Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
I had some email yesterday with a link to a post titled "The Top 10 Movies for Computer Science Students." It is an interesting list and I have seen most of these movies. And I have enjoyed several of them. I’m not sure if this is my top 10 list though. I worry about the computer science characters in some of them. Hacking is one thing but cracking is another. I think the differences are lost on many students (and still more in the media). I don’t like movies where the CS people are the bad guys. Antitrust: drives me crazy for example. It seem to show companies in the computer industry in a bad light. I don’t see the resemblance to Microsoft that some seem to see there BTW. It always makes me thing of one of several computer industry companies based in California which I will not name.
And while computer science is not as hard as some would say it’s not the child's play that Wargames and Hackers seems to suggest. There is that moral ambiguity again as well.
I am surprised that Sneakers didn’t make their list though. Good hackers and evil crackers and a guest spot by a Cray super computer. It has it all. And speaking of Robert Redford and guest spots by famous computers there is Three Days of the Condor which has a PDP-8 in the opening scenes. Maybe that dates me – both remembering the movie and the PDP-8. I worked with one of those in college.
I think we have to be a little concerned about how computer scientists are presented in the media. We make an easy target but its seldom a fair portrait. We’re a whole lot more diverse than other portrayed. And less geeky. You’d never know from the movies and TV that there are some really good looking women in the field for example. And many of us actually get outdoors enough to get tans. More than that though computer science is making the world a better place every day. I’m not sure you’d learn that from movies or TV. And that is not a good thing.
So what movies would you recommend for computer science students? Are there some were the computer science is mostly real? Where the computer scientists are the “good guys?” Where computer science is helpful? Well, now that NUMB3RS is off the air.
Ever since I was told about a list of Movies for Computer Science Students and wrote some comments about that list I have been thinking book. Fiction books. Novels that tell stories that involve computer science and the sorts of issues of privacy, philosophy, ethics and social change that computers make in our society. And being a life-time science fiction fan that may come easier for me than for many. Books have an advantage over movies is that they can spend more time on explanation. They spend more time talking about how people (and in some of the cases I will list – machines) think and why they act as they do. I don’t have anything like a top ten list but I do have a couple of books that always come to mind. OK eight book are on this list. And in general a couple of authors – Asimov, Heinlein, Stephenson – who I like.
I, Robot (9780553382563): Isaac Asimov: Books ISBN: 055338256X ISBN-13: 9780553382563
Caves of Steel (Robot (Spectra Books)) (9780553293401): Isaac Asimov: Books ISBN: 0553293400 ISBN-13: 9780553293401
The Adolescence of P-1 (9780671559700): Thomas J. Ryan: Books ISBN: 0671559702 ISBN-13: 9780671559700
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (9780312863555): Robert A. Heinlein: Books ISBN: 0312863551 ISBN-13: 9780312863555
Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book) (9780553380958): Neal Stephenson: Books ISBN: 0553380958 ISBN-13: 9780553380958
Cryptonomicon (9780380788620): Neal Stephenson: Books ISBN: 0380788624 ISBN-13: 9780380788620
Neuromancer (9780441012039): William Gibson: Books ISBN: 0441012035 ISBN-13: 9780441012039
Digital Fortress: A Thriller (9780312944926): Dan Brown: Books ISBN: 0312944926 ISBN-13: 9780312944926
That’s a start. I’m sure many of you know of more and even better books out there. I would love to hear your suggestions for additional books or better books as well as which of the books above you would leave off your list and why.
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