23 Jan 2003 ploppy   » (Master)

I've been reading Salmoni's diary. You mention

I would have learned [Java] a few years ago because my local college was offering an evening course which I could get onto cheaply, but they insisted on using Microsoft Java (was it called J++?) which even then I knew wasn't the standard so I didn't take the course and went to learn Python instead. I wonder why they insisted on using MS's version?

The tendency (in the UK at least) of Universities/colleges to teach/instruct in Microsoft products is annoying. As to why, it's the joint problems of business pressure and budget cuts. When I first started out as a PhD student(1989), the computing department where I worked (no names to protect the guilty) used Sun workstations/multi-user servers to teach undergraduates. However, with the pressure to cut costs, we moved over to PCs and Linux in about 1995. So far so good, however, with the department now using mainstream equipment, it was argued that the department didn't need it's own equipment and could use central university pool (of machines) provision. The problem here is pool machines use Microsoft operating systems, and therefore teaching had to be done under Microsoft operating systems.

From here it is a slippery slope towards total Microsoft product use, with the encouragement that Microsoft of course sells products cheaply to educational establishments, and that students get a 'skill' in demand by business.

As a lecturer (assistant/associate professor) you are often powerless to resist such changes, the changes being forced on you from high, for purely financial reasons. Of course the people forcing the decisions are unaware of the differences between a general purpose machine and one for computer science teaching.

As far as the 'slippery slope' goes, it saddens me that my old computing department appears to now be pretty much a Microsoft shop, they are now getting funded by Microsoft for research, and recently an ex-colleague of mine went over to Microsoft HQ to accept some sort of academic cooperation award.

As an aside you (Salmoni) mention you used a Dragon 32, and that you now work at Cardiff University... Did you know that the Dragon was not a complete copy of the Tandy CoCo, and as such, the keyboard driver and other required modifications to MS Basic, was done in the Computer Science department at Cardiff. The machine was also manufactured not many miles from you in Port Talbot (opposite the Margam steel works).

The Dragon was the first computer I had. Like you I could not afford to buy an assembler, and I still have a notebook from 1983, with machine code laboriously worked out by hand. I finally wrote my own assembler, which was then the longest program I'd ever written!

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