My number one reservation about this class was programming. I have a very basic understanding of HTML, but that is the limit of my programming knowledge. Up until the first day of HIST 291, I had no idea what Python was, or what programming even was. I always associated it with white, geeky, teenage boys from mid-to-upper class families. Even when I had the opportunity to learn some basic computer programming in high school, I decided to forego CS classes in favour of history and humanities courses.

I guess you could imagine my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) when I saw the words ‘programming’ and ‘python’ on the class syllabus. There were a few reasons I did not want to do any programming, including:

  • I hate computers
  • I have no idea how to do anything beyond the basics
  • Programming has always been for the “geeks” and “nerds”
  • My computer is old, slow, and generally crappy
  • And did I mention I HATE computers?

Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic to start programming. My fears and frustrations were only validated after the first day. As I mentioned earlier, I have a really slow and crappy computer. I found that on the first day of programming, I fell way behind the rest of the class if only because of the sheer time it took my computer to follow the commands I would give it. However, by the second day, I had caught up and was actually beginning to enjoy programming. Well, maybe not enjoy actually programming, but I did enjoy the almost euphoric feeling when my lines of code worked. I never thought that the words “Hello World” would ever bring me so much joy.  

To be completely honest, I still don’t enjoy programming, and seeing lines of code still make me cringe on the inside, but it’s nice to know enough about programming to be able to have a discussion about it. I don’t think I will be getting into programming any time soon. However, I may not be as reluctant to try and resolve an error message before I hand my computer off to someone more ‘tech-savvy’.

When it comes to the merits of programming and historians, I find that my views have changed. At the beginning of the course, I thought that programming and history were two completely separate facets that should not mix. I also thought Professor Ian Milligan was absolutely insane for trying to teach me programming. However, with the advent of the computer age, I’ve come to realize that understanding computers is necessary to not only history, but to almost every subject and discipline out there. Especially with new tools out there such as the google N-Gram Viewer, historians have to be able to adapt and move forward with technology, or risk being left behind.