The Computer Science of Tomorrow, Today, and the Past

“The thing you are doing has likely been done before. And that might seem depressing, but I think it’s the most wonderful thing ever. Because it means an education in computer science is worth something.”

The quote above comes from an informative and entertaining talk that John Graham-Cumming gave at OSCON in 2013, in which he points out that there hasn’t been much new in computing since 1983, what with wireless networking first implemented in 1971, markup languages in the 1960s, and, as pictured above, “hypertext with clickable links, 1967″.

Because progress has largely consisted of performance and interface improvements, it is comforting to know that applying yourself to the knowledge of computing is nearly as vital and timeless a pursuit as math and literacy. Fittingly, I saw this video after someone linked to it on Hacker News, in response to a 1964 Atlantic article I linked to: Martin Greenberger’s “Computers of Tomorrow”.

In his 50-year-old essay, Greenberger effectively predicts, the Internet, net neutrality, cloud computing, and the automation of the New York Stock Exchange. But the best line is the essay’s last line, which aligns with Graham-Cumming’s optimism about human knowledge in computing:

By 2000 AD man should have a much better comprehension of himself and his system, not because he will be innately any smarter than he is today, but because he will have learned to use imaginatively the most powerful amplifier of intelligence yet devised.

Graham-Cumming’s talk is available on SlideShare too.

I'm a programmer journalist, currently teaching computational journalism at Stanford University. I'm trying to do my new blogging at