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David Brin Laments Absence of Programming For Kids 355

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-johnny-run-run-johnny-run dept.
An anonymous reader writes "David Brin is an award-winning science fiction writer who has often written on social issues such as privacy and creativity. Now, he's written an essay for Salon.com titled 'Why Johnny Can't Code'. He discusses his son's years-long effort to find a way to use his math book's BASIC programming examples. All they were ever able to find, however, were either children's versions (on the Mac) or 'advanced' versions which attempted to support modern programming requirements (and which required constant review of the user's manual). Ultimately, they ended-up buying an old Commodore 64 on Ebay — Yes, for those of you under the age of 30, 'personal' computers like the Apple II and C64 used to all include BASIC in their ROMs."
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David Brin Laments Absence of Programming For Kids

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  • There are options (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mkosmo (768069) * <mkosmo@gmail.com> on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:34PM (#16115969) Homepage
    How about QBasic on Win95, MS DOS, etc? My first BASIC programming experiences were on one of those kiddy VTech laptops, then moved to QBasic on Win95. Worked great... simple BASIC, didn't require any special knowledge. In fact, I quite enjoyed it.
    • Re:There are options (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tmasssey (546878) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:38PM (#16116012) Homepage Journal
      Or a C-64 emulator, or GW-BASIC, or VisualBasic or any of a *bunch* of free or open source BASIC interpreters [slashdot.org]...

      This sounds very much made up to write an article.

      Having said that, I have tried to find kid's programming books for my 8-year-old daughter. I started learning computer programming at 8 using my Commodore VIC-20 manual. It had a little cartoon computer character that led you through BASIC programming from the typical 10 PRINT "TIM" 20 GOTO 10 all the way to "advanced" games. As a kid, I absolutely loved it.

      However, I have been able to find *nothing* like that for her... Any thoughts out there?

      • Do you happen to know of anything equivelent to LogoWriter. I've found some stuff thats way more complicated than the original and is just simply confusing..
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zuzulo (136299)
          I think the Squeak project is worthy of note for anyone interested in a first programming environment. Start em off right.

          Squeak homepage [squeak.org]

          and the Education focused site [squeakland.org]
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by sg_oneill (159032)
            There also was "Alice", a python / 3d environment to teach kids object oriented coding. Python is of course a perfect first language for *anyone* as well.

            However, its a crying shame that a good solid programming language, perhaps with game making potential or some other hook for kids, isnt included with every copy of windows.

            Oh yeah old school basic for Windows: http://www.nicholson.com/rhn/basic/#5 [nicholson.com]

            Its really really old school however.
      • by Heembo (916647)
        You hit upon a huge computing need: Textbooks on programming and computer science for kids, in general. You write a math book, its pretty much in stone for a few years at least. You write a computer book, it's out of date a few months after it hits the shelf! sort of
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by toph42 (160730)
        That's how we did it old school. These days kids learn OO concepts with graphical programming environments they don't know are graphical programming environments. Try out Alice [alice.org] by Carnegie Mellon and see how kids (or adults) can create "interactive stories" that a using 3D graphical objects. It's pretty cool. Version 3 (in development) will utilize graphical models from EA's The Sims 2, to allow creation of more realistic stories (see the press release [alice.org]), but even with crude graphics, kids end up learnin
    • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:42PM (#16116053)
      Welcome back to Slashdot - we missed you yesterday... http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/0 9/14/0320238 [slashdot.org]
      • by dtfinch (661405) *
        Oddly, visiting that link locks up Opera 9.01 on my system, even with flash disabled.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Why basic at all? It's a jumble. How about something clean and elegant? That's right, scheme or lisp.

      Actually I really learned to program on an HP calculator. I had previously done some C, but the simple metaphor of the stack was alluring.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mkosmo (768069) *
        I only say that because he explicitly stated the use of BASIC in his son's math book. You really cant use a C compiler to run a few lines of BASIC :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cp.tar (871488)
        Lisp, Scheme, Python, Perl... anything that'll teach the kid to think and to understand.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tinkerghost (944862)
        RTFA - BASIC because it's what was in the textbooks at school.
        There are tons of other languages that could have been used, but each one would have required translating the code in the textbook.
        The artical wasn't about the lack of BASIC per se, but about the lack of support for learning the roots of the higher languages. Everyone says - oh, don't play with that crap - go for the higher languages - Object oriented blah blah blah. The point was that that's not how it should be done. Yeah you can learn the hi
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          RTFA - BASIC because it's what was in the textbooks at school.

          Isn't, then, the problem with the school purchasing textbooks that were designed for the 1980s?

          The artical wasn't about the lack of BASIC per se, but about the lack of support for learning the roots of the higher languages.

          I'm not sure what you mean by "roots" and "higher". I don't need to learn BASIC to understand the roots of, say, C++. I don't see how learning a modern derivative of Logo (which, along with BASIC, was a common teaching

    • First Big Tits Dupe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:55PM (#16116194)
      perl -we 'print "Big Tits" until 1==0' Is the epitomy of every first program.

      Perl seems to fit the bill, since it can be as simple as you want and doesn't even have the type issues Basic has. Perl is happy to be procedural. When you are ready to step up to objectsperl is ready.

      Object oriented perl is a wonderful way to learn objects. Wait don't scream. I said "learn". I'd been object oriented programming for years in Java and other languages. But I truly did not understand how all the pieces worked till I wrote perl objects. In perl it's like one of those "visible man" models. You learn how inheritance works. You learn how binding of an instance to a class works. You understand closures for the first time. You understand how the namespaces are kept separate and how instance memory is allocated. It's not just some voodoo that simply works, like in JAVA. Moreover all of the voodoo is not out of reach but right there for you to mess with. An instance can change it's own inheritance if you want it to. An instance can create a new method and write it into it's own namespace if it wants to. An instance can trap calls to it's own methods and redirect them or intercept calls to methods that don't exist and respond to them.

      Those features are not unique to perl (for example pyhton implements objects identically to perl). The difference is that All of that object management occurs in perl itself and is not hidden behind syntactic sugar (like python and java). You quickly appreciate what dereferencing costs, etc...

      The other thing that is nice about perl for learning is all of those prefixes like $ @, and so forth. They may make perl look like cursing but they force you to think about what a variable is. When I index out an array, I get what? an array? no I get a scalar, so $X[2] is how I index @X. You can look at someones perl program and if it's written well tell what every word is. You cannot look at a bare name in python or java and tell if it's a method, an array, a hash, a scalar or reference. Perl you can. (Oh and by the way let me explode a perl/pyhton myth. python has more special markup characters in use than perl, the main difference is that in python they are suffixes instead of prefixes and are overloaded with multiple meanings--try counting how many modifiers there are some time (e.g. () , [] ** and so on))

      Now once you learn perl objects. Well it's time to put down the perl and back away slowly. Python, java are much better languages for writing re-usable, easily read, complex object oriented programs. Perl is still a much more powerful language than either. But it's powerful for efficiently creating compact or single use programs quickly. Not for well designed complex systems.

      Perl is good language to start in, plus it's useful enough to work throughout your career. Basic is not.

    • I know it's a dupe, but I missed out on the discussion last time =P

      The books his son are using were probably published 10-15 years ago. When you factor in the amount of time from when the author actually wrote them, I'd say it's closer to 20. The books being written today probably don't have code examples in them. Even if MS were to include basic in Vista right now, there would be a lag time of when it'd appear in books again.

      That being said, I think he has a point that a simple programming language s
    • Re:There are options (Score:4, Informative)

      by Grayputer (618389) on Friday September 15, 2006 @04:08PM (#16116312)
      Those are copyright MS. Try freebasic www.freebasic.net for the 'free' version.
  • Oh, man..... Already posted here [slashdot.org] and I even told "Daddypants".

    • by rk (6314) *

      And you weren't the only one. I guess a retread from a day ago doesn't constitute a "serious" problem.

  • No sir... REpeat.. [slashdot.org]
  • ... maybe he'd code up a "dupe detector" for the /. editors to use?
    • On the "preview" submit of a story (editors do have to click "preview" right?) parse out any links from the summary. Check the summaries from all stories in the last three days to see if any of them contain those strings. If any of those strings are contained, toss an error and a link to that story so that the editor can quickly check the other story to tell if it is in-fact a dupe that they were about to post.

      -Rick
      • by nuzak (959558)
        If they cared enough to write a dupe detector, they might care enough to read their own website.
        • by RingDev (879105)
          The code is open source though, maybe someone who cares enough about the site will write it for them :P

          -Rick
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:37PM (#16115999)
    I mean, if I had kids, the first thing I'd do is program 'em to get up and get me a beer from the fridge. Good fer nothin' brats.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tivoKlr (659818)
      Dude, seriously, why the AC. I was going to mod this +1 Funny as Hell, but I don't spend em on AC's...

      Oh well.

  • Why can't Zonk pay attention?
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:38PM (#16116014) Homepage Journal
    It does afford me the option of wondering "aloud" why Brin didn't just download, say, an Apple ][ or C64 emulator. I mean, I always thought the guy was kind of smart, but now I know it's not true. (And don't tell me that non-computer nerds wouldn't know about emulators; if you don't know, ask someone.
    • I think he's either dim or feigning ignorane for dramatic effect. There are a plethora of freeware and shareware BASIC compilers available for download, the real problem isn't finding BASIC, it's choosing which version and dialect to use.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        To be fair, if you're talking about entering programming examples from some magazine, you do need the right kind of BASIC, which is why the same program might appear several different ways in the same magazine. But also, to be fair, that's why we have emulators, and none of those math book programming examples are going to fail even in any halfassed emulator.
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:46PM (#16116104)
      I thought the same thing.

      The article was interesting, but ultimately the author seemed to be concerned about recreating nostalgia for programming on his 8-bit computer rather than actually wanting kids to know how to program. There's countless examples of programming languages suitable for a kid. Bash, Excel, and Javascript are all pretty simple, don't require complex steps like compiling or memory management, and readily accessible.
      • by Danga (307709)
        There's countless examples of programming languages suitable for a kid. Bash, Excel, and Javascript are all pretty simple

        I don't consider Excel a programming language, BASH is also not a programming language but it allows you to run scripts, javascript is close to a programming language I guess and kids could probably do some fun things with it. But seriously what could a kid do in Excel that would actually hold their interest longer than half a second? "Wow Dad! I just calculated how much money I will m
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Vellmont (569020)

          But seriously what could a kid do in Excel that would actually hold their interest longer than half a second?

          Write a macro the does all their math homework for them, including showing work? Figure out how long it takes them to save up for a new bike? There's lots of ways a kid could be interested in Excel.
    • by flooey (695860)
      It does afford me the option of wondering "aloud" why Brin didn't just download, say, an Apple ][ or C64 emulator. I mean, I always thought the guy was kind of smart, but now I know it's not true. (And don't tell me that non-computer nerds wouldn't know about emulators; if you don't know, ask someone.

      I think the idea was that he was lamenting that there aren't the tools for people to grow into being computer nerds. Your average Counterstrike player doesn't really want to expend some effort to learn ho
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        Personally, I think the much bigger reason is that our computers do so much more these days. Back when I got my first computer, it didn't really do a lot. Once I beat Crystal Caves and Secret Agent Man, GWBASIC was about the only interesting thing that was left.

        Yeah, I think you've really hit the nail on the head here. Actually you could get BASIC in ROM for the IBM PC-1... but alas, my machine lacked that option, and I ended up scrapping everything but the motherboard which AFAIK is still hanging on a

        • Not just that, but those older machines (the 4-bit era) tended to show you BASIC as soon as you booted. It was ready for nothing so much as for letting you write some code.

          My Atari 8-bit (130XE) would boot into basic if I didn't press "OPTION" when turning it on.

          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
          BOOT ERROR
      • by mikael (484)
        Personally, I think the much bigger reason is that our computers do so much more these days. Back when I got my first computer, it didn't really do a lot. Once I beat Crystal Caves and Secret Agent Man, GWBASIC was about the only interesting thing that was left.

        Maybe you could have done with a free fun pack of 100 games/programming examples. I still remember getting an Atari 800 for Christmas 1981 - It came with a fun pack of 100+ programs + games from the local mom'n'pop computer shop (the programs had bee
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LunaticTippy (872397)
      My only complaint about my 64 emulator is the keyboard. The c64 keyboard had some weird keys, and it doesn't map prettily to a modern keyboard. I think a " is shift-2, but I always have to poke around a bit to figure it out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by biobogonics (513416)
      It does afford me the option of wondering "aloud" why Brin didn't just download, say, an Apple ][ or C64 emulator.

      Even better, find an emulator that runs CP/M which also emulates various types of terminals. One fun thing about computers is making them do fun looking *stuff* like display hacks, moving the cursor, typing backwards, etc. Learn how to control the display by issuing character sequences. Find some books by David Ahl. CP/M had an incredibly rich set of simple tools. Part of the fun is that you hav
    • What he is talking about is the innate nature of those older computers to encourage people to tinker and create things. New machines do everything they can to hide the machinery from the users. Older ones gloried in the mechanics of computing. You actually bought a computer for the sake of having one of those Universal Machines that the magazines extolled, rather than a plain, emasculated "desktop." When was the last time you saw a kid with wires and a soldering iron, instead of an off-the-shelf brain
  • Yes, for those of you under the age of 30, 'personal' computers like the Apple II and C64 used to all include BASIC in their ROMs.

    That must make me... damn, over 30.

    yes, the '80s. This is how most of us used to learn. There were still TRS-80s, Amigas, and ancient XT workstations in some of my friends' homes. I was an Apple ][ kid, myself. I guess I still am.
  • Come on... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by naoursla (99850) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:39PM (#16116031) Homepage Journal
    I know that /. is famous for dupes, but at some point I start thinking the editors are playing a little joke on us.
  • Uh, hello? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:40PM (#16116037)
    Why pay for the cow when you can get the emulator [wikipedia.org] for free?
  • How is it that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Travoltus (110240)
    Slashdot can post dupe stories about the dearth of programming training opportunities for kids, but they can reject a story I posted about a recent study showing a LACK of programming jobs?

    Why should kids learn programming when they'll only be able to compete for a programming job if they take an East Indian's dollar-a-week salary?
    • Do you have a link?

      -Rick
    • Don't get caught up in the lists that circulate on salaries. This year, they're a dollar a week and everyone outsourcing. Next year, they show a golden future since lots of jobs come back.

      These things come and go in waves. I'm only five years in the IT and I have already recognized this, why haven't you?

      By the way, it's bad form to complain about your story submission being rejected.
    • by Sloppy (14984)
      Why should kids learn programming when they'll only be able to compete for a programming job if they take an East Indian's dollar-a-week salary?
      Because amateur programming is enjoyable. You might as well ask why anyone should have sex, since making a living as a prostitute is so hard.
  • Lego Mindstorm? (Score:4, Informative)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@zhrTWAINodague.net minus author> on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:40PM (#16116041) Homepage Journal
    What about the Lego Mindsorm? That has a programming language. I'll bet it is way cooler to use a beginners programming language to build robots, than it was to draw boxes, or calculate your homework.

    ...and hold on, now! Where's my damn flying car?
  • Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PFI_Optix (936301) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:41PM (#16116045) Journal
    http://www.kidsprogramminglanguage.com/ [kidsprogra...nguage.com]
  • by DG (989) * on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:41PM (#16116050) Homepage Journal
    Personally, having grown up with the C64 and the Apple][ and all the rest... man, I HATED BASIC.

    It was way, way, WAY too limiting and tedious, even for my neophyte 13-year-old self.

    I really didn't discover the joy of programming until I discovered Turbo Pascal. It was like somebody unshackling me - even with the crappy PC XT CGA graphics.

    Pascal is a *great* learning language. It teaches all the good habits that will be needed for a C/C++/Perl hacker later in life, without all the administrivia involved with C, or the sheer horsepower (with all the syntactic complexity) of Perl.

    Go with Pascal as a first language, and you can't go wrong.

    DG
    • I'm pretty much the same.

      Started Basic at about 5 or 6, Pascal about 12/13, Perl about 15/16, Java about 17 and never really got that into C or assembly except on embedded stuff.

      Ironically i'm now maintaining a VB application, and can put my 2 decades of experience to use.
    • They taught Pascal in my high school, which wasnt such a bad idea. Problem is, this was 15+ years ago and the guy teaching didnt know a damned thing about computers. I think computers are getting much more emphasis at the high school level low.

      That said, we were taugh Alice Pascal, which was a sandboxed learning addition of Pascal. My vague memmories tell me that the sandbox itself put so many contraints on you, the you as much learned working around alice pascals limits, as you did learning pascal.

      Then
    • by jsebrech (525647) on Friday September 15, 2006 @05:27PM (#16116976)
      Personally, having grown up with the C64 and the Apple][ and all the rest... man, I HATED BASIC.

      I started out on a C64/C128 as well. Basic is not a good first language.

      Frankly, if I wanted to teach my child programming, I'd start with javascript. Here's why:
      - It's extremely easy to get started in. You can do a lot with one-liners, and unlike perl you can explain the one-liners to a neophyte. There are many excellent beginner's books.
      - On-screen graphical feedback is instantaneous, and you don't have to restrict yourself to console output.
      - Every single web-enabled PC has the development tools right there. They don't have to do complicated installs, and they can show off their 1337 skills on their friend's computer.
      - And best of all, if you give them a simple hosting account they can place their javascript programs online for all their friends to see.
    • That's a point I hadn't thought to make last time this story came around. I started programming on a Commodore64 when I was 7. Not a prodigy; I programmed about as well as you'd expect a 7 year old to program. Copied short snippets from books and whatnot. By ten, I was using basic programming flow to draw interesting patterns on the screen. At the age of thirteen, I tried my first truly ambitious project: a 'Dragon Warrior'-style RPG.

      It was a catastrophe. When I first started composing this, I was g
  • Why use that old junk? What's he got against C?
    You can simply use an OSX terminal and compile with gcc, no fuss.

    But if you want to teach a kid programming: HTML and Javascript is the way to go.
    They're universally accessible in new computers, and they're a great way to learn to code and to share the results.

    All you need is a browser and a text editor.
  • Yeh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by ijakings (982830)
    A boy who searches for years to find a program that will let him do some examples from his maths book. He is like the /. King. We must find him and make him our saviour, he will lead us to victory over these so called "norms"
    • I can't figure out why he needs to code 15 line programs in BASIC if he is already 200 pages into a C++ book. I mean, why regress?

      From what I took away from the article, the child seems to be bright enough not to have any need of an old, 8-bit machine capable of running interpreted BASIC. He needs to take the knowledge he has and RUN(pun?) with it.

      My personal take on the whole situation is children with sufficient interest in programming will learn it without the tools of yesteryear. In the end, they'll
  • Stories like this could be relocated there after the first comments.
  • I've been concerned about this issue for some time. Sure there are "options" out there, such as Javascript and the freebie Macintosh developer tools that come with each new system. However, trying to put object-oriented concepts into a form that children can easily adapt to seems a lot more difficult than one might believe. Even something like RealBasic is a bit tricky to follow if you aren't familiar with how object oriented code works.

    There needs to be some kind of readily available interpretive programmi
    • by Kesch (943326)
      There needs to be some kind of readily available interpretive programming language that allows people to start out programming in linear fashion, and later eases them into object-oriented coding.


      Umm... *cough*Pyhton*cough*
  • Really, a TI83 is just like those ancient computers of the 80's. It boots up to BASIC, is powered by a Z80, and has a tiny amount of RAM, yet it enough for what it does.
  • Logo was the only thing we had. We whipped that turtle to death on the Apple ][ to draw all those fancy lines, circle and stars.
    • Logo was the only thing we had. We whipped that turtle to death on the Apple ][

      Ahhhh... memories... Logo was an awesome learning tool.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:58PM (#16116230)

    Good lord man. Why go through all that trouble? [viceteam.org]

    The article should be called Why Johnny Can't Freaking Use Google.

  • by Nijika (525558) on Friday September 15, 2006 @03:59PM (#16116236) Homepage Journal
    He can lament all he wants, the truth of it is the percentage of kids that have access to computers in the first place is much higher, and the number of computer literate kids that will come out of that expore to completely replace and out-do us will also be much higher.

    I don't think the antiquification of DOS, and of all things, BASIC, is going to have some negative effect.

    We'll always have to suffer the hand-wringing from a generation getting older, and I'll always roll my eyes about it.

  • Brin is so full of **** here, it's not even funny. Freshmeat has a whole category [freshmeat.net] full of free BASIC interpreters and compilers. A lot of them run on Windows. He also doesn't seem to understand that there are other languages that can be programmed in a procedural style, just like BASIC. For example, there's nothing stopping you from writing python programs in that style. BASIC doesn't suck because it's simple and nonpretentious. BASIC sucks because it's never been standardized. I learned to program in BASIC
  • I'm willing to watch their Flash ads in order to read an article, but I've never been able to get past the endless loop of "watch this ad for access!!" despite trying a dozen or more times.

    I've even tried turning off adblock, noscript, flashblock and accepting all their cookies. Still just an endless loop of ads.

    I'm sort of assuming that the page can't handle mozilla-based browsers at this point.

    Too bad for Salon; I might have subscribed, but if their site can't handle my browser and plug-ins of choice I
    • by Animats (122034)

      Me either. Just an endless loop of ads. No wonder nobody reads Salon any more.

    • by Dr. Zowie (109983)
      I pay $35/year for my subscription. It works on old-Mozilla, Safari, Camino, Galeon - even IE. Never a hitch for me.

      The subscription is well worth it for me since I found I was sitting through a flash ad almost every day. They generally offer a bunch of goodies when you subscribe (mostly free magazine subscriptions), so you're not just getting Salon for that. Their reporting is mostly very good and occasionally excellent - it's refreshing to see a news magazine that actually rakes some muck once in a wh
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        Back when I used to read it, it was basically "Bush-bashing Daily." A typical headline might be: "Less animals adopted from shelters this year; is Bush killing America's puppies!?"

        Maybe it's gotten better, I dunno.
  • Speaking of which, does anyone want to help with my attempt to fill the gap that this article talks about? My old XLogo project needs some tender loving care: http://xlogo.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. It's a simple Logo/Turtle app, just like in the old days. It works: runs commands, even complex series of commands. However, it has not been worked on for quite some time and still needs someone to implement other commands into the parser, and make it Intel processor compatible (aka. Universal Binary).
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday September 15, 2006 @04:08PM (#16116311)
    I too have lamented the changes in IT. When I first learned to program (1977 on an HP-25), the technical environment was very different. Back then, everyone who wanted to use a computer HAD to know how to program. The scarcity of software meant that everyone wrote their own code or, at least, typed in code from a magazine. Very limited software sharing schemes and the inability to quickly find software meant it was easier to write your own than to find someone else's software. Simple languages, simple hardware, simple interfaces, and simple APIs ruled. When the entire OS plus application suite resided in a few k of RAM, it was easy to both work with the system or create your own. It took very little effort for a novice programmer to produce world-class code because the bar was so low and the functionality so primitive that anyone could make something interesting. In the old days, everyone grew their own code.

    Today it's all different. The OS has become a beast that not even a team of programmers can fully comprehend. IDEs, OOP, and layered architectures try to hide the complexity, but its still there. Moreover, almost any bit of code or application that one might want has a multiple incarnations ready for buying/downloading from commercial/shareware/OSS sources. It's now very easy to find the application you want and much harder to write something that is better than anythign else. In the new days, few grow their own code.

    Perhaps its like the change from a subsistence-agrarian world to a world of craftsmen (or industry) where programming is like farming. In the past, everyone grew their own code. Today, no one grows their own food and farming is a very minor part of the global economy. Farmers may lament that most children in the city don't know how to milk a cow or thresh wheat, but perhaps those skills aren't needed in most people. Just as one farmer can now feed some 40 people, one programmer servers the programming needs of a growing number of users. Consider that Microsoft as 60,000 employees whose code runs on at least 600 million operating PCs -- more than 10,000 non-programming users per programmer.

    As with farming, we now live in a world where few need to grow their own code. As far as schools are concerned we may be entering a world in which fewer than 1 child per class will ever need to know how to program. That makes me sad at some level, I truly enjoyed learning to program, but it may be an inevitable part of the maturation process for IT and the internet.
  • There're TREMENDOUS amounts of programming opportunities out there -- I leave it to other posters to bicker over which watered-down abstracted programming environment or interactive scripting code or automated-gladiator-codebot game is best, but the point is that there are zillions of them.

    The Apple ][ had a nice interactive programming environment (BASIC) and, yes, I remember it fondly. Learning about Woz's Programmer's Aid ROM was like discovering that the Emerald City lurked under the hood of my beige w
  • download this.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by scharkalvin (72228) on Friday September 15, 2006 @04:16PM (#16116403) Homepage
    http://blassic.org/ [blassic.org]
  • I still have a couple of PSION Organiser II. 64k RAM, EPROM based storage packs, robust as hell and work off a 9V battery (read: it's portable).

    The main reason this is interesting is the language: Organiser Programming Language (OPL) was a sort of combination of BASIC and Pascal, quite structured and flexible and, most importantly, because the thing was portable you could code anywhere. It ran fast because source code needed to be 'translated' to a sort of executable (akin to Pascal's original P code).

    The
  • If David had kept his old DOS disks, he could've extracted the QBASIC interpreter from them and used that. I just checked my DOS 6.22 disks and it's there. I believe it'll run in the DOS window on current Windows, and it probably runs under DOSEMU on Linux. Or he could introduce the kid to basic Java using something like Eclipse, if he wants to give the kid an introduction to modern IDEs without too much pain.

  • I met David Brin once. He tried to sell me some roleplaying games.

    Anyhow, why can't his kid code? Probably doesn't have the mindset for it, sorry. Not everyone can sit in front of a computer all day long thinking about "imaginary things" and then typing them in. If your mind doesn't work in the right way, it can be almost impossible to learn to program. I've taught introductory CS classes before; they can learn enough to scrape by in the class, but they'll never be good programmers (and they usually forget

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