Thanks to a handful of nifty applications, most people consider modern day ‘computing’ to be the result of glamorous tech start startups, phrases that include ‘algorithms’ and some form of nebulous social media. The nuances and inner workings of actual computer science are lost on the casual computer user. Oddly enough, there was a time when the notion of computer science was in danger of losing its appeal to potential creators. Eventually, these creators became the very people who would build out the apps, services, and software many of us take for granted today.
Fortunately, many in the community never lost sight of the place computer science would hold in our future. Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Research, Jeannette Wing, was among those who fought for a continued interest in computer science. A little over a decade ago, Wing reached out to an undervalued community at the time, asking them to refresh their ideas of computer science. Her ‘Computational Thinking’ essay, challenged traditional notions of how computer science was being applied, fostering a conversation about what computer science could do in the future.
“Computational thinking is thinking recursively. It is parallel processing. It is interpreting the code as data and data as code. It is type checking as the generalization of dimensional analysis. It is recognizing both the virtues and the dangers of aliasing or giving someone or something more than one name. It is recognizing both the cost and power of indirect addressing and procedure call. It is judging a program not just for correctness and efficiency but for aesthetics, and a system’s design for simplicity and elegance.”
Wing’s essay proved forward thinking and almost ten years later, computer science has a working influence in almost every aspect of modern day living. Computer science now has roots ranging from, how farmers produce crops to the digital distribution of live entertainment. As the list of applications continue to grow, so does the amount of incorporated educational curriculum in schools and universities. The Association for Computing Machinery would like to honor Jeannette with their distinguished service award and recognize her as “a leader who has transformed the way the world views computing.” While honored by the award, Jeannette admits, “I literally said, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime,” according to TechNet.
Accompanying Wing’s recognition, as well as a rising tide of computer science interest, last week, Microsoft announced a donation of $10 million to the University of Washington to kickstart the construction of a second Computer Science & Engineering building. According to a UW professor, the University has more students encouraged about computer science than it has places to put them.