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United States Education Government Microsoft Politics

K-12 CS Efforts Earn Microsoft CEO Ringside Seat For State of the Union Address 117

theodp writes: When President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, the White House reports that the inspiring individuals seated with the First Lady will include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "Microsoft has been a leader in expanding access to computer science in K-12 classrooms," explains the White House, perhaps unaware that the company reportedly struck a deal to kill BASIC on Macs in 1985 and stopped including BASIC on PCs after Windows 95. Ironically, Microsoft now laments that girls began to stop seeing themselves as coders after 1984, which gave rise to the need for today's Microsoft-led national K-12 CS intervention. "Girls don't see other girls programming," Microsoft explained in 2013, "so they just don't know that it's available to them." So, is there such a thing as corporate Munchausen syndrome by proxy?
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K-12 CS Efforts Earn Microsoft CEO Ringside Seat For State of the Union Address

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:13AM (#51276995)
    Let this be known that nasty little boys regardless of their skin color will be unable to pursue any such training. Because that's progress! /sarc
  • by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:15AM (#51277001)
    Lobbying can buy your front row seats.
    • Front row seat? Hell. It wasn't that long ago that it got you an overnight stay in the Lincoln bedroom.

  • I can't believe you're bitching about BASIC going away. Get a life.

    -jcr

    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:31AM (#51277069) Homepage

      GOTO hell!

    • BASIC going away and having to pay for a development system for the computer directly impacted many would-be young programmers, and pretending that it did not is pure foolishness. Events of twenty or thirty years ago regularly affect us in the present. Microsoft gained its position and holds it through inertia; you don't think there are lasting repercussions from making it harder to get into programming?

      • You didn't have to pay for a development system. At the time MS offered Visual Basic Express for free (and still does AFAIK). And python was/is free, and probably a better teaching language anyway. I know you guys hate teaching kids programming because you think they are going to steal your job, but really you complain about the dumbest things. You should be complaining about manufacturers turning computers into walled gardens, which is much more harmful for all of us.
        • At the time MS offered Visual Basic Express for free (and still does AFAIK

          They do NOW, since 2005, but they didn't THEN. Or if they did, citation needed.

          • VBS (Visual Basic Scripting) came as a free Windows-based programming environment (especially if you wanted command-line utilities) and was available with a minimal editor as far back as I'v been playing with Windows Server (1996 I think).

          • They even had a version before that called QBasic and even came on the Windows 95 CD if you looked for it. I don't remember anytime that Windows was without a Basic interpreter. Ridiculous.
    • You're an idiot. The company that is bitching about not enough coders contributed to the decline of coders by not including BASIC with Windows.
      • The company that is bitching about not enough coders contributed to the decline of coders by not including BASIC with Windows.

        What are you talking about? It was on the Windows 95 CD, on the Windows 98 CD and on the Windows NT CD. By the time it stopped being included with Windows installations you had VBScript instead but you could also easily download qbasic from Microsoft.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      BASIC may not be an ideal language, but it had two advantages: it was fairly easy to learn, and it used to be there by default.

      Being burnt into the firmware or installed with the OS offers one huge advantage. The beginner developer didn't have to choose amongst different languages, and worry about making the wrong choice. I suspect that this is a large part of the appeal of web development a decade later. Any computer with a web browser had HTML and JavaScript installed by default.

    • GOSUB pergatory
  • by Anonymous Coward

    C# is a much better language than the ones we've seen developed by open source projects.

    The interesting thing about C# is that it's simple enough for beginners to use and understand with ease, yet it's still powerful enough to use when developing large-scale software systems.

    We can't say that about Perl. Perl is an absolute misery for beginners, and it commonly results in indecipherable messes even when used by professionals for small scripts.

    We can't say that about PHP. PHP can be used by beginners, but th

    • You know that C# is Java knock off.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      C# is a bottom feeder's language. For power and generality there is no substitute for C++.

      • How interesting. The educated folks usually hold up C and usually disdain C++. If however you're going for "power of expression" argument then, you should be holding up Assembly. Of course probably for the same reason you did not, is the same reason people use C# and Java.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:26AM (#51277047)

    I've seen in a long time:

    "Girls don't see other girls programming," Microsoft explained in 2013, "so they just don't know that it's available to them."

    I think any commentary I add is likely to just detract from the awesomely stupid essence of that last quote. They don't know it's available to them? What the hell does that even mean?

    • Did Grace Murray Hopper see other girls programming?

      OTOH, she invented you-know-what so maybe it would have been better if she had been discouraged.

    • They don't know it's available to them? What the hell does that even mean?

      I think it means "PC load letter".

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      I think any commentary I add is likely to just detract from the awesomely stupid essence of that last quote. They don't know it's available to them? What the hell does that even mean?

      A lot of girls emulate other girls and women, just as a lot of boys emulate other boys and men, to fit in. It isn't a rule, since there are definitely exceptions, but the shortage of female role models would have a negative impact.

      That being said, computer science isn't exactly a popular field for boys either. It's simply popular enough that male outliers have managed to dominate the field.

      • It's a misogynistic industry, "geek" culture in general seems to be. For a painfully obvious example you have to look no further than the absurd passions demonstrated via the Gamersgate non-sense. While at university, our department was dominated by male student, we would have loved to see girls join ACM. One common thread ran through most of us males I found. We tended to be inspired into the computer science by video games, probably the most toxic to female sub-interests in geekdom.
    • And this, dear readers, is why we can't talk about mental illness online [slashdot.org]. Or gender differences. Or racial differences [wikipedia.org]. Or religious differences [cnn.com].

      Anyone who is *actually biased* uses descriptive language that picks out one side or the other.

      Therefore, any descriptive language that picks one side or the other necessarily means the writer is actually biased.

      And this is why we can't talk about inequalities or differences, online or in person. Whenever someone tries to point out differences they are labelled as

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Yep. In other words, reverse-isms are now one of the main weapons used by those who want to prevent others from talking about -isms.

  • Let it go already (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:29AM (#51277057) Homepage

    perhaps unaware that the company reportedly struck a deal to kill BASIC on Macs in 1985 and stopped including BASIC on PCs after Windows 95.

    Perhaps the author is unaware that those events were 30 and 20 years ago respectively.

    • The event 30 years ago still has effects 30 years after said event, and the event 20 years ago still has effects 20 years after said event. These K-12 CS efforts are an attempt to undo the damage of the events 30 and 20 years ago.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The event 30 years ago still has effects 30 years after said event, and the event 20 years ago still has effects 20 years after said event. These K-12 CS efforts are an attempt to undo the damage of the events 30 and 20 years ago.

        With comments like that, I'm wondering what the mental health landscape is going to look like in another 20 years when we need to solve for the obvious problem of rampant narcissism brought on by the damage of social media.

        Oh, you think narcissism is bad now? Fucking please.

    • Perhaps you are unaware that events from 20 and 30 years ago affect us today, especially in politics. What you say is true, but it is also irrelevant. Welcome to Slashdot, I guess.

    • by Thruen ( 753567 )
      Perhaps you're unaware that going from kindergarten to graduating high school takes thirteen years, and another four for college makes seventeen years, so limiting exposure to programming twenty-thirty years ago would have impacted children who are now entering or are already a part of the work force. Actually, I wouldn't expect to see results from changes to education in less than ten-fifteen years, twenty-thirty seems pretty reasonable. Beyond that, I'm probably not the only one here who was actually grow
    • perhaps unaware that the company reportedly struck a deal to kill BASIC on Macs in 1985 and stopped including BASIC on PCs after Windows 95.

      Perhaps the author is unaware that those events were 30 and 20 years ago respectively.

      But that isn't even true. QBasic wasn't removed until Windows Me and at that point they had replaced it with VBScript instead.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @09:31AM (#51277067) Homepage

    "Girls don't see other girls programming," Microsoft explained in 2013

    One word: Adafruit. hell, all you have to do is hit twitter to see people like @aloria (infosec engineer) fully participating in programming. Please stop focusing on why gender isnt part of programming and start focusing on the fact that, with the help of the DMCA, you've effectively crushed any attempts at hacker culture that might interest kids in technology and programming. The governments insistance that a clock is a bomb certainly isnt helping young hackers. And while you're at it, proprietary software is a huge hinderance to the type of hacker/programmer culture of sharing code.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      But gender is a major part of programming. Programming is essentially seen as an individual endeavor much like science. You are expected to grind out technical solutions to problems almost as puzzles. That brings with it the "individual" as the main driver, in contraposition to group science projects which are much harder to organize and require greater resources.

      Girls are much more social than boys. The focus on individual effort just isn't as interesting to them. Boys can keep themselves amused for hours

      • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @10:21AM (#51277303)

        Boys can keep themselves amused for hours on something very small...

        Well, it's not that small.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        But gender is a major part of programming. Programming is essentially seen as an individual endeavor much like science. You are expected to grind out technical solutions to problems almost as puzzles. That brings with it the "individual" as the main driver, in contraposition to group science projects which are much harder to organize and require greater resources.

        You keep telling yourself that.

        Because programming may be individual, but software development is highly social - there are very few pieces of sof

    • hell, all you have to do is hit twitter to see people like @aloria (infosec engineer) fully participating in programming.

      This statistic shows a timeline with the amount of monthly active Twitter users worldwide. As of the third quarter of 2015, the microblogging service averaged at 307 million monthly active users.

      Number of monthly active Twitter users worldwide from 1st quarter 2010 to 3rd quarter 2015 (in millions) [statista.com]

  • But now this. He's dead to me.

  • The article is misleading because it suggests that MS killed BASIC on the Mac, but what they really did is kill development of Apple's BASIC for the Mac. MS shipped their own version of BASIC when the Mac came out. In fact, it was the only native Mac development platform at the time the Mac shipped. MS Basic included Peek, Poke, and Call commands, so you could execute machine code. The Megamax C compiler slipped through that little opening (Megamax C was a full-featured native C compiler for the Mac that sh
    • It doesn't matter how good Microsoft BASIC for Macintosh was because it wasn't included with the system. Instead, Apple users [eventually] got Hypercard, with very poor documentation. The reason why the Apple II, C64 and other computers with BASIC built-in promoted programming is twofold: they booted straight into it, and you didn't have to pay extra for it.

      AFAIK the only computer to actually COME with BASIC for years and years was the Amiga. And that platform DID inspire a generation of programmers and hac

    • Pascal was originally the native programming language, at the professional level, for the Mac. For many years, Pascal was the introductory language for CS. I guess the reason this didn't promote programming at the high school level, at the time, was that you had to pay to get an IDE.
  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @11:03AM (#51277589)

    So it's your contention that girls left coding because MS killed BASIC in the 80's?

    Seriously, dude?

    • Theodp hates the idea of teaching children to code. He thinks that they are going to take his job, and the plan is to flood the market with (child) programmers. Really bizarre. Oh, and he hates H1B's too. They are going to take his job. In summary: he is afraid of losing his jobs and posts regular diatribes here about it. He masks his fear by railing against Code.org and H1B's, without addressing his fear directly. I think he needs to find another field to work in.
  • by dwheeler ( 321049 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @12:13PM (#51278133) Homepage Journal

    The point of the article How are students learning programming in a post-Basic world? [computerworld.com] isn't that we should all use Basic. The point is that there's a need for a single 'starter' language so that people who have no experience can get started using something. That language should come with practically all computers, should be portable enough so that you can write programs that port to many computers, should be immediately accessible so beginners can quickly learn some basics, and should be useful enough so that beginners can create useful programs.

    There are a number of reasonable contenders, including Python, Ruby, and Java. A version of Ruby comes with MacOS, but none of these 'just comes' with the computer regardless of what OS you run - so in most cases, before you even get started, you have to explain how to download and install something. Not ideal. Java is what a lot of people use professionally, but it does take more time to get started when you know nothing. Python has many advantages for simplicity, but you need to install it in many cases.

    Perhaps the dark horse here is Javascript ES6. Javascript is available almost everywhere, and people can get started quickly. As a first language Javascript's unusual approach to OO programming (with prototyping) has probably held it back, but ES6 adds standard class notation, and that might make it much easier to use as a starter language.

    • There are a number of reasonable contenders, including Python, Ruby, and Java. [...] Perhaps the dark horse here is Javascript ES6.

      Javascript is in fact a better choice for a learning language than any of those others for a vast variety of reasons, first among them that it's available on every platform and in fact virtually always comes with the system. Python and Ruby are fads, and Java is dominated by one rich asshole, so that really only leaves JS.

      • It seems to me that Java has lost a lot of mind share (at least) since Oracle took over. Part of that is a shift towards the Open Java implementation over Oracle java but there has also been interest in alternatives. If you search for popularity of programming languages, however, you will find conflicting results as to who is gaining and loosing.
        • I don't really care about popularity, just suitability and availability. Java is kind of a twisted mess. Everyone complains about how much senseless template code is necessary. Apps never act native, even if they kind of sort of look native. Ruby and Python both have weird characteristics that make them unsuitable, they'll just teach bad habits. Besides, like Perl (which has the same habit problem) they don't come with Windows.

  • Microsoft probably did the world a favour by ramming a stake through its heart.

  • >> President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address

    Slow clap. I never thought we'd see a second term of Jimmy Carter, and well, we got two of them.

  • Microsoft did not make a deal to kill BASIC on Macs. They made a deal to kill Apple's implementation of BASIC, because it competed with their own implementation. They sold it for a decade before discontinuing it in 1995.

    Not only is this story a troll, it's an incoherent, factually incorrect troll. Somehow the author is trying to assert a connection between MS not bundling BASIC with their computers and girls being less interested than boys in programming. No clue what he thinks that connection is, but I

  • by Simulant ( 528590 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @05:03PM (#51281449) Journal
    They've been patronizing their users for years to the point where few know where their files actually are (My Docs is now a junction point) or even what they are named (file extensions hidden by default) and they bemoan a lack of computer literacy? They've done everything possible to hide how things actually work, and no, that's not a good thing.
  • How many educational specialists, developmental psychologist, or educational scientists will get a seat in any of the policy making decisions? It seems like a few billionaire geeks suddenly become experts in education for... what, exactly? What's their expertise in education?

    How about we get those bilionaire geeks to decide Congress' and the Senate's dentistry and medical healthcare policies and practices? How about Silicon Valley disrupt our leaders' pension funds and their social services and then everyo

  • Coding is too, but if they double the number of coders, there will be no more "shortage" of those willing to work for "girl" wages.
    Makes sense when you look at it from the Microsoft viewpoint.

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