|Issue Number 10||
Looking BackThe first electronic digital computers were developed starting in the late 1930s, and first became commercially available in the early 1950s. Douglas Engelbart was a navy radar technician 1944–1946. In 1955 he earned a doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkley. Thus, his background and early career were solidly entrenched in both the practice and theory of analog and digital electronics.
Engelbart’s early work contributed significantly to the development of
interactive online computing, the Internet, and the discipline of
human-machine interface. Nowadays, we take bit-mapped graphics,
networks, the Internet, and various aspects of human-machine
interface—such as the mouse and touch screens—for granted. Our children
grow up with these facilities, and they learn to use them with little
or not formal education or training in school.
Looking at More Current Times
Looking into the Future
Year by year, computer systems are getting better. Many of their uses
require very little formal education. A GPS system provides an
excellent example. It no longer takes “higher” math and learning to use
complex instruments to be able to find out where you are and how to get
to where you want to go.
The human-machine interface problem is being worked on by a lot of very smart, well educated, and well-trained people. Voice output from a computer is commonplace, and voice input is becoming more and more useful. Direct stimulation of nerves (including neurons) by computer systems is no longer uncommon, and direct control of computers by one’s thoughts is making progress. And, think about how a user provides input to a computer when using a Wii game.
Moreover, an increasing part of the totality of human knowledge is being codified in a form to aid in its retrieval and use. Both people and machines are involved in retrieving and using knowledge stored in computer systems. The computer systems are gradually getting smarter in helping people to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Much of this effort is directed toward providing computer systems that people can learn to use without the benefit of formal coursework on using a particular computer tool.
However, reading, writing, creativity, and higher-order thinking and problem solving are still indispensible. For most people, this means that many years of formal schooling—along with continued learning after one leaves school—are still indispensible.
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