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2002 Aug 26 18:03

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Re: [vox] [OT] Learning to program
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Re: [vox] [OT] Learning to program



On Mon, Aug 26, 2002 at 10:53:55AM -0700, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:
> begin Joel Baumert <kender@geeksource.net> 
> > On Mon, Aug 26, 2002 at 12:13:25AM -0700, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:
> > > begin Matthew Johnson <matthew@psychohorse.com> 
> > > > On Sunday 25 August 2002 13:38, Micah Cowan wrote:
> > > > > matthew johnson writes:
> > >  
> > > i guess i'm the poster child for doing it yourself.  never took a CS
> > > class in my life.
> > 
> > When would a tree data structure be better than a hashed data structure?
> 
> but joel, that was my point.  i learn when the need arises.  that's the
> fundamental process of a person who learns on his own.
[...]

I disagree here.  Your examples here show the difference between
theory and application.  With the exception of spinlock verses
semaphore you are talking about application specific topics that
a programmer is going to have to learn in each situation.

There is a basic level of knowledge that I would expect from a
hire at Z-World.  I expect them to have a certain level of 
general knowledge about the field like the trade offs between
hashes, trees, lists, etc.  I also expect them to have competency
in specific skills and application domains like knowing the C
language.  For a software engineering position, I don't want
to have to explain link lists or how to program in C.  I want
someone that will take a look a design proposal and be able
to discuss the relative merits and choices that can be made.

I think many people can look up how to initialize the GTK+
library, but the same people are going to have a hard time 
understanding the distinctions between spin locks and semaphores
without some breadth of knowledge that most people would have
a problem finding on the Internet.  If you do a search on
spin lock good lucking finding a definition.  I glanced
through the OS books that I have and they didn't mention
it either, though I do remember it being talked about in
one of my OS classes.

I am not knocking learning on your own, but giving some
guidelines for learning that will make sense for different
goals.  If you want to be a professional software engineer
it is getting more difficult to do that without a degree.

Possible, but more difficult, especially with the bubble
bursted.

> but remember -- this is your JOB.  it's my PAST TIME.  i do it simply
> out of the sheer enjoyment.

I think that we are pretty much saying the same thing.  I 
suspect you would be board silly in the basic C courses, but
you might get something out of the data structures and 
algorithm courses that would help your past time.  When
the past time becomes a career then it may be a different
matter.  Your physics degree gives you a leg up because
it shows that you can problem solve and have probably been
exposed to computers over someone without a degree when
you are looking for a job.

> my assertion is this: while i may not have the depth of knowledge you
> have, i can read books.  i can use google.  i can post to vox-tech.  i
> enjoy learning new things.  that would make me a valuable programmer,
> whether i have formal education or not.
> 
> and to be fair to me, i've met quite a few CS undergrads who don't like
> what they do.  comparing notes, i'm a MUCH better programmer than these
> people who are formally educated.  and believe it or not, i have quite a
> lot of experience which you yourself don't have.  my breadth of
> programming knowledge is quite large.

Absolutely.  There was (probably is) an easy path to a CS degree 
at Davis, where you do the minimum necessary to graduate.  That
person will probably not make a good programmer because they
don't have either the spark or acquired the knowledge that
was offered to them.  

> 
> joel, i'd be the LAST person to dis formal education.  look at me.
> i wouldn't have been in college so damned long if i felt differently.
> 
> however, i would be the first to say that desire is the mother of
> the good.

Agreed.  You have to love to tinker and have a high tolerance
for frustration to program.  I saw many people in the CS program
that did not have either trait and are probably not programmer
now (5 years later).

Joel
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