Time running out to earn Computers MB as Digital Technology MB launch nears


Jonathan Ive, who designed the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, was born the same year the BSA introduced Computers merit badge.

That should give you some idea just how old Computers merit badge is and just how much has changed in the world of technology since then. Thanks in part to Ive, computers have shrunk from the size of copy machines to the size of a deck of cards. Inputting commands has evolved from complex keystrokes to simple taps on a screen.

That evolution is why the BSA is replacing the outdated Computers merit badge with a newer model: Digital Technology merit badge, debuting in mid-April 2014.

I’ll have requirements for Digital Technology MB soon, but first some details about the discontinuation of Computers, presented in bullet-point form and typed using a standard keyboard:

  • Computers merit badge will be discontinued as of Dec. 31, 2014, and replaced by Digital Technology merit badge, which debuts in mid-April 2014.
  • The 2014 Boy Scout Requirements book, available soon, won’t have Computers merit badge requirements in it but will have the requirements for Digital Technology.
  • Scouts have until Dec. 31, 2014, to begin work on Computers merit badge.
  • If by Dec. 31, 2014, a Scout has begun actual and purposeful effort on Computers merit badge, and that effort is more than simply incidental to participation in Scouting activities, then there’s no time limit to completing the badge, except for his 18th birthday. See topic in the Guide to Advancement for the full text of the policy on discontinued merit badges.
  • A Scout may not begin work on Computers merit badge after Dec. 31, 2014.
  • A Scout may earn and wear on his merit badge sash both Computers and Digital Technology merit badges.
  • The Computers merit badge pamphlet and patch won’t be reprinted or remade — when the inventory is gone, they’re gone.

Same thing with the merit badge itself. When 2014 ends, a Scout’s chance to earn this merit badge will go the way of the CRT monitor. But the good news is Digital Technology MB will be an even better model, with features every Scout will love.

Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by luc legay

24 thoughts on “Time running out to earn Computers MB as Digital Technology MB launch nears

  1. Computers was the first merit badge I earned. My mother (who at that time worked in a computer center on the Army base) was my counselor. She was really tough but I learned a lot from her as a counselor…and a mother. My merit badge does not have a one-piece computer — it has a punch card (so you know how long ago THAT was! *smiling*)

  2. Makes sense. Few things in the world change faster than technology. There are probably a few other MB’s that could use a merger or deletion too. BSA has introduced what. 15 new MB[‘s in the last 5 years, and deleted next to none. The last firestorm was when they wanted to merge Bugling MB in to Music MB. But the nostalgia for Bugling (it was one of the original 14) won out.

  3. Like Mike, I too earned my Computer MB with punch card (input) and real to real for the memory and processor. I remember having over 200 punchcards for my test program. It took amost 4 months to get it to type all the cards (limited access to computer due to we had to “borrow” a corporate computer), 5 mins to read the cards, and 15 mins to process.

    Then we looked at the Sinclair (anyone remember that one). 12 hours to write the program on the TV screen and save it on cassette tape. 5 minutes to load and run same program results as punch car program.

    Compare that to today, I click one button and in a blink of an eye, the computers today do more than what my original punch card program did back then.

  4. Dear Bryan,

    Actually, dot-matrix printers aren’t dead, they’re just rare. Some places still use them because their cartridges press on the paper. For this reason, they can be used with NCR forms.

    Still, thanks for the updates on this and other merit badges.

  5. Anyone remember paper tape programs? The first computer I ever used was a Hewlitt-Packard (HP for newbies) teletype machine. It was connected to our school district’s computer via telephone modem. Compared to today’s machines, it was like using an abacus.

  6. I have earned 105 merit badges and am 2 years from being 18. Excited about all the new merit badges which is adding difficulty to my quest to earn all of them. Even if I don’t get them all, I do know that I have learned many things with those completed. Wish drafting had been discontinued..very difficult one…….My favorite merit badge earned was disabilities awareness.

  7. I kind of pre-date many of you. I discovered computer programming and systems analysis in college and received dual majors in Accounting and Operations Research as the Computer Science major wasn’t invented then. I started as a programmer at Met Life in 1974 and had to explain to my folks what a computer programmer even was.

    One of my first jobs was installing an IBM370/168 that was used for development work by 3,000 programmers. It was the first mainframe computer with semiconductor memory (previous IBM models used ferrite cores). It occupied a few thousand square feet, was water cooled, and had a whopping 4MB of drum storage. BTW, your cell phone is now many times more powerful.

    But the computer field has been a very good career for me and my family the past 40 years. So encourage your Scouts to at least look at the merit badges in this area.

  8. Reblogged this on Scouting Adventures and commented:
    In our digital age technology is moving too fast. You better start working in one before it changes again. Be on the learning edge of digital technology.

  9. Don’t forget that there is also the Programming merit badge to go along with Digital Technology. As a computer science professor, I’m signed up to be a merit badge counselor for both. Thank you for the info on the Computers merit badge transition.

    My concern with the Programming merit badge is that people will push to do it in a few hours or one day. I know that merit badge requirements are “no more, no less”. And there is a note to the counselors in the Programming MB book noting that the programs can be simple. But I hope scouts really think about what they are doing rather than rush through the projects in three different languages and development environments. By the way, the merit badge handbook for Programming is very well done.

    I hope that the projects in Digital Technology are also ones that are substantial enough for the scouts to experience the activity.

  10. Will Computers merit badge counselors automatically be converted to Digital Technology Counselors or is this a District call?

  11. Just remembered it’s a new merit badge, not a name change, so DT counselors will need to sign up for it from scratch.

  12. Ironically, even though I started playing with computers as a hobby as a 6th grader, and knew before high school that I wanted to make my living with computers — there were no local counselors, so I don’t have this one. I’m looking forward to counseling the new DT merit badge.

    Patrick Provart, Technical Manager, Illinois Department of Transportation, Bureau of Information Processing

  13. Anybody remember the _Superman_ movie where Richard Prior’s character programmed the Lex Luthor’s computers to direct the “rounded down” 1/2 cents from all the other employee’s paychecks to his account? Well, art imitates life.

    A friend’s corporate computer was the first to “hacked” by an accountant for that very purpose! The guy would have got away with it, too. Except he filed the earnings on his tax return but didn’t adjust his tax bracket, so the IRS called the company to inform them of the underpayment!

    Not sure how you can use that in counseling your boys, but it’s a fun little story.

  14. “computers have shrunk from the size of copy machines to the size of a deck of cards” isn’t quite true – when Computers MB was first started, computers took up whole floors of buildings compared to what is now the size of a deck of cards. Virtual Memory (“invented” in 1970 by IBM but really invented in 1962 by Burroughs on their 6000 series) didn’t really exist at the time the MB was first introduced. An IBM 360/50 took up a whole floor at my university and had maybe 256K of memory, not 16gb that my iPhone has or 8gb that my notebooks have! We put data in using boxes of punch cards, or punch tape (on a lab computer), and they used 9-track tapes because disk drives the size of a washing machine (which shook like they were on the spin cycle) held a whopping 100mb and cost tens of thousands of dollars each. I have 8GB of memory and 1 terra bytes of drive space in this notebook (1GB = 10 x 100mb, 1TB = 1,000GB). The other thing is the speed of the processors has for quite a number of years, doubled every 18 to 24 months!

    • The statement you quoted isn’t untrue just because computers used to be even bigger than copy machines. What is untrue, however, is that your iPhone has 16GB of memory. It might have 16GB of storage space, but not that much “memory” as the term is commonly used. The original 16GB iPhone had 128MB of memory, while a new 16GB iPhone 5s or 5c has 1GB of memory.

      What really made a reply to your comment necessary was your incorrect conversion table. Memory and storage space in smartphones, Macs and Windows PCs, etc. are both measured in bytes, but that’s a base-2 (binary) number system, not a base-10 system. The correct conversion is 1GB = 1024MB; 1TB (terabyte) = 1024GB.

  15. The first Computer Merit Badge was awarded in June 1968. Geoffrey Botton, the committee chairman from the DPMA was the designer and first counselor in Los Angeles and worked with the first badge awarded. A round oatmeal box with erector set was used to model a “drum storage” unit. A plywood card reader was built with 4 aluminum foil contacts reading cardboard cards with 4 rows of holes that lit up 4 lights. The scout showed Mr. Botton a printout of a Sunday School tracking program he had written (Fortran IID) and run at the old Los Angeles Valley College computer center on an IBM 1620 using punch cards. Geoffrey Botton arranged for the first scout to receive the merit badge at a DPMA conference in Washington, DC that summer of 1968. Was a wonderful experience sitting next to the CEO of GE and other big wigs. In the Boys’ Life archives, December 1968, there’s an article describing this.

    So as you can tell, I remember these details very well because I was that first recipient. Have spent a long career in data processing, still working in software development.
    Fun to see the latest evolution of the Computer Merit Badge!

  16. The punch card depicted on the original merit badge was first used in 1725 to control weaving looms.Card stock was more robust than paper rolls such as was used on player pianos. A more modern form of this input is still used when you use a pencil to fill in the circles to select a group of lottery numbers or select a multiple choice test answer.

    Since microprocessors and microcontrollers have been embedded in devices that are not readily recognized as “computing devices” for over forty years now, blurring the definition of what a “computer” is, this new merit badge will also appear outdated as technology advances.

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s