Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2005.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

CompE vs CompSci

Posted 21 November 2005

I think one of the major differences between being a computer engineer and being a computer scientist is that at the end of the day, I have nothing to show for my work. If I'm designing a computer chip, there's no independent work I can do and have a chip in my hand at the end of the day to test. Even in a corporation such as Intel, I wouldn't be able to just sit down and make a custom chip to accomplish some minor thing as a convenience.

This is something that I've been thinking about because of my Operating Systems class. I have projects that have to be created from scratch, but as I write code, I can see the results of my work take form before my eyes. I remember towards the end of the summer when I was feverishly hacking away at the Northwestern Webmail Enhancer - each day I had something new working, and progress on other things. It was very rewarding.

In contrast, I've been frustrasted that I've only been able to study as a computer engineer for almost four years, because all of the really fun stuff has been off-limits to me as a result. It's aggravating to feel left behind as Andy takes a sweet job at Motorola; I really believe I would have been a great software writer, but my wrists have been real show-stoppers since my high school years.

At least I can write software as a hobby, but right now there's still a feeling of being unfulfilled.