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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 07 2014, @05:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the food-for-thought dept.

A huge nationwide push is underway, funded by the nonprofit's corporate and billionaire donors, from Amazon and Google to Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to introduce American schoolchildren to coding and to redefine it as a basic skill to be learned alongside the three R's.'s curriculum has been adopted by 20,000 teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade. But if coding is the new lingua franca, literacy rates for girls are dropping: Last year, girls made up 18.5 percent of A.P. computer science test-takers nationwide, a slight decrease from the year before. In three states, no girls took the test at all. An abysmal 0.4 percent of girls entering college intend to major in computer science [PDF]. And in 2013, women made up 14 percent of all computer science graduates down from 36 percent in 1984. The imbalance persists in the tech industry. Just this week, Google released data showing that women account for just 17 percent of its tech employees.

The problem is not only getting girls to computer class, but keeping them there.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Grishnakh on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:28PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:28PM (#52730)

    You're probably not old enough to remember it. It was before the 60s.

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  • (Score: 2) by jimshatt on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:47PM

    by jimshatt (978) on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:47PM (#52738) Journal
    You mean when all the men were out fighting wars?
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Sunday June 08 2014, @11:38AM

      by VLM (445) on Sunday June 08 2014, @11:38AM (#52920)

      A computer at one point was a human female who basically split off from the linear fixed point accounting disciplines to run nonlinear floating point numerical integrations and the like by hand. So you have a team of 10 women running a disk method integration or each calculating a portion of a ballistics table for artillery or crypto grunt work or whatever. At a microscopically higher level you have the (mostly women) who coordinated and Q/A that work. You'd put the "programmers" at a microscopically higher level.

      At a level slightly above bear furs and baling wire you had the same women shuffling punch cards into unit record equipment, much like their counterparts in accounting.

      Its interesting from a tech perspective just how little tech the world required very recently. My mom made some beer money in the '60s hand calculating and hand typing paychecks for a major national railroad. As recently as the very early 90s as a starving student I worked for a very small business where my paychecks (and the other three guys) were calculated and generated by hand, ink pen on paper. I'm sure this sounds unimaginable to modern ears, like the days before indoor plumbing. But yeah, as recently as just a couple decades ago, being able to add and subtract fixed point numbers by hand was a real vocational skill people were paid to do.

      • (Score: 2) by jimshatt on Sunday June 08 2014, @10:11PM

        by jimshatt (978) on Sunday June 08 2014, @10:11PM (#53046) Journal
        That's really interesting, thanks. I remember, as a kid (maybe 6 or 7), hearing a radio broadcast of some calculation that was done both by hand and by computer and comparing the speed and accuracy of the result. We had a ZX-81 at home which I was sometimes playing with (typing over simple programs from books or stuff my dad wrote (on stacks of grid paper)), and I was really struck by a feeling of "yes of course the computer is better! even I know that!"
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07 2014, @07:57PM (#52742)

    Before the 60s? Do you mean the 50s when there were only a handful of mainframes world?

    Back when mainframes were custom-built monsters with tube logic, they didn't even have operating systems and were programmed by the scientists who used them, mostly men.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08 2014, @06:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08 2014, @06:53AM (#52887)

      and were programmed by the scientists who used them, mostly men.

      Those were the analysts. They drew flowcharts.

      The programmers (a fair mixture of men and women) read the flowcharts and wrote programs (in assembly) to implement them.

      Then coders (almost all women) read the programs and translated them symbolic opcodes and their operands / addressing modes into a raw stream of numbers (in hex). Finally, keypunch operators (also almost all women) imprinted those streams of numbers onto paper tape or punch cards (or later on, keyed them into incremental magtape writers).

      The nomeclature of computing jobs has changed a lot in the last half century...