The Image of Computing

Computer scientists are doing a lot of self-analysis these days. ‘Why are so few students interested in studying CS?’ ‘What are the big questions CS should be answering?’ ‘How can we better explain what we do?’ Lots of discussion, hopefully with some good results for our field and for the world (see for a recent contribution to the discussion — there is plenty of useful propaganda there if you are considering CS as a major or a profession).

In fact, computer scientists have done relatively little of this kind of thinking during the short history of the field. I don’t remember worrying too much about the image of computing when I got into this business 20-some years ago. There were too many interesting things to learn and do to have time to worry about image. In some sense the field has been too young to ask and answer these kinds of questions. We’re still establishing our place in the world of science and engineering. And most of the people in the field have themselves been relatively young, busy establishing careers and moving at internet pace to create, innovate, solve problems, and build cool things. So it’s pretty interesting to watch now that we have both the people and the motivation to step back and address these big high-level questions.

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