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I was reading The Guardian today and ran across a striking article[^] about women in computer science. It takes me back to the 1980s, when I worked for Interdata, a company that used to build minicomputers.
In the computer center, most of the operators were women. One of the women complained to me about one of the utility programs she had to frequently use. When she asked for modifications, she was belittled and denied. She asked me for help, but I was behind schedule on my project at the time. Instead, I had been helping her with her computer science homework, I suggested that she modify the source code. She did and logged it into the library. I countersigned as the "supervising engineer." The new version began shipping with all new computers and was included in the software maintenance update.
Then the problems began. Customers complemented Interdata on the improvement. Only then did management realize that the utility had been updated. Because of government contracts, all software updates had to be signed by the "responsible engineer", that is, the engineer who actually did the work. She did not have the title of "engineer". I, as "supervising engineer", refused to modify the release document, citing the IEEE Code of Ethics which the company officially supported.
This went on for several weeks. There was a government delivery approaching, which would include a software library audit. I suggested that, since she had the skills and would soon receive her bachelor's degree, that she be promoted. I was told that the idea would never fly. Guess what? Just before the delivery, senior management promoted her to Junior Engineer.
Guess what also happened.... I was in deep political hot water. I did stay with the company through several name changes for the next six years.
From the article, however, nothing much has changed in the past forty years!
Guess a better name for InterData would have been InterDit
At my company things were quite (or maybe too) relaxed, until we had to certify for the ISO 9001, we expect to finish it in the next couple of weeks.
My favorite Interdata/Perkin-Elmer memory is when for several months a coworker and I managed to keep the documentation and software folks working at cross-purposes. We found a slight difference between a program and the documentation for that program, and kept sending in requests; his asked that the software be changed to match the documentation, mine that the documentation be changed to match the software. For six months, each was changed to match what the other said or did, which meant they no longer matched again. Apparently after that stretch, either one of the groups failed to change it, or the two groups finally talked to each other. I do have fond memories of the day when we got our first 8/32, and thinking that we'd never fill up 256K of RAM!
I started at Interdata and was assigned a first-floor office. Interdata became the Data System Division of Perkin-Elmer and I continued to occupy the same office. Perkin-Elmer spun off the Data System Division to form Concurrent Computer and I continued to occupy that same office.
I finally left that office to join another company as it was becoming obvious that Concurrent Computer was not succeeding in the marketplace due to competition from that new-fangled product, the IBM PC which put a whole, standalone (no networking, modem or anything else) computer on your desk which, if you had enough rank, came with two 5.25 inch floppy drives and maybe a dot-matrix printer....
My name is Pawel and I wanted to ask about your feedback on an idea I'm trying to bring to life now: startertasks.com.
It is going to be a platform, where people could learn through contributions to Open Source. The idea is simple: there are people who need help with their OS projects, don’t have the time to tackle all of feature requests, bugs etc. On the other hand, there are people who are entering the tech world and might want to gain some experience and/or learn a specific technology. Those two groups could work together. Project authors (actually anyone who is interested in getting a certain bug or feature implemented) could create tasks (e.g. in a form of a GitHub issue) with some extra context, mark the issue with a tag which describes the level of complexity (easy, medium, hard) and commit to answer relevant questions (how to configure your dev env, maybe some questions about the technology), do code reviews etc. Such tasks could be picked up by someone who e.g. is interested in learning a particular technology, but might need some help to get started.
I’m looking for people who would like to learn in such a way, or just simply need a list of Github issues they could use for practicing their skills or learning something new. If you are interested - please have a look at the website and leave your email so I can reach out to you. Also, feel free to pick up any tasks highlighted on the webpage
If you have any comments about this project, please let me know. I’m interested in all feedback
Yup - I've seen this. One way it could be improved, is adding the difficulty levels.
When I was talking to some friends who are starting their journey with programming, they pointed to this as a crucial feature.
We connect Open Source project maintainers with people who want to gather more experience in coding.
However, this is incredibly difficult. I have several OS projects, most of which I've written articles about here, and to date I've had a total of 2 contributors. Conversely, I've also forked several OS projects but never contributed myself to any of them.
Also, I'm not really too keen on wanting inexperienced people making contributions -- that can easily lead to my spending more time getting the code up to snuff (or flat out rejecting it) than working on the project myself.
So...I think the idea is fantastic, I've just never been able to figure out how to build the bridge to attract people that want to (and are capable of) contributing to a project. So, I wish you the very best of success -- if you can figure out how to succeed at this, I will sing your praises!
That, and I'll poke around more and see about adding one of my projects to your site.
Thanks for feedback! Things you have highlighted are I think the biggest challenges.
Regarding contributions from inexperienced people: I think it depends on kind of tasks you have in your projects. If there is a really small problem with UI or documentation, this could be handled probably by someone without much experience. On the other hand if you need help with some complicated logic, probably only someone senior would be able to do it.
I guess ideally it would be possible to "ramp up" fairly junior people through a series of issues, starting with something really simple and ending with more complicated things. Time will show how this will work out
If you have a project which you would like to add - feel free to send it my way!
And if you saw that on a code review you'd start swearing!
Worse, it propagates through subfunctions until another On Error is met - so you may never know that your code failed a hundred calls deep. It just continues as if the error line had not existed until it becomes totally impossible to ignore by which time the actual source of the error well and truly forgotten; the method may not even be in the call stack any more! And by then your DB is horribly corrupt ...
Sent from my Amstrad PC 1640 Never throw anything away, Griff
Bad command or file name. Bad, bad command! Sit! Stay! Staaaay...
AntiTwitter: @DalekDave is now a follower!
I've seen pretty much exactly that at one of the companies I worked at.
Ok, it wasn't every line of code, but every method at least (and sometimes multiple per method).
And yes, it was VB.NET (but no On Error Resume Next, it only had a few of those)