Archive for July 19, 2012
“Everyone pretends.” My favorite piece that I’ve read on Turing in honor of his Centenary. Ian has a wonderful insight into what’s powerful about Turing’s work.
But the computer itself reveals another example of pretense for Turing, thanks to his own theory of abstract computation and its implementation in the device known as the Turing machine. In the form Turing proposed, this machine is a device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape. Through simple instructions like move forward, erase, write, and read, such a machine can enact any algorithm — and indeed, the design of modern CPUs is based directly on this principle.
Unlike other sorts of machines, the purpose of a Turing machine is not to carry out any specific task like grinding grain or stamping iron, but to simulate any other machine by carrying out its logic through programmed instructions. A computer, it turns out, is just a particular kind of machine that works by pretending to be another machine. This is precisely what today’s computers do–they pretend to be calculators, ledgers, typewriters, film splicers, telephones, vintage cameras and so much more.
Nice piece in Time on the lack of computing education in the United States. In particular, I like that Jane Margolis takes on the myth that students will just learn it on their own without support. That’s thinking that prevents broadening participation in computing
Not every kid has those advantages.
“There is this assumption that if you have this innate talent and you’re drawn to it, you’ll learn it on your own and you don’t really need it at school,” says Jane Margolis, senior researcher at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and author of Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing. “Kids that have a lot of resources at home, often with parents with a lot of technical know-how and access to software, people look at them and say ‘Oh, they just take to it.’”
In 2010, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the percentage of computer workers in Silicon Valley that were black or Latino stood at 1.5% and 4.7%, respectively. Girls Who Code, an organization that encourages teen girls to pursue opportunities in technology, points out that only 14% of undergraduate computer science degrees are earned by women.