Blog posts with the tag computers | Interested In Everything


Blog posts with the tag "computers"

The Apple Macintosh turned 30 this month. When you think about the technology that we’re used to in the 21st century and if, like me, you’re old enough to remember what life was like before we had it, you’ll probably realise that a personal computer with a graphical user interface was revolutionary back in the 1980s.


When you get your new computer these days, it’s already pre-loaded with, at the very least, an operating system of some kind, so you can be doing things more-or-less straight away.  Only last week, I bought my wife a new Android tablet and, within about half an hour of getting it out of the box, she was reading her emails and doing a crafty bit of online shopping.


This was quite a contrast to what I was faced with when I unpacked my Dragon 32 over three decades ago.  I plugged it into the family TV (no monitor, kids), switched the whole thing on and was greeted with a plain green screen, a copyright message and a simple flashing cursor. That was it.  Of course, I wasn’t left completely in the dark.  I had to hand the instruction manual.  I can summarise the manual thus: “Learn to program in BASIC, my son, or you’ll never make this thing work”.


Essentially, in the early days of home computing, if we didn’t learn how to program, nothing happened.  As computers have moved on, they have become more and more user friendly that this need to know about what goes on “under the bonnet” has diminished until it’s virtually become completely unnecessary.


Many people (not just me) have remarked recently on the declining levels of understanding of computing at a fundamental level.  Some of the geeks among us think that this is mainly due to a shift in how young people are interacting with computers and that there is very little emphasis on the “nuts and bolts” aspect anymore.


One criticism that I have seen thrown around time and time again is that ICT lessons in schools focus primarily on the use of computers – mainly teaching pupils how to use word processors, spread sheets and web design packages.  As a friend of mine, who has worked in IT for twenty-plus years put it recently, “That’s not computer science, that’s a secretarial course”.


So, what’s the solution?  Well, one of the things that has been developed to address the problem is the Raspberri Pi. At last, an affordable computer that an aspiring coder can work from first principles.  If these £25 machines can inspire the current generation, then maybe computer science is safe for the time being.