Friday, January 30, 2015

Information Technology, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering

Modern human thought likes to break disciplines into distinct categories. It seems to go back to Utlitarianism, and the foundations of modern science.

This becomes complicated when categorizing new disciplines, like computing. And so we have four disciplines, that twenty years ago still had significant overlap:

  1. Information Technology - In business, this is the group responsible for making sure that employees have computing hardware, for keeping the hardware running, for keeping the software up-to-date, maintaining the network, and securing the intranet.
  2. Computer Science - In academia, this is usually where software languages, the mathematics and theories behind software languages and information systems, and coding are put into practice.
  3. Electrical Engineering - In academia, this is the hardware perspective. Ohm's Law, circuit design, resistors, capacitors, transistors, semiconductors, solid-state circuitry. Also power, Radio Frequency communications, antennae.
  4. Computer Engineering - Twenty years ago, this was a new field. It seems to take the hardware knowledge of Electrical Engineering, and apply it specifically to computing equipment, perhaps combined with Computer Science.
Twenty years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, there was significant overlap between the fields. I knew several EE students whose campus job was working in the computer labs. C programming was part of my engineering curriculum, and I knew peers who took Java.

Every college student is going to find strengths and weaknesses within their discipline. Some subjects will be a struggle. Others will be exciting, and may seem to come naturally because the work of studying is so exciting. The key seems to be to play to those strengths, to what drives you to give your best.

When I enrolled, Computer Engineering was a brand new major. I was there just early enough that, on a technicality, I probably could have selected and been grandfathered into the older Electrical and Computer Engineering degree.

I chose not to do that, chose to stick with plain old EE. Perhaps another post, I'll spell out those reasons, though I feel like they run through every part of this blog. The short story is, if I had it to do over, I would encourage my younger self to do Computer Engineering, instead.

Here we are, twenty years later, and the borders between the above disciplines seem less permeable, more rigid, codified, and solid. When I was doing my Plan of Study for my Master's Degree, I kept looking at the ECE and CS offerings... and usually didn't find what I was looking for. Thankfully, resources for learning computing languages abound, from professional development classes, to MOOCs, to CodeCademy. All it takes is the time and persistence to complete them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

September 12, 2001

Last year, The Dance Company's recital theme was Heroes. The dances reflected all kinds of heroes, and even the Dads got in on it.

In the evening show, the Company dancers did two back-to-back pieces: September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001, that were very affecting. I still haven't found the music for the first one, but the second was Coldplay, "Fix You."

The September 12 choreography, reflected how people came together, to look out for each other. When "how are you doing?" was a standard greeting, and people understood if we weren't always at our best and happiest all the time. That there are some things so awful, that even professionals cry.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Breaking things

MIT Press has a book, "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing," (Title link goes straight to the book on Amazon) which discusses how family, education, and institutional barriers often keep Computer Science a women's field.  (Photo link below connects to my Amazon Associates account.)

A short synopsis is that boys are often encouraged to take things apart and "break things," while girls are often conditioned not to do that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How do you spend your time?

Now that my days are largely my own, this is becoming a significant question, that factors into the issues of time, money, gender.

As an undergraduate, I didn't have a computer of my own. I used the campus computer labs to write papers, code homework assignments. Most of the labs, I worked with hardware during the lab period, and not outside of it. In fact, the one exception to that "rule" was EE 207, Digital Logic, where purchasing the hardware was a required part of the class, and I could bring it home (or to the Band Lounge) and work on it anywhere.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reset, and a question for my readers

One of the reasons this blog has been quiet the past two months, is because I've been looking for a job. I got laid off last Friday, and am working on finding something new.

My hope for this interim is to post a short blog entry each day, probably around ~10 or 11 am Central time. Longer essays and posts will happen intermittently, just like before.

Right at this moment, the blog is advertisement-free. I had looked into monetizing the blog, but decided against it. I will be updating my Google AdSense soon, to change that. I also have had an Amazon Associates account, and will look into updating my book references with properly labeled Associates links. Don't feel pressured to click or buy right away. Right now, I'm in a good position for this job search.

Also in progress is a new "Resources" page, where I can link to organizations, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts of others active in Diversity-in-STEM research and education. If you know a resource to add to the list, please leave it in a comment.

So my posts can better help you, my readers, For the ~20-30 who have been semi-regular, what do you want to hear more about?

And for my new readers just discovering this blog, what would help you?