Technical Leader

Being a Computer Scientist

At one of my previous places of employment, I made a comment which made numerous of my co-workers very angry at me. I felt as though I was completely justified in saying it, but I soon found out how much I upset them.

I believe I was talking about Bill Joy, I honesty can't recall off the top of my head who I was talking about, but a co-worker asked who that was. I responded with a rhetorical question in awe that they didn't know who I was talking about. I rattled off a few other (in my opinion) popular/famous Computer Scientists, as a line of questioning to see if they knew any others ... which they did not. FYI, I believe I mentioned Alan Turing, Larry Ellison, Donald Knuth, and Steve Wozniak among others.

I then made a comment which made a few of them mad at me "I don't understand why somebody being a programmer, a computer scientist, and not knowing the pioneers in our field". The conversation continued for a short while, but it became readily apparent I was in the minority.

The Senior Lead at that time was Paul Carter, he agreed with me during the whole conversation but I was the one who took all the heat. I have kept in touch with him since leaving and received an email from him just the other day.

His email had a link to a blog post about Donald Knuth, and thought about that conversation. I am glad to see someone else who has a very similar stand as I do:

If you don't know who Knuth is, then you're not a programmer. If you're a programmer and you don't know who Knuth is, well... I have no idea what rock you've been hiding under, but you should probably be fired.