A Show About Computer Programming

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

A Show About Computer Programming

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One of the things that comes up in conversation when ever getting more students, especially women, interested in computer science comes up is that we need a TV show that would show the field in a good light. People mention how CSI has gotten students interested in forensics for example. The closest thing we have in computer science is NUMB3RS and the star there is really a mathematician. I’ve been giving a TV show about computer scientists or programmers or related some thought lately on some longish drives. I see a couple of possibilities.

One is a reality show. Think The Apprentice or Top Chef and the like. What would it look like? I see two teams of hotshot programmers who are assigned a coding project each “week.” Perhaps a casual game. Or a phone application for a specific business problem. Or maybe a scientific data analysis project. Something that a small team can do in a reasonable time. Not easy because it has to be non trivial but yet still handle able. Each team would work with a customer and at the end of  the projects they would be evaluated for things like ease of use, meeting the customer’s needs, reliability, etc. The losing team would have to pick two people who would be evaluated with one of them being dropped. Teams would vote people off based on poor coding practices, lack of teamwork or communication, and other issues.

What would you show? Brainstorming and designing sessions, pairs working at computers (team programming seems like it would work in this environment), progress meetings, user interface mock-ups , customer discussions, demos and the like. We need a mix of people – men, women, personalities, races, etc. It has to show all sorts of people.

Another is a scripted show. Comedy is fine but let’s not have too many characters like those on the “Big Bang Theory” please! And of course the women should be smart and no one should be ugly. Well maybe one guy but most shows use good looking people and there sure are a lot of them in the computer industry. No really! Drama would also be cool. Tight deadlines, customers changing specifications, differing development philosophies, are all fair game. But can we show people having real lives as well? I know people who ski, snowboard, do wood work (even some serious carpenters), musicians (lots of those) and other people who engage in all sorts of activities that are not associated with geeks and nerds.

What other ideas do you have? Who would you see cast in these sorts of show? Would they make a difference in attracting young people to the field?



  • This is a great idea, I would love see a bunch a geeks go at it about what would be the best code to apply in a certain project. But I disagree with only pretty people, don't get me wrong, I like to see a hot chick just like the next guy. But there is something about seeing a geeky girl with glasses showing up all of the so called gurus that would make me keep watching.

    Nice article and thanks for sharing.

  • Sneakers, the movie, did a lot for computer programming, I think.  I'd love to see a show like that.  Think "24" but with the main focus being computer programming.

  • I don't think there is any chance for something that is near reality.

    TV shows depend on a fast pace.

    The best example in fact is NUMB3RS, where Charlie and Amita are constantly doing things like "Oh yeah, for this problem I must develop a completely new Nobel-prize-level algorithm ...". An hour later they say "Don, the computer is working now, it will take some hours." Under an hour for developing is so absurd, I think no normal TV customer will hear about monthly sprints in Scrum or something else taking more than an incredibly short time.

    Even the CSIs fake their DNA analysis to less than an hour.

    And do you remember Star Trek? "Scotty, how long will it take to repair this machine?"

  • Luis von Ahn's blog had a nice post and discussion about a similar idea recently... vonahn.blogspot.com/.../americas-next-top-nerd.html

  • Hélène, you are right. Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about that post or I'd have linked to it. It seems like several people have brought this idea up to me recently though .Luis von Ahn brings up the important question of what sort of tasks would a CS reality show use. His is a great blog BTW so those of you who read the comments be sure and check it out.

  • Big Bang Theory crossed with Computer scientists or a mix of tech geeks would be a TV show idea.

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