Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Dec 2012 10:19 UTC, submitted by anonymous
General Development "Computers are ubiquitous in modern life. They offer us portals to information and entertainment, and they handle the complex tasks needed to keep many facets of modern society running smoothly. Chances are, there is not a single person in Ars' readership whose day-to-day existence doesn't rely on computers in one manner or another. Despite this, very few people know how computers actually do the things that they do. How does one go from what is really nothing more than a collection - a very large collection, mind you - of switches to the things we see powering the modern world?"
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Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

kwan_e,

"The old way of doing things are going to die out as young people start going off and do their own companies, which is also happening. There's been a few voices of late that have said university degrees are useless, so we can see the potential zeitgeist of the next 20 years."

Is this really a fundamental change, or just a market cycle? In the growth phase new markets can grow insanely quickly. There's plenty of room for many players to grow, but eventually we reach a market plateau and the only way to grow further is for corporations to merge and/or others to drop out of business. The tablet market is still somewhere in the growth phase now, but once it becomes mature I think it's going to look more like business as usual. Who knows, predictions about the future are all just educated guesses. There's no right or wrong answer in the present.


"I think they're apt examples precisely because they're counter-intuitive."

I still don't get how you conclude that these new tablets are opening up programming? Say I'm a kid who got an ipad for christmas. Wouldn't I still need to own a computer to jailbreak and/or program it? In other words, doesn't the set of users who can potentially program an ipad mostly overlap with those who can already program a computer? I don't see how the success of ipads are evidence of a trend that the set of programmers is increasing.

This isn't to say things won't change in the future, I strongly hope so because otherwise today's trends are pointing towards the rise of closed computing devices.

Assuming I'm wrong and computers are becoming more open for programmers, I'm still kind of skeptical that substantially more people will be actual programmers in the future than are actual car mechanics today. It's not just matter of intelligence or abilities, it's also about practicality. Like you, I think many more people could become programmers, just like they could become mechanics. But if everyone were a programmer, it would be very difficult for anyone to sell themselves as a programmer. It's about supply and demand.

Anyways that's just my take. I'd love to see many smaller players grow in the computing world since I am among them. We'll see how it all pans out.

Reply Parent Score: 2

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

kwan_e,

"The old way of doing things are going to die out as young people start going off and do their own companies, which is also happening. There's been a few voices of late that have said university degrees are useless, so we can see the potential zeitgeist of the next 20 years."

Is this really a fundamental change, or just a market cycle? In the growth phase new markets can grow insanely quickly. There's plenty of room for many players to grow, but eventually we reach a market plateau and the only way to grow further is for corporations to merge and/or others to drop out of business. The tablet market is still somewhere in the growth phase now, but once it becomes mature I think it's going to look more like business as usual. Who knows, predictions about the future are all just educated guesses. There's no right or wrong answer in the present.


That's why I refused to predict anything on a time scale of 5 years or even 10 years.

Again, I can only really go by the example of Admiral Grace Hopper. From her time to now, the trend has only been going one direction. It didn't take just 5 or 10 years and at various times it looked like a pipe dream too.

"I think they're apt examples precisely because they're counter-intuitive."

I still don't get how you conclude that these new tablets are opening up programming? Say I'm a kid who got an ipad for christmas. Wouldn't I still need to own a computer to jailbreak and/or program it? In other words, doesn't the set of users who can potentially program an ipad mostly overlap with those who can already program a computer? I don't see how the success of ipads are evidence of a trend that the set of programmers is increasing.


Do you need to jailbreak a smartphone in order to get programs into their App Stores? I don't understand why you are fixated on jailbreaking when it's hardly the main way for people to write programs for those devices.

Assuming I'm wrong and computers are becoming more open for programmers, I'm still kind of skeptical that substantially more people will be actual programmers in the future than are actual car mechanics today.


Most people won't be programmers in much the same way most people aren't mathematicians or authors, yet we can all read and write and do mental maths. That's why my prediction is conservative and only goes as far as basic programming knowledge.

I would really love to see numbers on how many people today have an understanding of simple programming constructs like if-then-else, switch-case and while-do or do-until. And I'd really like to see numbers on how easy it is to teach people. That's so basic as to be BASIC. I have an inkling that your average primary school kid can pick up BASIC much faster than kids a few decades ago.

The difference between programmers and mechanics is that it's remarkably easier to learn programming.

It's not just matter of intelligence or abilities, it's also about practicality. Like you, I think many more people could become programmers, just like they could become mechanics. But if everyone were a programmer, it would be very difficult for anyone to sell themselves as a programmer. It's about supply and demand.


I mentioned the emergence of 3D printers in one of my earlier comments. It's still early days, but such developments, leading to "personal manufacturing" can also spur new waves of hobbyist programming. 3D printing could potentially be a much bigger draw because the results are tangible.

Unlike "programming VCRs", programming 3D printers could be made slightly more powerful by allowing, say, a BASIC like language. Certainly, 3D modelling tools have easy scripting languages, and the ones who program them do so for artistic purposes.

3D printers are just one area. There's just so many different and unexpected areas that probably don't even exist yet that could contribute to the trend.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

kwan_e,

"Do you need to jailbreak a smartphone in order to get programs into their App Stores? I don't understand why you are fixated on jailbreaking when it's hardly the main way for people to write programs for those devices."

If you want to open up programming to amateurs, then yea jailbreaking is necessary on apple's devices and certain androids which don't permit sideloading due to manufacturer/carrier prohibitions, and of course windows rt. I may be fixated on it, but it's still extremely relevant to a discussion of open programming. If we cannot program software for our own devices and our friends, then it's not an open computing platform. Maybe in the end you don't care much about that, but there's no denying it raises some barriers to programming.


I'd love to see apple open up the iphone/ipad/etc and allow users to program on them like the programmable calculators we used to use in high school. Remember those? We used to write & transfer programs directly on our calculators without the need to program on a separate computer and without developer keys or app stores. I'm sure that's too much to ask of apple, but that would certainly help open up programming.


"3D printers are just one area."

I like the example, but these things will also be programmed by a small fraction of the population and then multiplied in the millions. Again, I don't think it's because millions of people could never be smart enough to do programming, but rather that there's simply no need for millions of individual programmers when virtually everyone's work would be overlapping with everyone else. It might be like art, lots of people would enjoy doing it, but most could not make a career out of it.

There are thousands of examples we could use, but I want to make sure my point is getting across, which is that a relatively small set of programmers are going to be working on the programming/templates/manufacturing which gets copied (commercially or freely) to everyone else. The ability to copy software is so efficient that it can scale very easily without needing to hire programmers proportionally to market size. This small set of programmers might do well with royalties, but there will absolutely be fewer programming jobs than the jobs which were replaced by automation. Can I get clarification that you agree this would be the case?

Edited 2012-12-31 09:13 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2