The computer field is full of high school and college drop-outs. Or at least it was: Wikipedia feels the need to distinguish between noteworthy college dropouts and their high school brethren but doesn't begin to cover the subject (simply because most of the computer folks aren't famous). However, a Google search for "autodidact programmer" or "dropout programmer" turns up a lot of evidence that many programmers disliked traditional educational systems.
In most generations, there have been areas where dropouts could compete and excel. Computers are just the latest, but I wonder if that is as easy today as it was twenty years ago? I'm a high school and college drop-out (dropped out of high school, went back to graduate, tried college briefly and dropped out for good), and fell into computers almost by accident. Could you still do that today? I don't know.
To some extent, programmers and other tech people have little choice other than being self taught even if they did originally go through traditional channels. Our technology changes so quickly that most things we learned five or ten years ago have little value today, so we have to keep learning new things. The "newest" things are almost never "taught" anywhere, so we teach ourselves. But given the current maturity of the field, and all of the basics that need to be learned first, is it still possible for someone to enter the field without formal training of some sort? I don't know.
Mark Twain said "The self taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers, and besides, he brags, and is the means of fooling other thoughtless people into going and doing as he himself has done." However, he also said ""I never let schooling get in the way of my education."
A recent study in Scotland found that the average small business owner:
.. is more likely to be the youngest child of the family and leave school at 16, according to a new study by RBS. The survey found Scotland's tycoons began earning money while as young as 13. The research also showed lack of education was no barrier to success - nearly one in five of those polled did not have any qualifications.
Maybe Sam was wrong?
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