How fast is the US losing leadership in software?

That’s a big question, and there are other examples, but I want to talk about it from my own experience of this issue over the last year: Why are people outside the US picking up KPL and Phrogram more quickly?

la Univeridad ICESI in Cali, Columbia has been using KPL in it’s courses and labs for nearly a year now, and has a pretty fully developed curriculum built around it. I know PUC Rio in Brazil is doing the same, and just got a mail last night from a professor in the Phillipines whose third-year university class did their game development assignments in KPL. The number of volunteer translations of KPL in the first year – 17 – also seems like pretty good evidence. Yes, volunteers have made KPL available in Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Thai, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Romanian, Greek and Catalan – so far. Our first sale of Phrogram after it went live was to someone in Germany. I am in touch with lots of teachers elsewhere: Guam, Czechoslovakia, Iceland, New Zealand, China, Canada, Peru, Mexico, the United Kingdom…

The thing that spurred me to actually write this – I’ve been thinking about it for a year now – was that mail from the Phillipines last night, and incoming traffic today from this KPL Curriculum site at la Universidad ICESI in Cali:

There’s quite a lot of good tutorial and curriculum content there, and the University, professors and students are having a lot of fun with KPL, including working to create their own custom sounds, images, and games using them. Anyone want to help translate it to English or any other language? We’ll be glad to provide hosting space for it on our server!

Check out this page of happy photos from the computer lab where they are doing their KPL work:

About half of the KPL actions shots I see there are original content that the students are developing, and which we’ve never seen except in these photos. Cool!

There is good news in the US – Ohio State University’s Computer Science program is offering a new course this year using Phrogram. Lots of other people in the US respond when they see it, and encourage what we’re doing, but the ones who step up and start working themselves with KPL and Phrogram tend to be individual parents, or individual teachers.

Is the pattern that people outside the US are adopting this more quickly than people in the US, or that institutions are adopting it more quickly outside of the US?


Is it simply that our educational system is larger and slower and more bureacratic and has a harder time picking up something new?

Do we require proof before we try something new, and thus take years to do so – if we ever do?

Are we perhaps simply not hearing as much from people in the US, for cultural reasons or busy-ness reasons?

Is US society’s current frantic pace of life preventing us from considering and trying new things?

Is the strong negative trend in Computer Science enrollment (down 60% in five years) a negative perception trend that crosses society, and is not limited to only incoming freshmen?

Did the .COM bubble burst give us more negative attitudes here toward computer technology than it did elsewhere?

Are students and teachers and parents in second-world and third-world countries simply more ambitious than our comfortable first world country?

Is there a cultural difference now whereby we don’t value engineering and science as much as we have in the past, while other less-mature economies value these more highly?

I am really asking these questions, not being rhetorical. If you have thoughts or questions of your own, please do add them.


3 thoughts on “How fast is the US losing leadership in software?

  1. driver says:

    I really think the main problem hinders the development of Phrogram is to ask for money too early. In fact, you guys can spread this nice program for free, then try to make money from the educational service or books if the software becomes popular, e.g. develope good software for kids or teach them programming. I’m sure you’ll be better in the market if you focus on this. You know why you were successful on KPL1.1. It’s free and funny. Even many adults like it. I aslo think no many serious programmer will choose Phrogram as their first developing tool. Think about it! I say this just because I like KPL, but no much interesting in the “expensive” Phrogram. Reason? There is more fun stuff for free.

  2. theschwartz says:

    Hi Driver! Feedback is always welcome – but I think perhaps you should download Phrogram, and also check out some more of the info about it on the site. It is available with a freeware license, and even as freeware is much more capable and useful than KPL was – including, as you say, offer more fun stuff for free. There’s a “Phrogram Version Comparison” link on the homepage that compares the free version of KPL and the free version of Phrogram.

  3. srjek says:

    I googled ‘Spanish To English’ and found a lFish which can translate a webpage.

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