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Computer Science – reflections July 11, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, education, littlerockers, reminisces-1990s.

2 sentences that baffled me today :

1. Web search engines have become fixtures in our society, but few people realize that they are actually publicly accessible supercomputing systems, where a single query can unleash the power of several hundred processors operating on a data set of over 200 terabytes.

Thats coming from Randy Bryant, Dean, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

2. The year 2004 was the first year that human beings produced more transistors than grains of rice (~10 quintillion).

From Ed Lazowska, University of Washington and Chair, Computing Community Consortium

Reading more such facts and looking through the abstracts of the talks here you get feel for something that computer science is about and where it is going. And there is nothing like having an idea about the history of the field as well where it is going and where the medium term challenges lay (something to which I cannot make a claim). And then of course there is a need to make a distinction between Computer Science and Software Engineering (I am not talking about new programming languages).





Consider our Chemistry class in Class XI back in Little Rock, Brahmavar. We were taught Dalton’s model of the atom and then the next class we would told something was wrong with it and then Rutherford came along whom Bohr proved wrong and then great Max Planc along with other quantum physicists (which included Bohr himself) proved it all wrong or incomplete. It was amusing to see that much of the quantum theory developed even before the neutron was discovered (in 1934). I remember thinking what was point of learning about everything that was already proven wrong and incorrect. That science is a thought process rather than a mere set of facts or theories was something that missed me.

I am interested in education and make no secret of it. No, not just in the process of educating myself, but in looking back critically at my own education from primary school in early 90s. As a Computer Science student in high school and secondary school, our idea of the field of the Computer Science was rather limited – the science was often confused with programing and technology. I don’t know if things are too different today.

In fact I don’t consider myself much of a CS person, nor infact an EE person. Hence for those who still don’t know what I am talking about, this entry will be useful. (Try finding the word “C++”/”Java” on that page 🙂 )



1. Abhinav - July 12, 2007

lol. If you are not a CS person, nor an EE person, what do you consider yourself then??

And I share your feelings regarding education. The most baffling lecture I have ever had was when I learnt 3-4 years ago about the dual nature of waves & particles. It made me feel like so why were we taught that electrons were particles during O-levels if they can behave like waves too?

And the same goes for CS. I used to equate it with programming and nothing else. Learning about Data Structures last semester opened my eyes!

Interesting post:)

2. Sharath Rao - July 12, 2007

I guess I am somewhere in between – my formal training of core CS – DS, compilers, OS, software design, program checking etc. is nearly zero.

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