This Book Isn’t For Every One

I love it when a book starts with a no-nonsense paragraph like this:

This book isn’t for everyone.

Not everyone needs to program computers. There is a popular myth that if you aren’t “computer literate,” whatever that means, then you’ll flunk out of college, you’ll never get a job, and you’ll be poor and miserable all your life. The myth is promoted by computer manufacturers, of course, and also by certain educators and writers.

The truth is that no matter how many people study computer programming in high school, there will still be only a certain number of programming jobs. When you read about “jobs in high-tech industry,” they’re talking mostly about manufacturing and sales jobs that are no better paid than any other manufacturing jobs. (Often, these days, those jobs are exported to someplace like Taiwan where they pay pennies a day.) It’s quite true that many jobs in the future will involve using computers, but the computers will be disguised. When you use a microwave oven, drive a recently built car, or play a video game, you’re using a computer, but you didn’t have to take a “computer literacy” course to learn how. Even a computer that looks like a computer, as in a word processing system, can be mastered in an hour or two.

This book is for people who are interested in computer programming because it’s fun.

I am spending part of my time teaching people programming for fun. So I have a lot to learn from this book. The fact that it is a series of three very relevant topics makes it even more interesting pursuit.

  • Symbolic Computing, a Logo programming text that concentrates on natural language processing rather than the graphics most people associate with Logo.
  • Advanced Techniques, in which discussions of more advanced Logo features alternate with sample projects using those features, with commentary on the structure and style of each.
  • Beyond Programming, brief introductions to six college-level computer science topics.