Posted by paul on Mon, 06/07/2004 - 9:37am.
people still hand-make barrel staves and hand tools out of raw materials. It's just that those of us in mainstream life generally don't need to know how to do that sort of thing. Same thing applies to mainframes and such- yes, I could learn to use 1980s technology, but why? It's sufficient to me tha the people who are truly interested in such things study them and are proficient in them. Then when I need one of them, I pay them what they're worth to come in and apply that specialized knowledge.

I used to have this argument with my engineering profs all the time regarding calculators that could do calculus. My point was (and still is) that when you get into the real world, nobody does integration or statistics or any of that stuff by hand, they use a computer. And generally speaking, they get the guy next to them to check their work so they don't make mistakes. So this bit about making engineering students take Differential Equations and such, and be able to calculate these horribly complex things by hand? Absolutely needless. Even Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein used to complain loudly about having to slog through equations manually and run the risk of a missed decimal or some such, and bemoaned the fact that they didn't have machines to do it for them. Hello?!? These guys were mathematicians! Why would an engineer need to be able to manually do all this shit when even the pros say they shouldn't?

The argument that I always got back? "Well, what if your computer is down? What if the power goes off? What if your calculator breaks? What if there isn't already a program out there to do what you need?"

My answer: "If the computer is down and the power is off, the office is going to be closed. If my calculator breaks I can borrow one or buy a new one. If the program doesn't exist I'll hire a mathematician and a programmer to make one."

Yes, I should be able to come up with a first-order approximation so I can roughly check their answers myself, but beyond that? No. I trust them to know this shit so I don't have to.

And that applies to old computer systems as well.

It's well we cannot hear the screams
we make in other peoples' dreams.
--Edward Gorey
Your name:
Anne Onymous
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