I keep telling to everyone who wants to hear it (or not) that my personal IT education as a kid in the 80s was superior to what kids are exposed to today (to the degree that I can observe that as a parent). While I know this must be wrong since we now have the Raspberry and YouTube and Arduinos, still, I don't sense the vibes that I had sensed back then. And I do not see teachers exposing the average kid to this tech. And IT courses, if existing, are Excel and Word - no programming, not even macros, with kids not being particularly eager to attend them, understandably.

Have we lost something? Is it the extra complexity that has made us lose touch with the tech between generations? Or is there just so much more you can use the computers for that there is less time to change what the computer are doing? Or is it something social? Or ist it just me?

Edit: I agree that this question can be barely more than an invite to pose better questions. I nevertheless liked the initial replies and hope that the community derives something that could somehow help those who are educating our youth - in or out of school.

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    I think "things were better in my day" is a fairly common statement, regardless of generation.
    – Tommy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 1:46
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    Mind to add any supporting information, like specifying were you see a difference? Other information helpful might be what country (and state) you're referring to, what school / school type and similar to give focus for a reasonable founded answer. Otherwise this seams to call for a discussion of opinions, which is less favorable on RC.Se.
    – Raffzahn
    Jul 31, 2020 at 7:18
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    Complexity is part of it. Another part of it is practicality. Most people are far better served for their future life by knowing Word, Excel, how to prevent malware, how to update their OS etc than messing around with Arduinos and Python. What we need to do is spot the kids with the natural ability for Arduinos and Python and encourage them to develop into a career in development or electronic engineering etc
    – Alan B
    Jul 31, 2020 at 7:26
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    Out of curiosity, what does "IT" mean to you? IMO an Arduino is completely outside the realm of what I think "IT" means, and while I can imagine an IT professional might find some use for a Raspberry Pi, I think it would be a very special case. Jul 31, 2020 at 13:31
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    This is making, and asking for, sweeping subjective generalizations about an entire decade across an entire planet. There's no way that this can be reasonably answered, or answers evaluated for correctness.
    – JdeBP
    Jul 31, 2020 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


Warning, Subjective & Location-based

This is a poor question in two ways - it is both subjective (how do you "value" learning about different computer languages, different types of hardware, etc.) and very much location based - even within the USA, the level of computer/IT education provided varied tremendously in the 80s - a typical school varied from no computers at all to a handful of Apple ][s or TRS-80s or minicomputer access for a small fraction of the students to use, to early attempts at computer education for every student.

That being said, I was there, in high school and college in the 80s, so I can provide some relevant history.

My high school was very small (it was so small...that the entire school could fit in one van). We had a few computers donated and/or loaned to the school and had some basic (and BASIC) programming courses. In my previous school (technically not relevant - 70s) I don't recall any computers available to the students, but I did take some summer computer classes at other area schools.

I went on to major in computer science in college at the University of Maryland, College Park. At the time, the typical student (outside of computer science, engineering, etc.) might never touch a computer as part of their studies. There were terminal rooms around campus - originally just terminals connected to mainframes, but by the mid-80s many had IBM PCs as well. The typical business major might have one course in COBOL. Many students in other majors would have no computer courses at all. Even word processing was relatively unusual for most students. Yes, I wrote my papers on a computer - the same WordStar that I used to write software in non-document mode could write documents in document mode, but most students didn't.

End result: The average level of computer education in the 80s (at least where I was, through 1986) was extremely low by today's standards. Those students who did have any hands-on computer education, at least beyond one "try it and see if you like it" course, likely ventured far deeper into real programming than today's average non-geek student. But those were not the average students, then or now.


Personally I think this is a side effect of a much more general issue: the more access you have to "free stuff" the less people value it.

I'm too old to have any first hard knowledge of the school system in the 1980s, but when I learned about computers you had to make an effort to borrow or buy books (and later, magazines) and then put in the time and effort to read and understand them.

These days, many so-called professional programmers think that all you have to do to write code is fire up Google and copy-and-paste random code snippets together until something "sort of works." Cargo cult programming rules!

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    … fire up Google and copy-and-paste random code … You're describing StackOverflow here.
    – dave
    Jul 31, 2020 at 12:14
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    Today, I need a json parser. I need, specifically, the source code for a json parser because linking with a binary will not satisfy the regulatory process. I could spend the time trying to hand-craft the most elegant json parser ever seen by programmer-kind—one that is made to fit this specific project like a tailored suit from Saville Row, but I don't think the client wants to pay for that. Jul 31, 2020 at 13:38

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