winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)
All you hackers should read this. True to form, I came to hacking late, much despite a strong interest in mathematics as a child. (For those who may not be aware, mathematics does not have the same gender inequity problems CS does.) These sorts of privilege contests have always pissed me off, not just because of the machismo involved but also —though I did not have the words at the time— exactly because of their brandishing of white male privilege as virtuous and ideal.

Machismo and Privilege

Date: 2010-07-28 04:30 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I was granted that privilege because I grew up as the only white kid in my neighborhood in urban Detroit, and my mother was afraid of how many fights I was getting in when I left the house. I hacked on the computer because it was safer than going outside. If you want to call that machismo, so be it. To me at the time it struck me as the only reasonable course of action. I think attacking those who had those opportunities is the wrong answer, and perhaps a more constructive focus would be on exposing similar opportunities to more people -- the OLPC initiative springs to mind.

I was treated to this privilege because my mother worked 3 jobs to raise two kids and put herself through college. It was very much a privilege, but after the initial computer purchase, I had to pay for my own equipment. This drove me to write shareware, run paper-routes, etc. and motivated me in a way that is difficult to describe to feed my computing addiction.

I am terribly appreciative of the fact that she went out of her way and spent money she could scarce afford to make that opportunity for me. To this day, she teases me that she is jealous that I get to do something that I enjoy for a living. I appreciate that others lacked those opportunities, but I'll be damned if I'm going to apologize for making the most of it.

And for the record, I was 7. ;)

-Edward Kmett

Date: 2010-07-29 12:48 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lindseykuper
lindseykuper: A figure, wearing a pink shirt decorated with a heart, looks upward from between dark shapes that suggest buildings. (Default)
Thanks for the link. I commented over on Geek Feminism, but one thing I forgot to mention there is that sometimes, with those of us who started hacking late, it turns into a reverse pissing contest -- sort of a "Look how good I am at this now, with only n years under my belt -- if I had been doing it as long as you have, I'd obviously be better than you!" thing. I've certainly been guilty of that kind of bragging.

Date: 2010-07-29 10:00 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] lindseykuper
lindseykuper: A figure, wearing a pink shirt decorated with a heart, looks upward from between dark shapes that suggest buildings. (Default)
I actually think C has something important going for it as a beginners' language: minimalism (small and internally consistent and not overengineered). But it's too low-level, and I would be nervous starting with C because I wouldn't want anyone to get the mistaken impression that C's types are, you know, types. I want a first language to be high-level, minimal, and functional (so you can relate it to the math you already know), which is part of why I think Scheme is great as a first language. Python's not bad, either. For a second language, some ML-family language seems like a great idea to me, but Haskell isn't necessarily the best choice, in my opinion -- I still want minimalism at this stage. For a third language, learn C along with learning to understand the machine and the OS. For a fourth language, learn a language designed for working on large distributed projects, as well as the tools that go along with it, and at the same time, learn how to work on large distributed projects.

June 2017

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