AT&T recently published a lot of videos from their archives. I particularly like this video with William Shatner discussing the magic of the microchip. In hindsight, its view of the future is revealing.
First, it’s still a good introduction to how chips are produced. It shows an automated test machine, wire-bonding, and hand-soldering boards. It also shows microscopic views of a 5 micron circuit and a nice animation of clock pulses and gates. All of these processes are basically the same today, just more sophisticated.
On the flip side, its prediction about the computerization of telephones revolutionizing society has come and gone. Wired telephones connected to smart central computers have been surpassed by smart cellphones.
This video also reminded me how there once were more women in technology. Computer science was originally considered a branch of math, and women have often excelled at mathematics. When this video was made in 1980, women made up about 41% of computer science freshmen. That had dropped to about 12.5% by 2007. If you look at the graph from that article, it seems that women participated almost equally in the early 80’s computer craze but sat out the Dotcom boom.
I’m still not sure about all the causes of this, but it is a troubling trend. Any time half of your intelligence sits on the bench, you’re going to be at a disadvantage to other countries. Some studies have shown Chinese women have a more positive view of computers than other cultures. Additionally, all enrollment in computer science is lower as a percentage than at any time since the 1970’s.
What can be done to increase interest in computer science among all students and especially women?