We should welcome anything that generates interest in IT. So the BCS initiative to celebrate IT pioneers should have been a great idea - but it's one that's been badly let down by its execution.
The IT association has launched a website called Information Pioneers, to celebrate the pace-setters and innovators in information technology. The BCS has cast its net pretty wide and has included people not normally associated with IT - the likes of Wiliam Tyndale, the first English translator of the Bible, John Snow, (the epidemiologist not the English fast bowler) and James IV of Scotland - for no discernible reason.
However, that's not the issue - I think that it's important that IT is not considered in isolation, Newton's remark about standing on the shoulders of giants is particularly relevant in information technology, where advances from the past can resurface years later - look how the work of George Boole and Thomas Bayes gathered a new lease of life many years after their deaths.
No, what is disturbing about the BCS Pioneers initiative is the way that it has seized on the current trend to have a bunch of 'celebrities' (I use the term loosely as I'd not heard of three of the five) presenting the case for particular pioneers. Surely, the point of these pioneers is that they're interesting in themselves, without the need for any gimmicks? Why didn't they have BCS members presenting the case - that at least would have put the pioneers into some sort of context.
I actually knew this was coming as I, along with several other IT journalists, had been asked for my recommendations as to who the pioneers should be. I said then that the idea of celebrity presenters was a bad idea - and seeing it in execution, it's worse than I imagined it to be.
But it's not just the idea of the presenters, there's the question of the people selected. The BCS has settle on just five pioneers: Alan Turing, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (fair enough, I don't think many people would quibble with those two) but then we have Hedy Lamarr, Sir Clive Sinclair and Ada Lovelace. Notice anything? In an industry absolutely dominated by one country - the USA - there's not a single American on the list. The four Brits and an Austrian chosen make for a lopsided selection.
It's also slightly strange that there are two women in the final five. I deplore the paucity of women in the IT industry and welcome anything to attract them, but this smacks of tokenism.
If it does attract some women into thinking about IT as a career, then it could be worthwhile - but my guess is that it won't be seen that way.
Of course, these things are going to be subjective and will be argued about but a list of IT pioneers dominated by Brits and where 40 percent are women presents a not particularly worldly view. It is irritating when US commentators express the view that everything was invented in the US but this has swung things far too much the other way.
Nice idea, BCS, but I'm sure that you could have done better than this.
Follow Maxwell on Twitter [email protected]
Find your next job with techworld jobs