Posted by: Roger King
computer science education, software applications, software development environments, software tools
An explosion of desktop software.
I teach database systems and 3D animation at my university. The other day I was telling a friend about some of the database, graphics, software development, and other applications I work with. I was trying to make the point that over the last few years there has been an explosion of powerful, novel desktop software applications, that it’s a fun time to be a software user. With each one, I told him what company sold it and where they were located. His eyes widened.
What’s wrong? I asked.
He told that he was impressed at how many places around the world were apparently producing cutting edge software applications. Now, he’s not a computer guy. I told him something that people who use a lot of software typically discover on their own. Since software can be built on cheap computers, marketed on relatively simple websites, and sold as downloads, anybody anywhere can be a successful software vendor. All you need is knowledge, skill, and drive.
Software is a global product.
Here’s a piece of the list I gave him. I use the following apps:
- DBVis, a relational database GUI from Iceland (my favorite DB GUI).
- SQL Maestro, a relational database GUI from Russia.
- Navicat, a relational database GUI from Hong Kong, China.
- Indigo, a renderer from New Zealand.
- Maxwell, a renderer from Spain.
- Toonboom, a 2D animation application from Quebec.
- Vue, a graphics application for producing 3D outdoor environments from France.
- QT, C++ development software from Norway.
- Komodo, a scripting editor and IDE from Vancouver, Canada.
- Versions, a subversion client that, as far as I can tell, is from Portugal and the Netherlands.
- Voila, a screen capture application from India.
- Pixelmator, an image editing application from England.
I’d also like to point out that these are all extremely good products. They vary a lot in their complexity and cost, but each of them are first rate. (I also apologize if I have any of the home countries wrong.)
It’s also true that a lot of the larger, emerging software and services firms are from countries like India and China. It’s also true that many open source applications are developed and maintained by teams from around the world, collaborating online.
Now, here is my observation as a prof at a big state school.
We are training fewer and fewer Americans to be software professionals. In the United States, it’s not a profession that’s highly respected. Programmers are supposed to be nerds, and their work is portrayed as lonely and tedious. American kids want to be film makers, reality TV stars, lawyers, and doctors. So, enrollments in computer science programs have dropped. A large percentage of computer science graduate students in the United States come from overseas. (A major reason I like my job is because I get to interact with young people from about the world.)
It’s not surprising that more and more cutting edge software development is going on outside the United States.
And hey, computer professionals from the United States are starting to find that a lot of the best jobs, those with dynamic, innovative companies are not in the U.S.
So, software professionals are citizens of the world.