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August 04, 2008


stephen baker

Very interesting post. I think there will continue to be plenty of work for the computer scientists and engineers who want to remain in the boxes they're used to. There are plenty of machines to be built and tested. But the great opportunities involves spreading into new disciplines, many of them involving life sciences, and many of those involving the complexities of the human brain and behavior. The possibilities are limitless for computer scientists (or whatever you want to call them) who can use their tools and science to help us understand ourselves, and to build services around this.

Chris Ward

Having worked at IBM for a good many years, I notice that IBM's split between 'science' and 'engineering' is roughly as follows.

The scientists establish the principles that things work by. For example, in the days of IBM disk files, the scientists came up with the theories behind Giant Magnetoresistance, which mean we now have one-terabyte disk files rather than one-gigabyte disk files.

The engineers reduce the cost. It can be either reducing the manufacturing cost ... for example, arranging to use all the same size bolts in the disk file assembly rather than multiple different-size bolts; or reducing the warranty cost, for example by formulating and executing a software test plan, revising software before 'General Availiability' to reduce the defect count; or by developing the skills of the IBMers so that there will be sufficient availability of skilled personnel to resolve problems promptly for customers.

A number of businesses have commoditised, as far as IBM is concerned; instead of 'researching, developing, and selling', IBM buys whenever it needs. Personal Computers, hard disks, OS/2, SmartSuite, long-haul networking service, are examples from the last decade or so.

And that brings a requirement for new businesses to replace them; new fields, hopefully as high-growth as Personal Computers and Hard Disks were in the 1980's.

What are the new businesses ? Will they come from academic research scientists in universities, or from commercial research scientists in Yorktown and Almaden ?

Gordon Haff

The Engineering aspect of CS has always been a fascinating one to me. Some schools I've attended always felt so strongly that CS was a Math discipline. Others, including my undergraduate school, treated it as part of EE--which probably informs my personal bias.

Not coincidentally, I was speaking with friend of mine who is being put into a responsible position for a Cambridge-based company and was bemoaning the lack of systems-engineering-based disciplines in some projects. So the lack of systems engineering seems (unfortunately) pervasive.

Best. Hope to run into you again one of these days.


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