Friday, February 20, 2015

News for "generations of autodidactic computer nerds" "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!"...or at least you don't have to be #TLTGroup

"She contemplated teaching herself, as generations of autodidactic computer nerds have done before her, and as her brother (a senior engineer at a major tech firm) recommended. But she doesn’t learn well in isolation, she said....."

The article suggests that many people might learn computer-related skills better in groups... perhaps even in courses!  See below for anecdotal explanation of why so many of us find this a shocking but welcome concept.

Excerpt above from "Can tech conservatories save the day?"  by Catherine Rampell, Opinion writer, February 17, 2015, The Washington Post

I didn't realize that I was an "audodidactic computer nerd" because we didn't have that terminology yet when I learned FORTRAN, my first commercial programming language, as an undergraduate.  I had a part-time job plotting curves from output data from the Princeton Forrestal Accelerator.  I was given graph paper and expected to use a pencil and a French curve (anyone remember what that is?).

After a few weeks of this tedium and pencil smudges, my supervisor said "Go to the U-Store, buy a copy of the FORTRAN manual, read it, and when you can use a computer to calculate values of e to the x for any value of x, come back and learn how to use that computer-printer in the basement."   So I did.  Luckily for me, there were a few grad students and staff working in that basement who didn't mind making suggestions to me when they saw how befuddled I was when that computer rejected my punch cards or spewed printer paper all over the floor.

And, for many years to follow, that was how I expected to learn computer programming languages and anything else about those machines.  And so did many others.
Steve Gilbert Feb 20, 2015

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