Every practice, whether technical or artistic, has a history and a culture, and you can’t understand the tools without understanding the culture and vice versa. Computer programming is no different. I’m a teacher and a computer programmer, and I often find myself in the position of teaching computer programming to people who have never programmed a computer before. Part of the challenge of teaching computer programming is making the history and culture available to my students so they can better understand the tools I’m teaching them to use.
This talk is about about that process. And the core of the talk comes from a slide deck that I show my beginner programmers on the first day of class. But I wanted to bring in a few more threads, so be forewarned that this talk is also about bias in computer programs and about hacker culture. Maybe more than anything it’s a sort of polemic review of Steven Levy’s book Hackers : Heroes of the Computer Revolution, so be ready for that. The conclusions I reach in this talk might seem obvious to some of you, but I hope it’s valuable to see the path that I followed to reach those conclusions.