To Err is human, but to Geek is divine

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/26 10:16 -05:00, original URI:

I had the opportunity yesterday to Speak at Anna University (at the computer science center of the College of Engineering at Guindy) that was, in a word, amazing.

The idea of doing something there started by someone who read here about my India trip and made a suggestion to Soma via his blog that such a presentation might make sense. From there, the right people at Microsoft talked to the right people at the University and then it all came together

Special thanks to Chandar Sundaram and Dr. S. Swamynathan for their assistance in this regard!

So many things about the experience impressed me -- their knowledge, their passion, watching them think about their own language in a context where the majority of them are quite used to only thinking about English as often happens in the technical sphere of thinking. You could see lights going on and interest in thinking further about the issues on their faces. Their passion was at times intoxicating....

Afterward, I had the chance to look at some of the many Tamil language projects going on in Dr.T.V.Geetha's lab. And while they did not see thinking about the Tamil language in the context of technology as a huge mind-shift (it after all being their day job!), the various projects they were working on were also quite fascinating.

My only regret is that the short notice for the India trip led to short notice for the Anna University visit, and I would have loved to be able really plan the opportunity to perhaps even do some interesting technical talks for their .NET and C# classes and Unicode/globalization/localizability support. Also, the interaction with bright minds eager to learn almost made me sorry it wasn't also a college recruiting trip for Microsoft (although I suspect some of the people I met may end up at Microsoft eventually!).

The talk covered a lot of ground -- from Unicode to the many ISCII/TAB/TAM/TSCII codepages to keyboards to fonts to the Tamil Language Interface Pack and more -- it was pretty exciting and if I am lucky inspired some of the students to look more closely at this crucial area of programming so often overlooked, even by those who have lived their lives in cultures with rich language traditions that make up so much of their upbringing....

Other interesting issues to note include the fact that the college's female population in technical tracks exceeds 30%, something unheard of in the US in any coed institution. In Geetha's lab it was well over 50% and to be honest I think among the students who attended my presentation it was well over 40% (I could try to blame the latter on my undeniable charisma and charm but that would be silly -- even if I had such impact they would not have known it before they came into the room!).

I have to wonder about the cultural issues in the USA that keep women out of technology and how much we lose as a country for having lost sight of the fact that people are simply people, and technical people can be both male and female. To Err is human, but to Geek is divine, after all.

Did anyone else know that ANUSVARA in some spell checkers suggests UNSAVORY. Talk about your irony....

An amazing opportunity, and one I hope I have the chance to do again! :-)


This post brought to you by(U+0b82, aka TAMIL SIGN ANUSVARA -- the most un-Tamil of all that is Tamil in Unicode)

# Siddharta on 28 Jan 2008 7:36 AM:

Ahh! I had no idea you would be speaking here. And here I am sitting in Chennai and I missed the talk.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Jan 2008 9:26 AM:

I will be speaking tomorrow at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore at 11am for MS fulltimers? :-)

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