Comp. Sci. and English are Practically the Same Subject

7 Jan

When we were in college, Computer Science students had trouble in English classes and English majors shied away from Comp. Sci. courses. This seems weird, as they both  deal with the same things.

In English classes, students learn English syntax, sentence structure, and how to organize ideas into paragraphs.  Ideally, they also learn to state their ideas succinctly. In Computer Science classes, students learn the syntax of the computer language,  how to structure a program, and how to organize the program into separate procedures.  They also learn to do as much as possible with the fewest lines of computer code.  Seems like pretty much the same subject to us.

A computer program is a kind of stylized essay (OK, if you want to be technical  it’s a set of commands for the computer to follow, but we’re indulging in a little bit of poetic license here), where the non-human reader either understands or fails to understand its content, depending how well we’ve written the program.  Our English paper has human readers who, depending on how well we’ve written the paper, will understand or fail to understand how our arguments support the paper’s thesis.

If you think we’re indulging in whimsy, we’re not.  We did terribly in comp.  sci.  courses until we stopped thinking about programming as being primarily about mathematics (which terrified us) and started thinking about it in terms of  structure and syntax.  Once we had this epiphany, we were finally able to write programs that actually compiled and yielded the desired results.

Hal 9000

Good morning, Dave.



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