When I was a sophomore in the CS major at Cal State, it took at least two weeks of lectures, back in 1983 to cover the material covered in the first hour of the MIT course, Introduction to Algorithms that I am auditing through iTunes U. It's a fascinatingly scary thing for me, at this point in my career and life to update the very heavy fundamentals of my own education.
It occurs to me that a great deal of learning ought to be presented at the slower pace so that we might in the fullness of time come to understand with the most complete set of facts, the status of our profession. It is something we in the computering business have almost no time for. But I am struck by the absolute truth of what the professor says in the introduction. To be a very good programmer, you could write code every day for two years. To be a world class programmer, you could write code every day for ten years. Or you could take up this course and program every day for two years.
It has been so long since I've challenged myself deeply in my own profession, but I am excited to and look forward to consuming a great deal of the Open Courseware as well as other stuff from iTunes U. What I want to understand in much greater depth are the programming skills at the system level that I once knew and let lapse to follow applications.
In my field, to know Knuth is a milestone. I have always considered that I might do just that - to take on all of the exercises in his magnum opus. It's an appropriate thing for my puttering should I grow weary of public political debate, which I think I inevitably shall. But the MIT courses are daunting enough so that I am thinking twice about it. It has been 20 years since I've solved an integral or figured out a power series. As intriguing as Asymptotic evaluation of algorithmic performance is I'm going to have a difficult time managing the mathematics, if I even bother.
I'm like my father in this, endlessly curious and eager to open up my head and pour more into it. But I think this is one area that I could actually profit from. At the very least, I now know where to go for challenges should I once again find myself underemployed.