GogoTraining spoke with Michael Simpson, one of our leading industry-expert instructors, about technology and his involvement and reflections on the past, present and future.
GogoTraining: What inspired you to get involved in IT?
Michael Simpson: I have been fascinated by music and languages from a very young age, playing piano and violin while growing up. I’ve always considered music, mathematics and languages just different means of expression — and computing / information technology yet another branch. I built synthesizers and studied acoustics in college, which further blurred whatever faint divisions there were for me between music and computing.
GGT: Of all the changes that have happened, which would you say was the biggest so far?
MS: The “democratization” and explosion of information that occurred due to the transformation of the ARPANet into the Internet and the arrival of the World Wide Web. Today, we take for granted access to information that would have overwhelmed the world’s leaders only two generations ago.
GGT: What was a favorite or most interesting project you worked on, and why?
MS: One of my favorite projects involved interviewing experts to understand how they solved problems, translating those concepts into objects and classes, and representing those objects and classes in C++ (and, later, Java) constructs. I was able to combine programming skills and artificial intelligence skills in a cross-disciplinary technique known as “knowledge engineering.”
GGT: As an expert in Java, what’s a good tip for someone just starting to learn it?
MS: The language’s syntax mimics that of C or C++, but take a deep breath, realize that it *is* case-sensitive, and understand object-oriented programming concepts and constructs BEFORE you take your first Java class.
GGT: Where do you see Android going in terms of growth and application?
MS: The Android software stack will grow to fill the void left by the gradual withdrawal of Symbian from the smartphone arena. The development of emerging markets such as China, India, and the African / South American / Asian continents will create a burgeoning market for inexpensive, reliable mobile phones, bypassing landlines entirely. “Cheap is good,” and free is better. Android’s cost advantage will make it easier to penetrate those markets on a volume basis than Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, or RIM’s BlackBerry. A second avenue of Android growth will be the “embedded / smart appliance” area — refrigerators that know how to re-order, smart thermostats, better and more reliable car engines and so forth.
GGT: Any tips for those starting to learn Android programming?
MS: The Android stack is designed to run on many different types of devices, so determine what your “target market” is. Think about your application’s appearance, “look and feel” and behavior before you write a single line of code. Realize that knowing Java is a necessary, but NOT sufficient, condition of becoming an Android programmer.
GGT: GogoTraining’s Android Development Training Program has Java AND Android programming courses (Java being optional if one already knows it). What is good to know coming in to the program?
MS: Each Android application runs in its own miniature Java environment, so you should be proficient at creating, compiling and debugging standalone Java applications before tackling the Android programming courses.
GGT: What other sorts of practice or activity should one do in addition to the training program?
MS: After you go through the Java and Android courses, pick some non-trivial task that would have some value to your organization — organizing or scheduling deliveries, for example — and design and implement it using Android. Once you’ve gotten the bugs *THOROUGHLY* worked out, show it to your friends, then to your management. This will act as confirmation of your knowledge, and show your colleagues and supervisors that (A) you got something out of these courses and (B) you turned your new-found knowledge into something of benefit to the company.
GGT: What level of ability can someone expect to have upon completion of that program?
MS: You should have the ability to create, design and implement a small program that can solve or speed up a task whose solution has value to your company. (A good tip is to think of a task like that while you are taking the course.)
GGT: What’s out there in IT that interests you the most right now?
MS: In the Android world — how Android will fare as vendors try to push it onto tablets. The iPad and MacBook Air offer stiff competition.
In the non-Android world — security and “neural networks” (how information technology keeps data secure in a world of interconnected networks continually talking to each other, and to humans.)
GGT: What’s next for Michael Simpson?
MS: Finding the next boundary to push. Seeing what’s over the next hill. Discovering the next “what if …?” Come join me!