This blog is highly personal, makes no attempt at being politically correct, will occasionaly offend your sensibility, and certainly does not represent the opinions of the people I work with or for.
What is a browser ? (update)
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Just to be clear, I didn't post the entry What is a browser ? because I thought those people were stupid and that I wanted to make fun of them. Not many people know that, but I got my first computer at the very end of 2003, and before that I had never touched a computer, not as a regular user anyway, and this first laptop was really my first computer. At the time I didn't have a clue with computers, networks and the Internet, even though I did write an implementation of RSA in assembly when I was in high school -- not a part of the curriculum, obviously, I was simply lucky to have had a 64-bit Saturn microprocessor in my neighbourhood, and got on with the user manual. To me this early "lowest possible level" programming experience was nothing else than a part of my numerical education. And, later on, when I started mathematics at university, I pledged allegiance to Abstraction and decided that never ever would anybody see me using those devices called "computers" (*)

(*) I think that there must be a remain of this decision in my absurd tendencies of not using "fancy" technologies like Facebook or Twitter etc. But at the same time, I am at the cutting edge of the making of those technologies. Weird.

I didn't stay clueless for long because very soon I had learnt several programming languages, filled me in on web technologies, computer architectures, operating systems design (all this thanks to the patience of some of my PhD mates), even wrote few compilers, and more importantly received a computing education. But definitely, had I started another job than a PhD in computer science I would probably still be as clueless as the people in the video. For the little story, Aubrey is actually fully responsible for me starting to learn "web technologies". She stood up next to me few weeks after we got married (we were still in our university dorm room) and said that we should have a web site. I said "yes darling", and had no idea what I was going into. I even still have the weblog entries (from the weblog engine before this one) where I was telling having started to learn PHP. Actually the weblog itself was my first PHP program :-)

What interests me thought is that most of the people in the video certainly have, say, a Facebook account, and must have spent a lot of time "on the Internet", but don't know how to define the elementary technologies that put together give them their browsing/shopping/networking experience.

I didn't know what I do with this, and then it became clear: those people are somehow the lucky ones. Lucky, yes, because unlike someone like me who is involved into the making of computer programs, the making of websites and the design of networking/communication protocols, they don't have to worry about the following: HTTP, HTML, CSS, the DOM, JavaScript, Ajax, SQL, Databases, TCP/IP, UDP, SOAP, WSDL, DNS, DHCP, SMTP, IMAP, POP, Telnet, SSH, PGP, GnuPG, Base 64, IPv4, IPv6, self correcting codes, CRC, checksums, hash functions, caches, memory, RAID, filesystems, computer languages, libraries, software licences, SVN, GitHub, compilers, browsers incompatibilities, emulation, unicode, the command line, XML, XPATH, Apache, memcached, etc, etc, etc. (the list would go on for a little while...)

(Really, 8 years ago, I would not have be able to identify any of those things)

And yes, they are the lucky ones, precisely because they do not have to worry about those things and can live on, probably doing more interesting things than what a geek like me spends his nights on.

Thinking of it, the same applies to mathematics actually. Most of our technology relies on mathematics to work but unlike "computer stuff", which they know are somehow involved in their purchase of a plane ticket online, they are totally unaware of the maths involved in, says, securing their credit card operation, or their phone conversations.

They do not know, and that's the way it should be. For their own peace of mind. This said, there is no reason for confusing a web browser and the Internet; like those people who upon seeing a web browser they have never seen just say "Hey, I have never seen this version of the Internet" :-)

Coming back to me, sometimes I truly wish that I didn't know about the internet and how it is made and works and could just be a regular math geek, using unix only for the email and LaTeX. But this would be ignoring something of crucial importance: my computing education and programming experiences are now responsible for me being a much better mathematician. Can anybody spell "irony" ?
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