Please welcome our visitor, Cary Gray

As previously announced, we are thrilled that Cary Gray will be joining CS at Whitman as a visitor for the 2020-21 academic year.

Cary was an 11th hour hire – or perhaps a 13th hour hire, as we weren’t able to close the deal until pre-registration for this fall had already concluded. We are very grateful that Cary will teach all four sections of CS 167 over the coming academic year – sections that we might have otherwise needed to cut due to lack of staffing. In the spring, Cary will also be teaching CS 210, Computer Systems Fundamentals, freeing me to teach an additional elective to be determined.

Cary, or Professor Gray as he prefers to be called in the classroom, introduces himself as follows:

I’m very pleased to join Whitman’s CS program for the coming year. 

My story in computing is long and varied. When I started programming the Watergate hearings were on TV. I’ve worked as a computer operator. I’ve programmed using real Teletypes, over 110 baud modems. My start has links to the People’s Computer Company. I’ve programmed on punch cards, with three-day turnaround. I’ve written COBOL, FORTRAN, and PL/I for pay. I’ve taught middle-school students to program (first time on TTYs, later in a computer camp using TRS-80s). I wrote an elementary drill-and-practice program for Tandy. I’ve been in lots of interesting places, and I’ve had encounters with lots of interesting people.

My deepest technical roots are in distributed systems, but I get excited about connecting ideas from areas that don’t typically talk to each other. I am very interested in the history of computing, including the lessons that we seem to have forgotten. I partly fit what was once a readily identified stereotype: computist of the language-oriented sort. I pay a lot of attention to the different things that people mean when they use the same words. Fundamentally, I look at computing primarily from the perspective of a scientist, rather than that of an engineer or a maker.

I care about liberal education–including trying to figure out what those words mean and how the liberal-ed traditions are best expressed in our current context. So I also look at computing through the lens of competing and complementary traditions. I puzzle over the nature of disciplines and their communities.

The CS faculty have already enjoyed Cary’s contributions to our department retreat and his many intelligent questions about how things work at Whitman, as well as his stories of computing history. Please join us in welcoming Cary Gray with the start of this new academic year!

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