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The Best First Language For a Young Programmer 634

snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister questions whether Scheme, a dialect of Lisp taught as part of many first-year CS curricula and considered by some to be the 'latin of programming,' is really the best first language for a young programmer. As he sees it, the essentially write-only Scheme requires you to bore down into the source code just to figure out what a Scheme program is trying to do — excellent for teaching programming but 'lousy for a 15-year-old trying to figure out how to make a computer do stuff on his own.' And though the 'hacker ethic' may in fact be harming today's developers, McAllister still suggests we encourage the young to 'develop the innate curiosity and love of programming that lies at the heart of any really brilliant programmer' by simply encouraging them to fool around with whatever produces the most gratifying results. After all, as Jeff Atwood puts it, 'what we do is craftmanship, not engineering,' and inventing effective software solutions takes insight, inspiration, deduction, and often a sprinkling of luck. 'If that means coding in Visual Basic, so be it. Scheme can come later.'"

Best Introduction To Programming For Bright 11-14-Year-Olds? 962

firthisaword writes "I will be teaching an enrichment programming course to 11-14 year old gifted children in the Spring. It is meant as an introduction to very basic programming paradigms (conditions, variables, loops, etc.), but the kids will invariably have a mix of experience in dealing with computers and programming. The question: Which programming language would be best for starting these kids off on? I am tempted by QBasic which I remember from my early days — it is straightforward and fast, if antiquated and barely supported under XP. Others have suggested Pascal which was conceived as an instructional pseudocode language. Does anyone have experience in that age range? Anything you would recommend? And as a P.S: Out of the innumerable little puzzles/programs/tasks that novice programmers get introduced to such as Fibonacci numbers, primes or binary calculators, which was the most fun and which one taught you the most?" A few years ago, a reader asked a similar but more general question, and several questions have focused on how to introduce kids to programming. Would you do anything different in teaching kids identified as academically advanced?

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder