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

Tony Duell ard at
Sun Nov 25 17:33:03 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?

I shall refrain from commenting :-)

> 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 would not consider anyone to be a competant machinist if they couldn't 
grind their own lathe tools. In fact just about every book i have on 
metalwork, amateur angineering, clockmaking, etc. points out that many 
specialised tools do have to be made in the workshop. 

> >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 

While I wouldn't expect a professional photographer to know, say, the 
exact operation of the 3 escapements in a pre-war Contax II shutter (!), 
there is rather more to knowing what a shutter pseed control does than 
'it varies the exposure time'. I can think of serveral instances where 
knwoing rather more about the shutter operation is essntial, e.g. flash 
work with a focal plane shutter, and more interestingly how the shutter 
design can distort the image of moving objects. 

> 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."

_I_ find it easier to know how something will behave if I know how it 
really works. The latter is based on a few simple physical principles 
most of the tiem, so it's not something I am going to mis-rememeber at a 
critical momnet.


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