The Value of Old Textbooks

2014-12-16 04:07:00 UTC

I read a great article on NPR recently entitled “When Woman Stopped Coding”. The article made the point that gender norms and nerd culture of the ‘80s excluded girls and created an unfair advantage for boys by the time they showed up for their freshman year as computer scientists.

One particularly interesting part of the article:

"I remember this one time I asked a question and the professor stopped and
looked at me and said, 'You should know that by now,' " she recalls ...

In the '70s, that never would have happened ...

This situation is still true today for many people who enter tech at an older age, especially woman. If you were not around when the digital revolution started, you have a lot to catch up on. This is enough to drive away many people from ever becoming programmers.

Despite how fast the industry moves forward, I recently surprised myself when I read an old textbook related to assembly languagee for the z80 microprocessor .

A 34 year old textbook that is still useful.

The book made no assumptions about what the reader knew about computers, because it came from a time when barely anyone knew how a computer worked. It explained the difference between bits and bytes, assembly versus high level languages and a multitude of other concepts that a new programmer today might be expected to “know by now”.

By the end of the book, it was covering topics that are advanced even by today’s standards.

As a learner, one must always challenge assumptions. As a teacher, one must build complex understanding from simple parts. There is still a lot to learn from the past, even in a forward facing field such as computing.