I was lucky that both my high school and college were well equipped to train an aspiring engineer. From the time I was a 13 year old freshman I had exposure to all sorts of equipment that most people don’t, from welding to lathes to CNC machines and a wide array of computers and electrical components. My classmates and I could apply the theory that we learned in the classroom, and we graduated as better engineers because of it. But, this technology wasn’t available to the masses, so to become an engineer you really only had one choice: an expensive, traditional education.
Compare that to computers around the same time (early to mid-2000’s). Just about everyone had one. You could learn the basics at almost any high school or college. Components were cheap enough to tinker with. You could absolutely teach yourself how to be a developer or software engineer or graphic designer without a formal education. It was entirely possible to create products and services for the masses by being self-taught, which is effectively what I and many others did.
We only had that opportunity because almost everyone had a basic understanding of computers and computing. Almost everyone could type, install software, set up internet service, install peripherals, and have a basic understanding of the file system. This was in large part because we were using the same computers in our daily lives that could also be used to create.
I hope that’s not lost on the current generation of students whose only exposure to computers in school is Google Docs on Chromebooks, and whose only internet access at home is on a tablet or smartphone. It is amazing that most people can now get by with just a phone, and maybe a Chromebook if they occasionally need to write an email or create a document. But when an entire generation is exposed to nothing but that, they lose the ability to create. Creation still happens on good ole PC’s running Windows, macOS, or Linux, something that might become increasingly foreign to our youth. If the tools used to create are stripped away from our education system, software creation will be about as foreign to those kids as my formal engineering education is.