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Computer science in high school?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Computer science has advanced considerably since the first computer programming language was developed in the 1950s. Instead of using punch cards to communicate with large mainframes, coders now work on personal computers, enjoy user-friendly programming languages, and have access to extensive libraries that include algorithms for many common operations.


Here are some of the highlights from the history of computer science from 1953 – 2016:
1953 – The first computer language, COBOL, is created.
1977 – Jobs and Wozniak incorporate Apple.
1985 – Microsoft announces Windows.
1998 – Google is founded.
1999 – WiFi is introduced.
2004 – Facebook is launched.
2007 – Apple introduces the smart phone and app developers flourish.
2016 – The first reprogrammable quantum computer is created.

During this period, Gordon Moore (Intel), Steve Jobs (Apple Computer), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Steve Case (AOL), Larry Page (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and many others made fortunes using zeros and ones to process and store information.

In 2017, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced development of a new “Molecular Informatics” program that moves data processing and storage to the molecular level. Instead of using zeros and ones these molecular computers would use qualities like size, orientation, and color to process and store massive amounts of data.

If the molecular approach to computing is accepted, computer science would likely shift from a discipline within electrical engineering to a specialty of chemical engineering. In addition, there would no longer be a need for traditional circuit boards and other computer components. Most, if not all, of the current computer programming languages would be obsolete.

With the possibility of such a radical change, one wonders how education needs to morph to prepare our children for the new paradigm. Sadly, it is impossible to predict the exact direction technology will take. As a result, it is impossible for schools to develop a curriculum that provides the perfect preparation for the workplace.

Rather than trying to chase each new advance, it is probably best to encourage children to build an strong understanding of foundational subjects like chemistry, physics, biology, reading, writing, speaking, and creative problem solving. This way they will have the building blocks to adapt whether computer science is electrical, biological, chemical, or some blend.

Strange as it may seem, basic is better when the pace of technological change accelerates.

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