Have computers become the teachers?

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the first computer training manuals ever released titled Computer Training and Education, The Picture in 1962 by F.J Gruenberger.  Gruenberger, who worked for the Rand Corporation based in Santa Monica, wrote his paper with the aim of highlighting areas of threat to computer education as well as detailing the potential rate of growth of computers within the U.S, which he said at the time was “probably exceeded by no other technology”, a statement that is arguably as true today as it was then.

In 1962 there was a severe shortage of people who had practical computing skills and this was mainly due to the number of computers there were in existence at the time, coupled with the fact that any computer would have been rendered virtually obsolete by the time it was built and delivered such was the pace of development. The progression of computers was so swift that only 2 years after releasing his paper the world had its first Super Computer. In 1964 the CDC 6600 by Seymour Cray was released and it revolutionised computing. It was 10 times faster than anything on the market at the time, had 60-bit words of memory and sold for a staggering $8 million dollars each and was testament to Gruenberger’s vision at the time that “the total computing capability of the U.S will at least double in the next twelve months”. These days computers might last a little bit longer than those of the 60’s but the number of daily software alerts and updates you receive on your PC or laptop gives a good indication as to the continued rate of progression that the Industry is renowned for.

It’s amazing to think how far computers have come in a relatively short space of time and almost impossible to imagine what’s in store in the next 50 years. I doubt anyone involved in the early computer era of the 50’s and 60’s would have believed you if you’d have told them that by 2012 computers would be small enough to fit into your briefcase, let alone your pocket and explaining the Internet to someone who needed a small gymnasium to store a single computer would probably have taken quite some doing. In fact it’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of us who use computers for daily chores also find that we require them much more for leisure purposes than they would ever have been intended for and that the information at our finger tips would be practically impossible to have imagined in 1962.

Gruenberger then, one of the first teachers of training in the world of computers and the man who stated that if he had to start from scratch would rather have a computer and no teacher than the best teacher and no computer might look at today’s world with a touch of irony for it would seem that in 2012 man who was once considered that teacher, has at the hands of the computer,  most definitely become the student.

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