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COMPUTER INDUSTRY OFFERS WEALTH OF CAREER OPTIONS.

Byline: Bill Gates

Q: I am 16 years old and want to be a computer programmer when I grow up. What do you think is the best programming language to learn? (Josh Baugher, Elkton, Va., Josh.Baugher%520-300dbbs.mainelink.net)

A: Without a doubt, the first programming language to learn is BASIC. It is straightforward, relatively simple and has evolved to support modern elements such as visual interfaces and objects.

Learning BASIC demystifies computing. I recommend it to people of any age who want to get a sense of how computers work - and a grasp of what a computer can and can't do well.

A working knowledge of BASIC is useful even for people who don't expect to become programmers. People who do expect to be programmers and who have gained thorough familiarity with BASIC can move on to a harder-core language such as C++, or a variant of C++, such as Java. But BASIC is the right place to start.

Q: I am 14 years old, female and studying information systems at school. In four years, when I finish my education, what are the probable career opportunities in computing, given the rapid changes that are taking place? (pmiterrmplc.co.uk)

A: There will be a wealth of opportunities relating to software. For example, supporting all the people who use software will be a huge business and career opportunity.

Software companies hire support engineers, and many companies devote personnel to helping their own employees.

Beyond supporting individuals, some people build great careers out of helping companies figure out how to use information systems to their best advantage. These opportunities will only grow.

Fortunately, at age 14 you don't really need to pick one computer-related opportunity over another. I didn't choose a career until I fell into it.

I think it's good to have a fairly fluid view of what you might enjoy doing. Stay open-minded - you might surprise yourself. Is it medical use of computers? Is it computers in museums? Is it business analysis software? There are many ways to go.

Here's a related question.

Q: Do you think PC technical support will eventually become an obsolete field? I envision PCs diagnosing and fixing themselves. Plus, future generations will be more in tune with how a PC works - or doesn't work. (Michael Moyle, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, moylemcrpl.cedar-rapids.l ib.ia.us)

A: Technical support is about as safe a career bet as you can make.

A few decades ago, when automobiles started getting much more reliable, someone might have asked, "Are we still going to need auto mechanics?" We do, of course. Similarly, PC tech support will always be important.

Q: I read in a newspaper that in 1981 you said, "640K of memory should be enough for anybody." What did you mean when you said this? (L. Marshall, lmarshal)science.watstar.uwaterloo.ca)

A: I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time.The need for memory increases as computers get more potent and software gets more powerful. In fact, every couple of years the amount of memory address space needed to run whatever software is mainstream at the time just about doubles. This is well-known.

When IBM introduced its PC in 1981, many people attacked Microsoft for its role. These critics said that 8-bit computers, which had 64K of address space, would last forever. They said we were wastefully throwing out great 8-bit programming by moving the world toward 16-bit computers.

We at Microsoft disagreed. We knew that even 16-bit computers, which had 640K of available address space, would be adequate for only four or five years. (The IBM PC had 1 megabyte of logical address space. But 384K of this was assigned to special purposes, leaving 640K of memory available. That's where the now-infamous "640K barrier" came from.)

A few years later, Microsoft was a big fan of Intel's 386 microprocessor chip, which gave computers a 32-bit address space.

Modern operating systems can now take advantage of that seemingly vast potential memory. But even 32 bits of address space won't prove adequate as time goes on.Meanwhile, I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 22, 1996
Words:735
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