Three times per week I get a summary of news items related to computing from the <a href=’http://www.acm.org’>ACM</a>. There are always many more interesting things to read about than I have time. But just by scanning the headlines, I’m always struck by the wide range and potentially big impact of the stories. <a href=’http://technews.acm.org/archives.cfm?fo=2007-02-feb/feb-14-2007.html’>Yesterday’s list</a> is a great example. There were articles on ‘Software Patch Could Improve Car Engine Efficiency’ and ‘Speech Recognition Technology Will Change the Way You Drive.’ Nice examples of the positive impact of software on lives. And then there were articles on ‘I.B.M. Reports a Speed Record for a Type of Computer Memory’ and ‘Start-Up Demos Quantum Computer’. We almost take for granted the incredibly consistent rate at which computing technology has improved for many decades. But here’s the thing — the people who can ride this wave of ever-improving technology the best, are people who deeply understand the issues and potential of computing. For example, to understand the intellectual and commercial implications of nearly free memory, or incredibly fast memory, it helps to have a deep understanding of the role of memory and data in applications. And to understand and exploit the potential of quantom computing (and boy is that a paradigm buster, if it works!), it really helps to understand algorithms, complexity theory, computability theory — all the things CS majors study. So that’s why reading the (computing) news is exiting to me.
By the way, our own Dr. Vicky Choi is on leave and working this year at the company that announced the quantum computer breakthrough.