Re: Putative inability to program

Subject: Re: Putative inability to program
From: Patrick O'Connell <titanide -at- MICRO -dot- ORG>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 10:40:07 -0500

I must protest Robert Plamondon's implied assertion that anyone who can
learn how to use a computer (including the legions who never, ever thought
they could) can learn to program one. Danger! Semantic Minfield Ahead!

1) "Use a computer" has an incredible range of meanings in today's
high-tech workplace (was that sentence straight from the mouth of a
no-brain talking-head news anchor, or what?). I once taught my mother how
to enter data in dBase III+ to help out my curling-enthusiast stepfather,
who was the membership Grand Poobah that year. But (and this was, I
suppose, my first tech-writing experience) I had to write PRECISE
instructions for her. She had no problems until she hit a snag --
whereupon she called me to ask for help. The problem had nothing to do
with dBase III and was nothing *I* hadn't seen before. I knew what to do,
but there's no way (this being DOS) that she could have known.

Now, my mother is a very intelligent woman but not the least, but
conservative to the point of tunnel vision (she's 51 and grew up in
Western Canada). She had absolutely no interest in learning DOS, PC
hardware basics, etc., much less programming!

2) One of the most common reasons I know of that people claim they could
never learn programming is simple lack of confidence. I'm sure there are
hundreds of administrative assistants, factory workers, welfare recipients
out there who unknowingly are BRILLIANT programmers; they have the
necessary aptitudes but not the CONFIDENCE. In theory they could program
but in practice, they're as hampered as someone who doesn't have the
necessary aptitudes. What I'm trying to say is that "X can't program"
*also* has a wide variety of meanings.

titanide -at- micro -dot- org

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