Programming skills (was: Teaching kids about computers...)

M H Stein dm561 at
Sun Nov 25 07:44:31 CST 2007

Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2007 23:54:44 +0000 (GMT)
From: ard at (Tony Duell)
Subject: Re: Teaching kids about computers...

>> Tools are developed to make a job easier and do it better; in my opinion taking
>> advantage of those tools and doing things "the easy way" makes you more
>> professional, not less. 

>I would agree, but...

>1) Being able ot use the tools, however proficiently, does not 
>necessarily equate with being able to design/make those tools.
Why do my recent posts seem to generate such odd responses...
Or is it just me?

Why the "but"? Did I imply anything of the sort? Did I say that a 
carpenter should know how to make an electric saw or even repair
it when it would be a more efficient use of his time and skills to just 
take it to a shop or buy a new one?
>I haev never used dBase (or any other database for that matter), so I can't 
>comment on that, but I will claim that being able to use _some_ 
>application programs does not make you a programmer.
A claim that seems pretty obvious; why make it?

Although some people apparently disagree, dBase is not an application
program; it's very similar to BASIC (and grew and matured just like
BASIC did) but with fairly extensive file-handling and screen-handling

>2) The initial question was about education. Education is not production. 
Of course not! That may have been the initial question but by the time of 
my reply it had moved to opinions about what defines a  "programming 
professional," specifically whether someone who codes in dBase or doesn't 
know or care about how disk drives work can call him/herself one.
>When you're prodcuing something, of course you use all the applicable 
>tools. When you're leaning about things, you have to do things 'by hand' 
>to understand them (and example of this, from another context, is that 
>photography couses used to insist that the students used cameras with 
>manaul focuessing and exposure cotnrol, so they could learn what said 
>adjustments meant, even though if you were being paid to take photographs 
>you would _probably_ welcome some automation).

>In fact I will go further and say that the true professionals not only use the right 
>tools, but also fully understnad how those tools work and behave, because that 
>way they can use them more effectvely. 
I kind of thought that being "proficient," i.e. "having an advanced degree of 
competence" in their use of tools expressed the same sentiment.

Of course as a professional you should know what those camera adjustments 
mean and do, but you don't necessarily have to know *how* they work unless 
you're interested or plan to go into camera design or repair, or expect to have
to repair it in the middle of nowhere; "how they behave" is not at all the same 
as "how they work."

And although you may know all the arcane details of your camera and probably 
look down on someone who only points-and-shoots, he or she may well take 
better pictures than you, which is after all the whole point of having a camera
(for most people anyway ;-)

>> A programming professional's job is to deliver a product that meets the client's
>> needs, is well documented and easily maintained, and is delivered on time and
>> within budget. Knowing or caring about the arcane details of a disk drive or being
>> able to program an OS-less computer in binary may matter if you're working on
>> an embedded controller but it's pretty irrelevant if the project is a client accounting 
>> system for a large financial institution.
>Tuew, but a 'client system for a large finanicail instution' is hardly 
>the only type ofr computer application. 
Again, I thought that was obvious and that my mentioning embedded controllers 
would suggest that even I knew that and don't need you to point it out...

My point was that there's more to being a programming professional than being
able to code in binary; furthermore, different tasks require different tools and skills 
and different people have different interests and abilities, and I find the tendency for 
some people here to denigrate others with different goals, interests, abilities and 
tastes annoying enough on occasion to comment.


More information about the cctalk mailing list