September 14, 2002

long time no C

Listen to a group called "Jars of Clay". If you are one of those that loves ROCK. But dont mind the occasional strings. This is the group that will freak you out. Real kewl music, somewhat yucky but appropriate vocals, and the best of it all, acoustic riffs only. Sometimes a little other strings thrown in. Really good mixture.

What kind of a user are you? What do you use in those innumerable online forms that want you to describe your level of computer usage? Where do you fare on the four point scale - Beginner, Advanced, Expert, Guru. Actually how do you define where you stand? And how do you do that with respect to somethin as abstract as "computer usage"?

You know what I feel. When it comes to computers I think we are living in a dream world. I somehow have the feeling that I will just wake up, and all things that dont make sense to me suddenly wont exist anymore. Here is a sample of what baffles me. "What dont we have an introductory course to computers".

Wait. I know most of you would be really ready to click that small button on the right top corner of your browsers. Hang on for a sec. Think about it, there are no really introductory courses to computers. There are a lot of people out there, people who offer course, people who understand computers, who make the mistake of totally screwing up an introductory course. Who make the mistake of giving content that has little or no meaning to end users. Who dont respect the difference between an end user, and a budding programmer, or an entry level system analyst, or a rooky business administrator.

Most (okay, all the course that I have been exposed to, the most is only a disclaimer) of the courses I have seen suffer from one of the two problems.

  • The course has the wrong content for a focussed audience
  • The course, introduces the end user to the computer, not the computer to the end user

Take a course that is typically floated in academic institutions, CS101 Introduction to Computing. More often than not it will have some bit of electronics, some stuff about decimal and binary systems, then it goes on to programming logic and problem solving and generally end with a project in C. WHY??? The next course would be somewhere in the second year CS204 Fundamentals of OOPS. Again, WHY??? What is this course seeking to achieve. Just tell me how many people are actually enlightened by such a course. I personally dont think anyone would be. If OOP really tiltillated you, you would have read Bjarne Stroustrup anyway. So what is this course doing for you. Of course pedagogy is abysmal. Mostly you have professors who learnt OOPS when it was still an embryo, teaching you that course, who in a nutshell, suck.

Cut. Go to a beginner course in a professional Computer Academy. The course reads like: C/C++. Introduction to RDBMS, Internet technology, JAVA. Hey, hold on. The guy does not know what a bloody computer is for god's sake. What the hell will he use a database for?

Cut. Go to a Introductory seminar in a Corporate Place. C/C++, Word, Excel Functions, Macros... WHY? Hell, darling, your user does not know one error message from another. All errors are the same to him. Word is fine, but he is afraid of the computer dammit.

Cut. An introductory course in a Business Management Institute. Internet, eCommerce, SAP and other tools, Networking, XML, Web Protocols. Gurgle, gurgle aaah. Hey do you know what a nincompoop he is going to prove himself to be. The information you give him will be all that he is ever going to know regarding these topics. And to his dying day, he will assume that he knows computers. Do you have any idea about how much damage you are doing?

Will some course teach someone, who does not yet love computers, to love it. Will some course teach a person that a computer is an extremely logical unit, and that all you need to know is a few principles and everything will make sense to you.Will any one teach users what to expect from a machine and what not to. Will someone tell users the incredible beauty of computing, the power of C, the modular C++, the vastness of the Internet. Will someone break open a computer and show people, that inside it all, you just have some dumb wires. Will someone help the beginner, not feel threatened by the machine. Will someone help the beginner, not feel threatened by anyone who is not an beginner?

I sure do hope so. Will put out a 10 important things in a Introductory course soon...


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