I am starting an MSc in Computer Science on Monday at Birkbeck College, University of London. This may surprise some of you, but ever since Dad brought home a state of the art 286 (12Mhz, 20MB HDD, twin 5.25” floppies, four-colour CGA screen and one of those really solid keyboards that click when you press the keys) back some time around 1987 I have been playing with PCs daily.
I’ll admit it is not the most obvious progression from a Degree in music, but I have come to realise that programming is a kind of an art. Paul Graham has written an interesting essay called Hackers and Painters which investigates the similarity between, surprisingly, hacking and painting. He is a very interesting writer.
On Thursday, I attended the induction evening for new Part-time students on the MSc at Birkbeck. I arrived in the department reception to find a bunch of people pretending to read their course booklets intently. Obviously they preferred awkward silence to awkward conversation. As the few seats were already taken, I stood and looked around stupidly for a few seconds, briefly considered feigning interest in the student noticeboard and then noticed a whiteboard directly in front of the entrance doors. Apparently I was the first to notice the instructions written on it and with a renewed sense of purpose I headed down the corridor to find Room 110, leaving the others to concentrate on avoiding eye contact.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the required £10 for my swipe card and I obviously didn’t look like I could be trusted with an IOU, so I went in search of Room 135 where the session was to be held.
The lecture theatre was completely empty and I wondered as I sat down whether I had misread the instructions. It didn’t help when a couple of people entered, took copies of the handouts, and promptly left the room. But I stuck it out and eventually a young lady entered and took a seat across the aisle from me.
“Hi!”, I said.
“I was beginning to wonder if I was in the right place”, I ventured.
The room gradually filled one by one and I gave up trying to greet everyone new. At 6pm the Course Director Dr Roger Mitton (another arts graduate) ambled into the room. He is quite a big man with a greying beard, some dynamically parted hair and an easy-going manner. He ran through some admin stuff and concluded with a comforting instruction to “don’t panic” if you find the course hard to begin with. He seems like a nice bloke and I’m looking forward to my first lecture with him on Monday.
I’ll let you know how it goes.