“The death of computing” & “Demise of computer science exaggerated”

The following two articles appeared on the British Computer Society web page over the past few weeks.

“The death of computing” by Neil McBride

“Demise of computer science exaggerated” by Keith Mander

The first article was written 22 January 2007 by Neil McBride, a principal lecturer in the School of Computing at De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.

The second is a response, posted in February 2007 by Keith Mander, Chair of the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing in the United Kingdom and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Kent.

McBride takes a generally dim view of things…

So where does that leave computing departments in universities? Do we pull up the drawbridge of the castle of computational purity and adopt a siege mentality: a band of brothers fighting to the last man? Or do we recognise that the discipline is dying if not actually dead, and breathing shallowly.

Hmmm… Seems as silly as suggesting that because cars are a commodity, we no longer need automative engineering departments or automotive engineers (or mechanical engineers for that matter). Does the manner in which we train software engineers need to shift? Absolutely. Is the field shutting down? Not a chance. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on all the software systems the world will ultimately know. And the remaining pool of fundamental research questions in computing is huge and growing.

Prof. Mander’s rebuttal is well-written and thoughtful…

Suggestions that the teaching of computer science in universities is about to fade away are premature. While it is certainly true that applications for undergraduate courses in computer science have fallen by about 50 per cent since 2001, its value to the graduate remains as strong as ever, and will be so for the foreseeable future.

For those playing in the software industry at any level, I recommend these two articles — the first because it is thought-provoking, the second because it is balanced and rational. The issue of declining enrollments in CS is huge, especially for those of us who make our living training those majors. But the issue is even more critical to an industry that is once again expanding rapidly while university enrollments languish.

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