Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 258. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2018-12-08 16:08:47+00:00 From: Jeffrey Savoye
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.253: teaching coding As an English major who ended up in a 30+ year career as a computer programmer (mostly mainframe COBOL), perhaps an incident from my own history will be of minor interest. Having found, to my sad surprise, that employers were not eager to hire me, with my freshly minted BS degree in English, I decided to go back to school to learn about computers. Initially, my idea was to become a technical writer on subjects related to computers, but it turned out that I had a knack for programming, which had greater opportunities and generally better pay. At first, it was all very confusing, and I still vividly remember sitting in a chair in my parents' front yard on a warm Spring day, reading a section of the book we were following for my introductory course to COBOL, feeling quite lost and wondering if I had made some terrible mistake. Suddenly, as if a light turned on, a small point unexpectedly made sense. I realized that although the line in COBOL read MOVE FLD-A TO FLD-B, the value after the command was executed was in both FLD-A and FLD-B (so that it was really more of a copy than a move, a point that now seems painfully obvious but was not so prior to that realization). From that moment on, it started to make sense (until we got to table handling, which never really made sense until I actually began working and made regular use of the feature in meaningful applications). Hoping for a little forgiveness in saying so forthrightly, I have been a very good programmer, evidenced by the fact that I have tended to be the lead on most projects to which I was assigned and being the person sought out to solve the most challenging problems. When asked why I am such a good programmer, I usually say that it is, somewhat ironically, due to my background and training in the humanities, which gave me a good grounding in logic and weighing various ideas of somewhat intangible merit while searching for an ideal outcome, or at least a practical one. (It also helps that my communication skills are useful in obtaining, clarifying and understanding requirements, and appreciating the important distinctions inherent in situations where nuance and shades of meaning have significant variances in application.) Another point I will note is that I have always been willing to help my fellow students, when I was studying, and my fellow workers, since entering the professional world, and there is nothing for learning quite like working out problems and trying to explain things to others. Along with the previously mentioned "The computer does [blindly and precisely] what you tell it to do, not [necessarily] what you want it to do," my motto has always been that it is good to learn from your own mistakes, but even better to learn from the mistakes of others. Programming is a humbling business. If one cannot tolerate taking risks and making mistakes, it would be best to pursue something else. The good news is that most of our mistakes can be corrected and that many of our worst errors need never see the light of day. Jeffrey A. Savoye The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore https://www.eapoe.org _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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