Old School vs. New School (FORTRAN style)


Slide1I remember the Commodore 64. Too cool for school and WAY ahead of its time because no one had ever heard of computers in the home. The classes I took in computer programming when I was in eighth grade and high school included BASIC, COBAL, and FORTRAN. Today the modern programming languages have awesome names like Java and Python. New software today is a common marketplace entrepreneur’s invention, not a highly scientific endeavor brought about by a team of lab techs. Backdoors used to be sacrosanct to programmers fixing issues and now they are convenient utility features built in for people who have forgotten their passwords. Computer games used to be words on the screen that a user made choices about, not interactive video reality simulations. If we wanted video interaction we went to a video arcade or played on the (also new) Atari home system where a joystick was the only real interface.

In today’s world where computers are more common than television sets and new apps can be downloaded for a few dollars, we have distanced ourselves from the beginnings of the Mobility Age that started thirty years ago. The dangers of computing progress include forgetting the preceding knowledge base of original programming practices.

Designer viruses and spyware have risen in droves over the last ten years, as have the software packages to protect home computers and “clean up” programming that can debug and fix many common program networking issues. While the IT world has rapidly advanced, the “Old school” contingent of programmers still remains. Large companies and software start-ups have invested quite a bit in designing their own systems and, at times, system languages. It matters a bit more these days which environments an IT person has worked in, (aka. “Whose programming are you familiar with?”), than that an IT person knows a certain set of computer languages common across units. The scary part of this scenario is that while “Old school” computer languages may be almost dead, the “New School” IT people may not be aware of the damage that old programming languages and scripting could incur on systems too far removed from where computing started to become part of everyday life. History cannot afford to repeat itself, but history cannot be forgotten or we endanger our progress.

My generation spans the gap. We remember where today came from and we live in the present with an eye toward the future. In fifty more years, there may not be anything left of “Old school” programming knowledge other than moldy records kept in academic archives. I find it is sad to think that only thirty years have passed, and BASIC, COBALT, and FORTRAN are already ancient historical artifacts. “Old school” is still around and “New school” is the cool school, but our future keeps moving forward. In the world of IT and computing the dinosaurs are fossilizing and the planet may have lost precious information that could create a deficiency in knowledge regrettable to maintaining our evolutions.




Follow The Leader

When we were children, there was a game we played called “Follow The Leader”.  I remember that “walk behind me, do what I do and say what I say,” were the rules I was taught in this game.  The childhood rules of “Follow the Leader” no longer apply. As adults we all make decisions day in and day out on many levels. We are both leaders and followers. To cry the start of “Follow The Leader” is an abdication of adult choice.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is an old parental adage. The Urban Dictionary states that this phrase is “An expression used to call out hypocrites…” I see this as a definitive of the difference in “Follow the Leader” and being “taught”.  Neither idea sits too well in the adult world unless we have agreed to be tutored in certain ways to learn certain things that we wish to understand for our own purposes.

Adults learn because they decide to learn, not because they are “taught”. This is a major difference in adults and children. If a child follows another child into a bad or dangerous situation, they were mislead and innocent of understandings. If adults allow a leader to place them in a difficult situation, they chose the wrong leader or they have agreed to the difficulties. There is a tacit agreement that adults are responsible to some degree of their own.  Our legal system has laws based on this basic understanding.

We need leaders and, more often, we choose to follow those leaders whom will listen to us, agree with us, and serve our own purposes by taking care of the positions that will carry the responsibility required to support our endeavors. However, I think we have forgotten the lessons of childhood that made us willing to play “Follow The Leader” in the first place. Those who have something to teach us cannot leave instruction behind for others without people willing to learn. Those who wish us to trust them at times need us to remember what “Follow The Leader” used to mean.

As an adult, I choose to understand to learn what others are willing to teach insofar as the knowledge is beneficial in some way to my own endeavors. I also choose that 100% trust in someone else is foolish and never trusting someone else is to lose the capability of learning and living with others.  I choose when I will follow and when I will not.

If we are to have a future as adults, we must admit to our own responsibility and to what we have learned from childhood.  Each of us has our own answers about these things. There will always be times to lead and times to follow. Choices remain. In a day and time when leaders are difficult to find or believe in, perhaps we should not “Follow The Leader” but remember what we have been “taught”.  As long as freedoms remain, choices will be our responsibility.