'Stop throwing your computing heritage away - ignore Alan Sugar,' Google boss tells UK

Summary:Eric Schmidt is "flabbergasted" by IT teaching in UK's schools...

The UK gave the world some of the most important technological innovations of the last two centuries but it's now squandering its computing heritage, according to Google boss Eric Schmidt.

Speaking at the 2011 Edinburgh TV festival, Schmidt - formerly CEO of Google and now its chairman - said the UK is wasting its technological talents.

"The UK is the home of so many media-related inventions. You invented photography. You invented TV. You invented computers in both concept and practice (it's not widely known but the world's first office computer was built in 1951 by Lyon's chain of tea shops!) Yet today, none of the world's leading exponents in these fields are from the UK," Schmidt said as part of the conference's annual MacTaggart lecture.

Schmidt pointed to the failings of IT teaching in schools as one of the reasons why the UK is falling behind in computing.

"I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software but gives no insight into how it's made. That's just throwing away your great computing heritage," he said.

He contrasted the computing landscape in UK schools today with that of the 1980s – when the BBC broadcast programming aimed at children about coding and got over a million BBC Micro computers into schools.

So how can the UK regain its top spot in computing? First, said Schmidt, the friction between techies and individuals from an arts background must come to an end.

"Over the past century, the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. There's been a drift to humanities - engineering and science aren't championed. Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other - to use that I'm told is the local vernacular, you're either a luvvy or a boffin."

The UK must return to a golden age where it was common for...

Topics: Developer


Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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