiga 500, and oh boy did my development begin then.

    My mom's a graphic artist, and when she was finally forced to get a Macintosh IIci to do her work on (Because everyone was going to digital pre-press and typesetting) I was definitely the one to tell her how to use it, the one who was getting on the 'net and finding out all the cute little key combinations (Like Command-Option-P-R) that you needed to know to keep the damn thing operating.

    Amusingly, she still uses that machine to this day... but that's not what this post is about. This is about her being afraid of the computer, afraid of the internet, much like some pygmy in the rainforest afraid your camera is going to steal his soul. She won't even let me buy her an internet connection because she claims it's going to take all her time.

    What, she's going to have to miss All My Children?

    Don't get me wrong, I love my mom, but I have the same issue with her as just about everyone else in the previous generation, which seems to be a pattern that goes back at least as far into history as textiles (First recorded textile production is in 3,000 BC by the way... Can you tell I'm a geek?) I understand my dad okay, but then he's been learning how to use computers. My mom, on the other hand, I just don't get. The computer is a tool, how can it be malicious?

    Now, Microsoft may be Malicious :) And, of course, Apple's just lame, but considering how much trouble my mom has with the mac, I shudder to think of what difficulty she'd have had with Windows 3.1 (which was what windows was when she got her mac.) Also, Mac hardware is/was pretty simple; Almost all NuBus cards self-configure down to the driver level, everything's SCSI so it follows some basic rules, though my mom doesn't really get that stuff, either. Also, back in the day the Mac could detect what kind of monitor you had plugged in, so that was one less problem to worry about. Not to mention the workstation-style way the mouse chained through the keyboard...

    In any case, my mother became dependent on me to make her able to earn the money which put food on the table. If you don't think that upset the balance of power dramatically, you've got another think coming. It was the beginning of the end for any control over me, and I ended up moving out when I was fifteen, getting a job, and moving on with my life. She ended up harassing a neighbor to help her with the mac.

    At least she finally learned how to program the VCR.

  • Everyone's got ICQ, AIM, or IRC. You're not cool unless you talk to your friends on the Internet.

    I think you assume too much of the majority of teenagers. Communication pretty much sums up the total of their knowledge. My friends brother literally doesn't know anything about computers other than clicking the "AIM" icon on his desktop lets him talk to his friends. Kids do not want to learn about computers. Learning anything more than the bare basics is considered "not cool". If you know more than the average Joe User you're labeled a nerd, freak, hacker, etc. Now matter how much adults go on and on about how kids are growing up with technology and learning so much, the truth is that they're not because they don't want to.

    If you know how to browse, you know how to cheat on research reports.

    I've never seen/heard of this. If you're going to cheat, you copy someone else's report. I guess it's too much trouble to surf the net for it.

    You don't want to be the only person in your circle of friends who doesn't know how to use computers. And you want to keep up with the latest trends.

    I laughed when I read this. Computers will never replace "cooler" things like football or cheerleading. It's not a trend, it's a glorized phone. I've already said this: it's not cool to know anything about computers. Ditto for getting a job, I know kids who have flat out told me they'd rather work at McDonald's than read a few books and get a computer related job.

    Hackers probably inspired more than a few wanna-be's to learn about computers.

    Yeah it sure did, and I never thought the idiots would leave me alone or stop filling my Inbox with "H0w d0 i l34rn to h4x0r?" emails. Then they all downloaded AOL scripts and proceeded to kick eachother offline for about a week or so before it got old.

    Are all kids computer illiterate? No, just most. There are the exceptions, like me and a few of my friends but to most people the computer is a way to talk to your friends without worrying about your parents picking up the other phone and listening in. They're not learning about computers, just becoming more comfortable with them, and a lot of adults confuse the two.

  • Yeah, but it seems the Brill's Content folks thing that people who know how to use computers are the guru's. Someone like Shawn Fanning obviously knows more than the average teen who uses the computer to wordprocess, e-mail, chat and let's not forget play games. Being able to run proggies doesn't automatically translate into being a guru.

    And knowing more about computers than the average non-tech boomer (which all the parents in the study were) is hardly a great acheivement.

  • Heck, back in the early 1980s you'd see kids pictured on the front of magazines for writing computer games and making boatloads of money (Mark Turmell, John Harris, Greg Christensen, etc). And remember whiz kids like Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, Dell, and Torvalds? These days, you see kids on the cover of Wired for starting nebulous web-based businesses. You don't see teenagers making a fortune in games any more, because big business has moved into that field. Similarly, big business has moved heavily on the web.

    BTW, there are interviews with some of those game-geeks of yesteryear over here [dadgum.com]. Ah, memories...
  • I'm 23 and my experience pretty much mirrors the others here, I got ahead of the game a little with that modem when I could get access to machines that would compile C, but, anyhow :). Your arguements are exactly why I didn't bother with a CS degree (bah, they still learn COBOL, YUCK) and I went for an electrical engineering degree - because I wanted to know more about the guts, I wanted to know how the IC's worked and what they were made of, I wanted to know how the power supply worked - and I just didn't want to know how to follow a schematic, I wanted to understand the basic principles involved.

    I learned all that and a lot more, and the advanced math has actually proven to be a good investment more than once! Plus, having a professional certification (a few years off still) is another good career move that you just can't get any other way. Having all those computer skills got me A's in my programming and digital design classes, enough to balance out the sometimes horrible marks in advanced calculus :).

    A good example was my embedded micro design class. The prof tossed us some RAM, ROM, a 8088XL CPU, some UARTS, a DAC and ADC, a book of technical specs, wire wrap tool (!!) and a prototype board. We did the rest - and I learned a lot from that course. To say nothing of the exposure to data structures (something I never would have looked at) and other aspects of analog design and power systems.

    CS, No. Engineering, hell yes! We get the "learn by doing thing", at least in Canada :). So think about post-high-school studies, and from the sounds of it, think EE or Computer Engineering!

  • Good point. I don't feel like I got 4 years of knowledge from the comp sci program I was in. I probably could have saved time buying $500 of books and a computer and fooling around with that for a year. Part of it is that schools don't quickly integrate technology as fast as we would like. Another part is it's hard to find a teacher who keeps up to date or has an incentive too. Luckily, I had a friend who was repeating college to learn CS, and he suggested I read Byte magazines, and see what the buzzwords are. Even though a lot of it is hyped up stuff, it was stuff I'd never hear about in my Pascal class.

    Eventually I started working on a lot of things on my own, because I liked computers, whereas a lot of my classmates were in the CS program because they heard 'computers is the future'. I even got the CS department to let me design my own independent study classes. At least they were open to letting me to this contrasted with how unwilling they were to integrate new stuff into their curriculum. I didn't go to the best comp sci school, and from what I gather it sounds like there are some kick ass programs out there.

    The point is to do well in comp sci (and probably any other field) you shouldn't just rely on the college to expose you to everything in that field, even if you're paying 25K a year for it. A lot of those disinterested classmates ended up spending a year working at a low end computer related job while spending bucks on some Oracle or NT certification so they could have some real world knowledge. Many of them even had better grades then me. While I was goofing off trying to build a half working text web server, they were working hard doing exactly what the teacher instructed. But they still came to me and others like me for help with homework like clockwork. As we drew closer to senior year and graduating, I tried to suggest these folks do what my friend originally suggested to me, keep up to date with technology.
  • Okay, thanks for the input. I think I'll be keeping my name. It's good to meet someone that isn't ignorant and stubborn.
  • What I learned at university:

    1. Math - calculus, matrix math (important for graphics - and I make games), logic (transforming logical expressions)
    2. Discipline - hacking is fun, but a large project with lots of people needs structure and well thought out and clear implementation.
    3. Design - most of this came from teaching myself C++ :-) but similar to discipline, I learned that code that works is better than code that runs really really fast (but doesn't).
    4. Algorithms - I'm pretty smart, but there are lots of smart people who have been thinking about lots of things for a lot longer than I've been alive. This is a great place to hear them - you usually only hear things worth hearing (institutional idiot filter) and, as I mentioned, it seems easier to find the information there.

    Basically, I thought I was pretty hot stuff in 1991 (I'm 27 now as well). My time at university was a bit tiresome because either I already knew what I was being taught or could have figured it out on my own, but over 5 or 6 years (too much time spent doing my own stuff or working :-) I just got better because my way of doing things improved. No amount of technical knowledge gets you that.

    I'm sure you're doing well for yourself - I just hope you don't look back on yourself someday and say, "Man, was I ever an arrogant, ignorant prick." I pretty much think that about my attitude at 18. I guess the best thing about university is it fixed both the arrogance and the ignorance.

  • by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Saturday July 08, 2000 @07:19PM (#949438) Homepage Journal
    >At 37, I'm starting to feel old while reading Slashdot. I'm a very young "baby boomer", but still a "baby boomer". My Dad (not my
    >grandfather) was a WW2 veteran. My Grandfather was a WW1 veteran! Anyway, there seems to be concern here, that as you
    >grow older and get to the advanced age of 35, your skills and knowledge will become marginalized by the next generation of
    >techies who are 10 years younger.

    Dude, I'm 42, & when I got my Bachelor's degree my college only offered 3 computer classes -- BASIC (which I didn't bother with because I taught myself about it out of a mincomputer manual, & ran thru the excercises on the mainframe), Fortran (which I took, but never used), & assembler (which I decided I woudl never need). otherwise, your story is the same as mine.

    Having gone thru the routine, I can tell you why older folks tend to shun away from new experiences:

    1) Lack of time. I doubt I can recall the number of occasions that I started on a computer problem, looked up after what I thought was a little more than an hour & found that it was after midnight. And I had to be at work at 8:00am the next morning. Or started on a project on a Saturday afternoon, only be interrupted every so often with a question from my wife (e.g., ``I saw this on t.v." or ``When do you want dinner?"). Or have to put off a computer project because the yard needed attention. And if I had kids, the distractions would be even worse . . .

    I have a friend a little older than me who is currently unemployed. He is using his unemployment to teach himself how to create web pages -- & using his years of experience as a graphic artist to give him an edge. Damn, I envy the fact he has the time to immerse himself!

    2) Worries. Most people 15-30 don't think much beyond the next paycheck. If a job sucks, just leave it & you'll find another one in a couple of weeks.

    Unfortunately, by the time you reach 35-45, you have gotten a ways up the greased pole of success. You just can't drop everything to hare after something because it looks interesting. You have to prioritize your interests, be flexible to deal with emergencies, & then when it seems to be a quiet moment you can tackle the problem.

    3) Bad habits. Face it, if someone's means for solving technical problems is to ask someone else the answer, she/he is not going to change at 35+. I, for one, have always read the instructions, played with the software to see how I could break it, & always take the time to watch over the shoulder how someone solves problems. (This very practice taught me a new Unix command last week!) Too many people leave high school with a fear of RTFMing, & spend the rest of their lives finding workarounds for this.

    And a last note here: Anybody who tells you all of the reasons why they can't accomplish something (especially if she or he numbers those reasons) is probably just lazy, & doesn't want to admit the fact. My stepmother -- for example -- spent my teenage years complaining that she never had any time to herself. But she never said what she would do with this time if she had any. It really got old. Thank God no one in my life does the same thing. ;-)


  • The generation they are concentrating on is not the generation of interest. I believe that it is the people in the 25-35 range that actually have both an understanding of how to use computers and the internet with an added bonus of knowing how the internals work as well. I think it is unfortunate but I don't believe that the younger generation has much incentive to look under the hood. With the lack of interest in Computer Science that colleges are seeing as of late, I can imagine that the population that understands how things work, how to make them work, and how to fix them when they are broken is getting smaller and smaller. More jobs for us I guess.
  • One of my favorite quotes, from a Yahoo! advertisment in a magazine

    Scene: Teen girl is sitting, writing into her diary.

    "Dear Diary. Today I realized I'm worth more than my parents."

  • This is a reply to both replies to my post.

    First, the remark was meant to be funny.

    Secont, HTML is not, repeat, NOT a formatting language. Or at least it shouldn't be. HTML marks up content, not presentation. See the word "content" in the previous sentence? Which tag did I use? Right, <em>. This means emphasis. Not italics, not bold, not underline. (Inventors of those tags should be shot.)

  • Just wait. Soon they'll figure out that our generation coded a huge pile o'crap, throw it away, and create the Internet and everything totally afresh. Don't fool yourself about
    lack of interest in Computer Science that colleges are seeing as of late
    One doesn't need a college to pick up Computer Sciense (yes I mean the heavy stuff like information theory, formal languages and such).

    Time to learn telephone sanitizing :(

  • I still think a computer gives MUCH less authority than a gun...

  • All buttons? Have you seen the standadrd controllers for the N64, and Dreamcast, both have an analogue stick. The Dualshock for the PSX has two. The Dualshock 2 for the PS2 goes the whole hog, and has analogue buttons.

  • I think this article partly misses the point. Eventually this generation will become parents and they will be more technically elite than their parents and will most likely, by need, be fairly up-to-date with technology. This will mean that the parents will be as elite as their children. Also computers are opening up the possibility of working fewer hours at the office and more at home. This will give parents more precense in their childrens life. The real change will be that younger people will be well educated and mature. I think we'll probably see the legal age moving from 18/21 down closer to 15 within a generation or two. When the 15yo's have enough money and media savvy to influence politics it'll happen.
  • I hated the fact that my parents, friends, and family all had free access to my skills. As a teen I lived in a small town where everyone knows everyone so making any money under this system was practically impossible. To make money I had to offer my services to a company in a whole other country which I worked for over the Internet. Then my parents just thought I was insane and wondered why I kept getting checks when all I ever did was sit at the computer and play. LOL and kept urging me to go find a real job like working at Taco Bell.
  • I don't believe that the kids are smarter than their parents, per se. It's more like the kids are generally open-minded and their thoughts and brain patterns haven't been worn and burned by the years of use that older people have, thus they can be much more susceptable or "available" to new thoughts and ideas.

    Plus older people have a much stronger tendency to refuse any kind of change or improvement which the onslaught of computers have produced.

    Possible? You betcha!

  • by Jason W ( 65940 ) on Friday July 07, 2000 @11:58PM (#949448)
    There are so many reasons for young kids to learn to use computers, its no surprise they are so far ahead of everyone else.
    • Communication. Everyone's got ICQ, AIM, or IRC. You're not cool unless you talk to your friends on the Internet.
    • School. If you know how to browse, you know how to cheat on research reports. All of your friends do it, so you want to learn how.
    • Peer Pressure. You don't want to be the only person in your circle of friends who doesn't know how to use computers. And you want to keep up with the latest trends. Your friend emails you about some new site or program, you get it. If you want something to talk about the next day, you learn as much as you can. You might try other similar programs and learn about them.
    • Jobs. Don't kid yourself. Kids are smarter than they seem. They know a good job when they see one. Gee, I can sit in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day and get paid four times what the mechanic does, or the gardener, or my parents!
    • Dumb movies. Hackers probably inspired more than a few wanna-be's to learn about computers. Of course, if they got far enough in their studies, they probably found out that what's real is more exciting than the movies.
  • i got his point, but that he used a little idiom as support for it was, imho, reaching. that was my beef. thats all...

  • This whole situation resembles emigration. You know, when a family leaves its home country looking for greener pa$ture$. Who's first to adapt to the new reality? Kids of course! It's a norm for a child of immigrants to do much better than his or her parents.

    Let's face it. We are surrounded by the new reality. Some elder folk will adapt to it (shedding much sweat and tears and blood in process). Most will not. But kids will be at home with this new reality, and good luck to them.

  • by Sir_Winston ( 107378 ) on Saturday July 08, 2000 @12:39AM (#949451)
    > I think it is unfortunate but I don't believe that the younger generation
    > has much incentive to look under the hood. With the lack of interest in Computer
    > Science that colleges are seeing as of late, I can imagine that the population
    > that understands how things work, how to make them work, and how to fix them
    > when they are broken is getting smaller and smaller.

    I don't really see it that way. You're right that it appears that fewer people are interested in CS degrees lately, but there are really at least 2 good reasons for this.

    To begin with, computers are being so thoroughly integrated into all disciplines in college and high school and elementary school that there's less need to take any computer courses at all in order to be able to understand them fairly well and use them proficiently. In college, for example, pretty much all students have to use computers in order to do their papers for any given class, and while that doesn't require more than basic knowledge of how to use a word processing program, it gets people to use computers from day 1 even if they've never before touched them. E-mail is just as pervasive and, on campus, usually requires a bit more know-how than just starting Word: my first experience with computers was my first week at college, when we went to the Computing Center in groups to learn the basics of telnetting to our campus VAX and logging in to our new accounts. Many schools now include the cost of a laptop or PC in first-year's tuition, like mine now does, and that gives all students at least a fair familiarity with computer use. Just being around computers for those two functions will give most users a slow but steady learning curve into how to use a computer, and when people learn about all the cool games and video clips you can play on a PC or Mac it usually makes them learn enough to get around fairly well. But if you expect them to learn CLI beyond maybe telnet, you're dreaming, because it's becoming obsolete for all but programmers and old-school "power users".

    But it's going to be increasingly rare for college freshmen to need to learn these things, since computer labs are commonplace in high schools, and even in many classrooms. I was shocked the other day to run into an ex-neighbor who became a fifth-grade teacher--she told me that she had three iMacs and two G3s in her classroom, and lesson plans for the students to learn the basics of navigating a GUI and using educational games and an encyclopaedia program. Not bad for elementary education; beats the hell out of the one Apple ][c we had in my elementary classrooms, running useless LOGO...

    Of course, what you're specifically referring to is CS type people who know all the inner workings and would be comfortable if dropped to a command prompt in Linux or maybe even VMS. But as computers with high-level user interfaces permeate other disciplines, and the general school and home experience, there is quite frankly less need for such people. The average person will know enough to do all of the things he really wants to do, like e-mail and websurf and maybe get in a few rounds of Q3, but there is zero reason for him to *need* to know how to tinker under the hood. That isn't bad, it's just fine. Not everyone needs or wants to know how everything works, and I think that's a problem with some slashdotters: they think people should have to or want to learn what works a machine, when in reality all most of them need to do is learn to use the Win32 or MacOS shell. That's why we call these people "end users"--they use the end result of programmers' hours of toiling, toiling which is done so that end users can do thing quickly and easily. It's not laziness on behalf of the average person which keeps them from learning something like the Linux CLI--it's the fact that they prefer to do other things with their time, to use software with virtually no learning curve because it allows them to have all the benefits of computers with none of the time-consuming in-depth stuff which they really don't need to know to perform the few basic tasks they ever will need a computer to do.

    I think there was an upswing in CS enrollment in the 90s because of the perception that computers were the future, high-tech CS jobs would pay very well, and that the emerging Net was cool and by learning CS you'd learn more about it. But after that brief surge we're returning to a more level state of growth commensurate with the fact that you don't need a CS degree to operate a computer, just to program for one. The population of people who "know how to fix" computers isn't getting smaller, it's just settling into a post-boom level, while the number of computer users in general continues to increase.
  • i'd love to do CS. but i'm making decent money as it is, i'm not quitting. CS is one of the majority of courses that cant be done by correspondence.

    a CS degree is an asset for sure, but unless there is a NEED for a person to get one (ie. the job you want states you must have it) then why waste time at school when you could be out making money without one

    if they want people to do CS, make it easier to enroll.
  • That's the good point and I wanted to post something similar before I found your post.
    I'm an immigrant from Russia, and in my own community, I see a lot of families where a 10 years old kids are the most important people because only they know enough English to deal with the outside world. Most of the time this inversion of authority is not very healthy. I've seen a lot of really screwed up kids growing up in such families. Their parents might not be computer gurus or even English speakers, but they know a thing or two about decency and ethics and plain common sence. And under normal circumstances they'd teach their children those good things. But not when the children see their parents as irrelevant dinosaurs. Now, seeing your parents as irrelevant dinosaurs, might be OK when you're 18, but it's really bad when you're 10.
  • by CountZer0 ( 60549 ) on Saturday July 08, 2000 @03:31AM (#949454) Homepage
    With the lack of interest in Computer Science that colleges are seeing as of late, I can imagine that the population that understands how things work, how to make them work, and how to fix them when they are broken is getting smaller and smaller

    This shows a complete lack of understanding of the "Way things work"

    Colleges are seeing a lack of interest in Computer Science because computer science classes are seen as "old school" Everyone knows that you don't learn computer skills in school. You don't learn how to program in a classroom environment. You DO learn by DOING. Staying up all night hacking. If you look at the technology leaders today, a large porton of them have never attended college. Those who have/are didn't bother with CompSci, but instead learned business management skills (something you CAN learn in school) The Computer Skills they have they learned in their spare time.

    Case in point: Myself. I am a high school dropout. No college. No interest in EVER going to college. I am 27 years old, and I just got re-located (all expenses paid) to New York City to work for France Telecom as the Linux Network Administrator for voila.com. I am making upwards of $60k a year (not millions, but its a good start) and have full benefits. I get to play with Linux boxes all day, everyday, and I make money doing it! Talk about your dream job. How did I get here? No CompSci for me. I was one of those "wiz kids" back in the 80's. You know, I had a Commodore 64 in 1982, I learned BASIC on a TRS-80 Model III in first grade. I learned 650x assembly by the time I was 12. I was all over BBS's in the last half of the 80's, and ran my own BBS throughout the first half of the 90's (Till about '93/'94 when I learned about the internet.) Why would someone like me need college? What does CompSci have to offer me?

    It is this attitude that is why colleges are seeing a lack of interest in Computer Science, not a lack of skill. In fact, the lack of CompSci interest shows an INCREASE in the skill levels of the younger generation. These kids are working outside of the traditional structure. They don't go to college (or if they do, it's to learn business management skills, not computer skills that they have already mastered)

  • Today I realized I'm worth more than my parents.

    Ah, yes. I remember having that same experience at 20. In a steakhouse in San Fransisco on my first business trip, I realized my parents could never have afforded to eat there.

    Most Americans, I think, regard this as normal if incremental: Each generation does a little better than the previous one. The kids in their teens and twenties today, though, have less respect for their parents, and rightly so. The change this time is less incremental, particularly for those kids who can use the technologies that their parents find daunting.

    These kids grew up believing that laws were optional, as they watched their parents routinely flout the 55 mph speed limit, dabble in illicit substances, and hide assets from the Tax Man. They don't respect authority in large part because it isn't worthy of their respect, and they sieze on opportunities to gain control (as the kid in the article did on IRC). They watched their parents run up huge deficits while demanding more and more from government, while contributing less. They watched their grandparents' generation go to the moon, but then their parents' generation abandoned any exploration that didn't serve a short term, selfish interest.

    Using computers to subvert authority within a family isn't the most important social change recent generations, it's just the on change slashdotters are likely to notice.


  • Four times what a mechanic makes? I want to know who your mechanic is (Or who your present employer is...)
  • Scene: Teen girl is sitting, writing into her diary. "Dear Diary. Today I realized I'm worth more than my parents."

    This is a truly sickening quote, and symptomatic of what is wrong with the US.

    If you study several languages, you might realize something: it is US English that originated that vile expression "Person X is worth Y", where Y is some amount of money. In Spanish, French, or German, there is no such expression: you have to say "Person X has Y". You can say that a person is worth a lot, but that means that he/she is a great person, and has no monetary implications.

    This is deeply symptomatic of how shallow and materialistic the US has become; people are valued exactly by how much they own. What they do with their lives, their talents, the experiences they have had, their insight into life, the world, their relations with others, these are all set aside.

    The other truly sickening thing about this quote is that we have a child saying that she is worth more than her own parents. WTF? This is so self evidently sick, that I find it tough to come up with words to denounce it without sounding too obvious. I mean, if one has had caring parents that worked hard to give you a life as good as they could, how could one think oneself any more than they are?

    The worship of money is the great vice of the US, which costs lives daily all over the world. Please see this fact; stop that madness, that meaningless way of life.

  • Henry Ford is generally credited for the assembly line, but it was Eli Whitney who first popularized standard interchangeable parts, about 100 years before Ford. I think Ford's reasons for sticking with the Model T were that he wanted to produce a cheap car that everyone could afford, rather than a better car that only the rich could buy.
  • To begin with, computers are being so thoroughly integrated into all disciplines in college and high school and elementary school that there's less need to take any computer courses at all in order to be able to understand them fairly well and use them proficiently.

    Wrong. It is very tough to gain a deep understanding of computers without doing something very like a CS program. You can gain a relatively shallow understanding of the workings of a von Neumann architecture, but computing is so much more than this.

    The problem with CS enrollments declining is that it is happening just at the time when computers are becoming commonplace in our society. In a computer technology explosion, the natural thing to happen would be that more people would go into CS, and more fundamental research get done (parallel architectures, functional programming, etc.). But the contrary is happening-- more and more people are leaving CS, and going into a speculative job market that is bound to crash any time soon, doing trivial work on e-commerce and such.

  • My first computer experience was my father's ATARI-800 in, oh, '83? It worked on the TV screen and it played games on a cartridge. I flipped Pac-Man, and loved Joust. . He used it for work, I was 10, it took his time from me and I didn't like it.

    My second computer experience was his new, $7000 PC-XT. A 20MB disk, and the exuberant upgrade to a full 640k RAM.. It had it's own amber monitor, and did graphics. He could do a lot more work with it, and it didn't play Pac-Man, but I could play around with it anyway.

    My third computer experience was the TRS-80 in the back of my 6th grade classroom. It had BASIC, and I distinctly remember an argument with my teacher... We were supposed to print out name on the screen over and over. She told us what to type:

    10 PRINT "My Name is Jabber"
    20 GOTO 10

    I put a comma at the end of line 10, since I thought it was cool to see it cat and wrap the output. Then I put a semi-colon there to print my name in four columns instead of the assigned single column.

    I got yelled at in front of my friends for 'not following directions' (that's been the story of my life since BTW). I was told that what I did was wrong, while what I did was go beyond my teacher's knowledge. I knew that what I did was cool and fun, and so did my friends. My teacher knew they thought so, and I was always last in line to use the computer since then. But I started to really like that XT (still have it BTW).

    After butting heads with my teacher over the format of a PRINT statement, and being right, I fell in love. In a few weeks of playing with the XT I wrote a BASIC program to generate AD&D characters, to roll 'dice' and serve as a Dungeon Master's assistant. Eventually, by 8th grade, it would seed dungeons with treasure and monsters - though I never got to the point of having it design a dungeon layout or keep an internal map during a game. Interests changed.

    High-school had computers in a separate room and my travels didn't take me in there. It was used for typing class. I kept playing with the XT, which also had FORTRAN and C on it. I started to understand why my dad liked his boring job so much. I got a color upgrade for the XT and played around with graphics a bit, but it didn't fascinate me as much as security and interface stuff. I wrote a menu system/program launcher very much like Direct Access 5 in 10th grade and thought it to be trivial. I was very hurt when I saw it sell for $40 a few years later.

    During college, I worked as a SysAdmin in a middle-school in the area. I was so jealous of the opportunities those kids had. 2 computer labs, networked together with a Novell 3.xx system. Win3.1, QBASIC, C...

    All they did was play games. All their teachers did was write papers. What a waste.

    I was the computer authority, and the demands placed on me usually involved clearing printer jams. I was again arguing with teachers about the right way to do things. They knew I was right, once again, except this time I was doing it in front of their peers, and not mine; and most importantly, I was making them seem ignorant in front of their students. The kids liked that and were much more interested in computers by the time I left. I hope a few took interest; most didn't I'm sure.

    In retrospect though, I think that this phenomenon of a younger generation leading the way is not a phenomenon at all. It happens with all new technology. I've already seen the next generation NOT have the same level of skill or interest. They're what we lovingly refer to as Script Kiddies, they use higher level tools than we did. Those tools required our skills to create, but not to use. It's always been this way and always will be.

    We had to copy tapes, they have Napster. Our Fathers had to do their own tune-ups on their own carburators, we just pop in a performance chip and go. Our granparents died of smallpox and polio, our parents got vaccinated. Extrapolation int the future is left as an exercise to the reader.
  • Hey!

    Colleges are seeing a lack of interest in Computer Science because computer science classes are seen as "old school" Everyone knows that you don't learn computer skills in school. You don't learn how to program in a classroom environment. You DO learn by DOING. Staying up all night hacking.

    In my (Not very good, in my opinion) UK school IT lessons, you don't learn IT skills in school. I never have to ask for help, but those people who do are often told "It's better if you find how to do it yourself", because the mark scheme offers more marks this way, and "It'll make you remember it better".

    The inspirational moral? I forget...

    Michael Tandy

  • I must disagree with you. This phenomon has happened in many industries, only without people worrying about it. When the auto industry started making Cars that were lower mantiance and mass producing them there was a drop at some point the average "car intelligence" of people dropped. This has't affected our society that illfully. While the high school motor head may be an endangered species, and the auto industry has stopped printing shop manuals for certain models, we have better, faster, fuel effecient cars for the masses and Model-T kits for those that wish to build replicas.
    It is true that there other issues such as copyright, licensing, and availability of sourcecode that end users are mostly ignorant of. However it is possible to explain these issues to the public without teaching them C.
  • The other truly sickening thing about this quote is that we have a child saying that she is worth more than her own parents. WTF? This is so self evidently sick, that I find it tough to come up with words to denounce it without sounding too obvious. I mean, if one has had caring parents that worked hard to give you a life as good as they could, how could one think oneself any more than they are?

    I find this attitude truly disheartening. One hears of stories about parents trying to keep their kids down, because of their jealousy that their kids may be more successful than they. That sounds a lot like your attitude. If your kids become more successful than you, are you going to start berating them? "So, Mr. Big Shot is too good for this family, eh? Think you're better than your old man, eh? EH?? EH???"

    If your children don't have higher goals than yourself, and don't have more success than you, then you have failed as a parent.

    Quite frankly, your attitude is the sick one.

    The worship of money is the great vice of the US, which costs lives daily all over the world. Please see this fact; stop that madness, that meaningless way of life.

    Extremely few people "worship money", as you put it. The problem is that you define worship as any desire for financial success. Guess what? One can be successful and not be greedy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to achieve great financial success. In fact, society depends on it. The pie is not limited; when someone creates more wealth, it increases the amount of wealth available to society and creates more jobs for everyone. As the saying goes, a rising tide floats all boats.


  • He was talking about how Cliff Notes are similar to how kids go on the internet to get reports. He was making a C-O-M-P-A-R-I-S-O-N, say it with me. Learn to read. Or learn when to open your mouth.
  • Yeah, apparently Americans judge people only by the money they make and this mentality is quickly being exported all over the world.

    A loudmouthed basketball star is apparently a more important person than a doctor who has developed a new vaccine against a previously uncurable disease or a scientist who makes an important breaktrough with world changing possibilities.

    So why don't you change all Thomas Edison highschool into Dennis Rodham High's?

  • Does that mean that the Brain Surgeon beocmes the 40-Year Old Alchoholic Pizza Boy?
  • The point is, most people will look at a new technology and not try to understand how it works, they'll just use it the way they're told to. We take something like a PC and use it for doing spreadsheets, because even though the machine is capable of far more, our thinking has become limited to things we use every day. Kids don't usually yet have those mental barriers in place, so they're not afraid to take it apart and mess with it, and they don't have the mentality that things can only be used a certain way, so they come up with more creative uses for what the technology can do.

    There's a bit more to it than that. IMO the real distinction is that (for reasons that don't make sense to me personally) many, if not most, people are perfectly happy to use use equipment they don't really understand. In fact, they seem to prefer not to understand it because they think that it will be too much effort to learn. This is, as Larry Wall would say, false laziness. Understanding in at least a general sense how things work at one level deeper than you actually use them is a huge time saver in diagnosing the inevitable problems you'll encounter.

    The point is that with any complex technology there always seems to be a small group of people who gain real power through a greater understanding of it. One thing that I dislike about the article is that it focuses on the handful of kids who are going out and doing really outstanding things rather than the more interesting pattern of kids with more computer savy than their parents gaining household power. The latter is actually such a well accepted part of the system that it's a popular topic for newspaper cartoons and the like.

  • If you study several languages, you might realize something: it is US English that originated that vile expression "Person X is worth Y," where Y is some amount of money.

    Interesting note, but can you show specific evidence that this came from the States and not Britain?

    Note: the poster is Canadian, so he may have alterior motives (i.e. sticking up for his Commonwealth Brothers)

    [a bit of kidding folks :]

  • I may be part of the next generation, but, unlike most other people, I am not what I belive is a script kiddie. I learn high level and low level languages. Perl, C, C++, Cobol, BASIC, QBASIC, FORTRAN. I hope you don't automatically shun the 'next generation' as script kiddies.
  • HTML is not a valid Programming language. It has no I/O Commands. No File Commands. No User Defined Variable Assignments. No Looping. No Subroutines. No Graphics commands. No ANYTHING. All HTML is a way to reformat data and combine different file types and such into one neat little page. The only way i know you can make HTML do anything like a language is by using the Script Command. But then, it's not HTML that's interpereting commands, and it's not HTML's language either.

    All you can do with HTML is stuff like

    this. [slashdot.com]

  • "Programming in HTML" is certainly a valid usage.

    Hardly. It's not too different from the dot commands I was sticking in Apple Writer documents 15 years ago to twiddle margins, set tabs, etc., and it serves approximately the same purpose.

    (Even funnier would be someone who calls himself an "HTML programmer," but would be lost without his FrontPage.)

    / v \
    (IIGS( Scott Alfter (remove Voyager's hull # to send mail)

  • Actually, I was lucky, local shop needed me to come in and help out 5 times a week. Never thought I'd get so ahead in electronics, programming, and UNIX based OSs. College wasn't for me because I couldn't make the kinda money while going to school that I could make out of it. One of the best decisions I made at the time. Anyhow, simply put, as computers get easier and easier to use, and everyone is content with their MCSE and whatever Bill tells them , then it'll be the few, the proud, the geek, who has to come to the rescue when the shit goes down. The further everyone gets from the innerworkings, the more valuable those who still understand will become.

  • You obviously did not read my post with the care it merited.

    baaaahahaha... did it merit more care? aw; i'm so sorry. i didn't notice. /me hangs head in shame... wow. you are truly an arrogant prick.

    ]]][i (sayke) said] however, in mandrin, a commonly used idiom remarkably resembles the american-english personal-worth-as-money idiom. [[[

    Which would only be relevant as a counterargument if I had claimed that the US is materialistic because of the idiom. Go, back and read, point out where I said that.

    actually, you said "This is a truly sickening quote, and symptomatic of what is wrong with the US." mandrin uses a similar idiom; is it symptomatic of what is wrong with china, too? in order to be consistant, you must claim that it is. do you do so? that is quite relevent. "materialism being caused by idioms" has nothing to do with this, and i never said or implied that it did.

    You should hang out with your friends because you care for them, even if they are ocassionally "boring" or "useless". Suppose your friend was unemployed, was passing really bad times, and is reallu depressed, thus no fun at all. Under your logic, one would abandon him.

    geez us key riest... AND YOU SHOULD HANG OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS BECAUSE [insert arbitrary reason here]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!&#&$@#*$@*@#*@* lose the command tense, dipstick. people stop paying attention to you when you start telling them to do things; especially when you don't tell them why they should.

    and where did you get this "ocassionally boring or useless" crap? do you think i have no tolerance for human... humanity? do you really think i completely ignore the long-term end of things? shit, man, if someone's my friend, they are interesting. if they were not, they would not be my friend. when it seems that a person has stopped being interesting, they stop being my friend. (what makes a person interesting to me, is, of course, a pretty fuzzy area) you sound like you've never had a friend who is not your friend anymore. i doubt that's the case. have you never been friends with someone who later turned into an asshole? can you concieve of it happening? shit, man, here's a mantra for ya: "NO LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL. 'UNCONDITIONAL LOVE' A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS!" repeat that every morning for the rest of your life. oh, and read "the moral animal" by robert somebody. if a good, hard, dose of evolutionary psych doesn't kick your idealistic ass into a more pragmatic shape, there's no hope for ya. ;)

    I obviously know more about Ayn Rand than you do, as this exchange does. You need to break out of that "objectivist" religion. It only ends up emotionally deforming people.

    WHAT!!!? please read your first sentance. now read it again. it seems you did not quite write your post "with the care it merited." har. and, fyi, i'm not really much of an objectivist. i think some people take that waaaaay too far. however, i think there are some useful tidbits to be gleaned for ayn rand's writing. and, i think that perhaps the world would be a better place if more people were "emotionally deformed."

    ]]][i (sayke) said] as for me - nothing is worth more then me, to me, because my existance is a necessary precondition for the existance of all forms of value. i'll never put my life on the line for anyone, if it can be at all avoided. [[[

    You are a truly sickening person. Change your ways, or you'll die lonely after living a really meaningless life.

    shrug. i doubt i'll die lonely. i'm surrounded by interesting friends! true, finding people i dig can be a challenge in some ways, but ya know, it's always just kinda happened. so much for being lonely... and dying? baaaah. i'm not going to die of old age; for damn sure. telemerase is the shit...

    and what part of my above decleration is so sickening to you? the part where i said "my existance is a necessary precondition for the existance of all forms of value"? or the part where i said "i'll never put my life on the line for anyone, if it can be at all avoided"? i dunno about you, but i value my continued existance, and i plan to make damn sure i don't go away.

    Yeah, you certainly don't seem to be the economically sophisticated type, do you?

    because i'm frugal, and don't make unneeded expenditures, and recognize that money is not an end in and of itself, i'm economically unsophisticated!? wtf!!!? support your assertions, are else stfu. or, just stfu. that would be fine too.

    Your reading comprehension and reasoning skills must be really fucked up from all that Rand. Where did I attack the people of the US in general? I attacked the culture of the US. These are very different things.

    in case you were unaware, the culture of a country is a function of its population. it is really impossible to attack one without attacking the other...

  • I certainly don't consider all PC-TNG folks as notorious crackers, for from it. You guys have an advantage over the dinosaurs. You don't need to suffer from 'trench-mind' caused by seeing the beast evolve. You don't remember some of the assumptions that turned out wrong, or some of the mistakes that were made because the tech was "not there yet".

    The best example I can think of is AI. The generation before mine tried AI in earnest, and failed, and the field suffered a bad reputation as a result. My generation assumed AI couldn't be done right because of this, and instead only a relative few 'crack-pots' persued knowledge-bases and neural nets. They made respectable progress by trying that which most thought (knew) was impossible. Now the hardware is up to speed, new ideas have formed with old experience being twice removed from todays minds. AI CAN be done. Maybe not in your generation of hackers, but in the next one. The young teen YOU inspire into the field will have an even higher level of abstraction in his/her mind, and will make even bigger steps than you and I put together.

    I used the term 'script kiddie' as hyperbole. To me it implies someone who uses tools without necessarily (or usually) having the knowledge of the details that make them work.
  • And this was precisely the point of my post, once I got done with the trip down memory-lane. Hell, Charles Babbage had it harder than Seymour Cray and Stever Wozniak put together.

    I wish OOG_THE_CAVEMAN would chime in about how hard it was when he was a kid.. They had to do their computing with pebbles you know. :)
  • I agree with you, but the same can largely be said for any language. (we revisit the difference between generations again. :) )

    All a language is, on a level below HTML vs C, is a set of instructions. HTML is a language in that sense, if it wasn't it would have been called HTMC.

    Looping CAN be done with HTML - though it's pretty pointless to open a page in one of it's own frames.

    HTML does not combine file types into a package, it only appears that way because HTML provides a browser with references to those other files.

    If you extend HTML to include CGI... well, you've just gotten I/O, variables, looping, subroutines. CGI is what makes slashdot possible, not HTML.

    And deep down, few languages actually include I/O and file manipulation 'commands' - all they have is access points to OS service routines - since HTML is so ubiquitous, it can not provide such an OS hook, but Win32HTML could. ActiveX anyone?

    But you are right, HTML is a means of encoding content, not instructions. Interestingly, there are (professionally used) languages wherein the data content is the instructions. :) Happy hunting.
  • Cars are different than CS. It's one thing if the average computer user needs to know less about the workings of the computer nowadays; it would be a completely different thing if car builders thought that physics were irrelevant to what they do.

    Ok are you talking about programmers or end users? I think we all agree that programmers need to be properly versed in theory (parallel computing, algorithims, computation theory, converting from binary to decimal, etc) as well as practice (learning C, C++, Lisp , assembler and a variaty of other languages). However, end users can be quite productive by clicking pretty icons. Thats not to say they couldn't be more productive after studying the mysteries of bash, vi, emacs, and the appropiate utilities for there job (eg a markup language for someone in the publishing business). Lets face it, many of us /.ers don't have the desire or know how to rebuild a transmission. This is just an example I'm sure plenty of you can. However, that does not hinder your ability to use it as the end user aka driving it!
  • Everytime there's a slight computer problem I have to spend a good 20 minutes explaining to my mother what to do, that isn't so bad considering I get a house and food.
    I just hate being pimped out to my mother's old friends to fix their computers.

    What I truely dread is when I'm 35 and in a computer job what can I offer that the next generation can't? COBOL? (hopefully exinct by then), PAL? DLX? We'll probably be using whole new paradigms for programming by then.

    So do me a favour and don't teach your kids computers.
  • All buttons? Have you seen the standadrd controllers for the N64, and Dreamcast, both have an analogue stick. The Dualshock for the PSX has two. The
    Dualshock 2 for the PS2 goes the whole hog, and has analogue buttons.

    Yeah, but dual shock for PSX came out waaay late in its life. The best games were already made and didn't work with dual shock.

    Game consoles are still missing non stick/button controls as stock controls. A paddle/wheel? Light guns? (Nintendo seemed to quit doing this after NES) Driving games suck without a wheel. Hell, even today's game systems can't do a decent tempest or even an ancient breakout or pong game because of a lack of proper control. There should be a hole at the center of the directional pad that you can insert the optional paddle wheel into. But all these extra controls NEED TO COME WITH THE CONSOLE because few developpers will code for a optional controller that they knew few people have.

  • And you replied in a very mature manner, and sure did set him straight. Thanks for coming out, as they say.
    Change is inevitable.
  • Thanks for clarifying.
  • Must say one thing, you say "topic of the day" - you realize its soon topic of the week too?. Switch topic - your "topic of the day" doesn't work anymore - I think I'm not the only one thinking that this is 100% offtopic - If we get a story on ectasy - yes sure put it in - but in discussions like "Kids, Computers And Authority", things like this don't fit in - Kids reading this article might think you are telling them to drink beer. Give up! Your karma is like -15 already. Ectasy is bad, but don't we all know it somewhere??. -
  • by 0verl0rd ( 208976 )
    Just wonderin'
  • I won't proffer any grand unified theories of sociology, but I would like to point out one pathological manifestation in the US, Canada, and I presume other places: nursing homes.

    The "I'm worth more than my parents" quip does run deeper than that, because it plays to this pattern that parents don't properly raise their children, the children grow up with no real emotional bond to their parents, and see nothing wrong with locking them up in prisons for old people. Where else are the elderly as reviled and disrespected? Where else are extended families just about nonexistent?
    Change is inevitable.

  • First of all, I think the greater ease with which children pick up this kind of thing has almost nothing to do with emotional attitudes (curiousity, lack of fear, etc) but rather intellectual makeup. Children learn things more quickly and more in-depth than adults, it's hardwired into the brain.

    Secondly, and a couple of people brought it up already, a lot of these "skills" are along the lines of a mechanic rather than an engineer. I don't think most of these kids are learning many underlying skills.
  • It may help if you don't sign your name as something like "0verl0rd".

    No offense, but it does create some - er - preconceptions about you based on the script kiddies out there...

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • Hrm, or maybe it was meant exactly how it looks: that the girl is 'worth more' on the open market than her parents. Big deal - inflation alone will usually do that for most young people.

    Why people feel the need to fabricate some grand sociological reason for everything, I have no idea.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • It is interesting that I keep bumping into people who feel that simply because they learned how to program (which anyone can learn on their own) outside of school, then school is somehow useless.

    Computer science programs vary widely across the board. At my girlfriend's college half of the junior and senior curriculum is stuff like Intro to C++ and Creating Applications in Visual Basic. While at my school the sophomore classes are Compilers & Translators (last semester we implemented the Unix utility "make" and wrote a Lisp to C translator and they were both due the same week) and Systems & Networks (create your own RPC program and protocol). Also before graduation each student has to work on a senior project which involves shipping a live product to a company. Now with this education I am currently pulling down a decent amount while interning which by current reckoning [wsj.com] is as much as most people in industry are making now after a few years of real world experience.

    Most of the actual programming syntax I have learned has been on my own time (I know C, C++, Java, Perl, Javascript, VBScript, SmallTalk and VisualBasic). There are various aspects of software engineering and database design I would not have learned without school, either because I would never have come across them while simply hacking or because they would have been too much work and not enough fun to learn on my own. Things like how and why a database should be normalized, how to design and implement grammars, using lex and yacc, how to create a requirements document from informal specifications and then converting the requirements document to a design document with data models and UML diagrams, compiler design and implementation details, various methods of dynamic memory allocation, proper object oriented design and implementation of neural networks. All these things I have learned in school and I still have over a year to go. Before I graduate I plan to take classes in AI (I'm interested in creating Internet Agents), advanced software engineering and next generation database technology (such as OO databases). The things I will learn in these classes are things that I would probably never have come across if I was simply hacking at code and buying O'reilly books to learn what I needed about CS.

    Some kids at my school like reminding the freshman students who make comments like yours that our graduates don't use tools but instead make the tools that others use. The language designers, compiler writers and internet architects of this world are college educated. If all you want to do is go out and hack code a college degree is perhaps overkill (then again it widens your marketability - I have been offered positions working on compilers for strongARM chips using C/assembly as well as doing server side integration using Java, XML, Perl, & SQL) but realize this, what seperates usually seperates a Computer Scientist from Code Monkey [tuxedo.org] is usually a college degree.

  • by Sir_Winston ( 107378 ) on Saturday July 08, 2000 @01:23AM (#949505)
    Younger people have always been more in-touch with contemporary times than older people. New technologies are always emerging. Social norms are always changing. And, always, the people most able to embrace new technologies, new social norms, new ways of life, are the young.

    Young people make their own worlds as they grow up, forging thier own moral and social views (sometimes similar to their parents', sometimes radically different), experimenting with new things and not being afraid to try something new or different. Older people, though, are already set in their ways, they already have lifestyles, morals, and recreations based on the things they discovered when they themselves were young. The world changes, but usually, adults don't change much at all. I'm only 23, and already I find myself annoyed whenever things I really liked are changing; I can only imagine how people in their forties must feel, since the world has moved forward 20 years since they reached adulthood and started getting their own ideals set.

    The young have always been a force of change, both technological and social, while the old have always been a force of stagnation. Look at Henry Ford as an example: in his younger years he revolutionalized not just the auto industry, but every industry, by popularizing the notion of putting together standardized parts on assembly lines to drastically reduce costs over those of one-off manufacturing. And then as he got older he foolishly kept pushing the Model T even after newer, bigger, faster cars were becoming popular, and would have ruined his company if his advisors and family hadn't dissuaded him from bringing back a simplistic Model T like car in the thirties.

    That's just the way it's worked, probably for the whole of history. You see it at work everywhere: in the 1950s older people instituted censorship of comic books because they had cartoonish gore, yet today the same mild gore which was prohibited in the 1950s has become a staple of comics and few older people care, because the older people of today were the children of the 50s who grew up wanting to see that comic violence which their parents thought was so bad. Elvis was considered positively satanic early in his career, because older folk thought his hip swaggering walk was sinfully provocative, yet today people don't complain about hip movements at concerts they complain about Marilyn Manson and a bandmate having oral sex on stage.

    Technology is no different in that respect than forces of social or political liberalism. Older people get along just fine knowing little about computers; they have no reason to learn, they've already developed their own careers and hobbies. Thus more young people getting deeply into computers than adults who do so. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo!, and most of the other companies which have been instrumental in bringing the personal computing and Internet revolutions to the masses, were founded by young people in their twenties or teens. The Information Age is a revolutionary thing, and revolution is the pursuit mostly of the young. Old people and companies have established ways and markets, and don't want change--thus the RIAA vs. Napster mess, the MPAA vs. DeCSS affair, and the USPTO's complete inability to handle Net-related patent claims in a reasonable manner. They're just old and out of touch, and it's time to get rid of their outdated foolishness. But, I digres... ;-)
  • I tend to agree with the posters who have said that the computer is more of a communcations appliance to most kids, rather than a tool for learning and experimentation. Part of the reason it is probably like this is due to a couple of things: a) It is "uncool" to know a lot about computers, and b) Computers are easier to "break" today, to a point where they seem unfixable (to a newbie).

    When I was younger (I am 27 now), I had a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 and 3 - it is what I learned to program on - both in BASIC, and a little 6809 assembler (actually, I still have them - sitting right next to me right now, in fact - and yes, they both work - 15 years later!). The thing was, no matter what I did, I couldn't "break" the machine. POKEing here or there would "crash" it, but hit the reset switch on the back, everything is okay - back to BASIC. Rarely did a disk fail, or did I overwrite something, or did the machine crash while typing in a 150 line machine language data statement hunk of code from a magazine.

    Today, wiping a DLL from the Windows system directory can cause a lot of pain - Linux is little better if you are a newbie running as root (although there is a better chance of fixing it in the end after a reboot).

    Do I think all kids are simpletons who use the computer, rather than learn about it? No... I think there are plenty of really bright kids, who code with either copies of software their dads bring home from work, or with copies of gcc or other Free Software from the net - kids who are unafraid of crashing their machines (indeed, they may even love doing such a thing).

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant