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re: What was your first programming language and why? VIEW POST

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BASIC on my ZX Spectrum +2 waaaaaay back in the 80s. As a child I found it fascinating being able make the computer run these simple programs. It was the only language available on that early home computer and if I recall correctly it came with a BASIC manual that I taught myself from.

 

There is a wealth of knowledge about programming these days, I know others learned programming this way too.

Do you think programming is as accessible to newcomers as it was in the 80s?
(I understand a reference manual probably wasn't the most intuitive way to learn)

 

Programming computers was basically a mystical science back then, most people had never seen a computer in person and the web didn't exist. So for most people I think the thought of learning to program computers didn't occur, it was a very niche thing, certainly where I grew up. I was lucky in that my primary school had begin given a Tandy personal computer, which they had no idea what to do with so they just let kids like me play around with it to our hearts content. That inspired me to ask for a computer of my own (the trusty Spectrum) which I was lucky enough to get and from there I was hooked.

Today I think programming is both more accessible due to the vast resources freely available on the web, but possibly also more daunting to get started due to the bewildering array of languages, platforms and frameworks now available.

That said, I recently helped out at with a class of 10 year olds learning code on hourofcode.com and it was amazing how naturally they all took to it. For them I think coding or programming will be less of a specialisation and more something most people can do a bit of, like maths.

It must have been very rewarding to help out with Hour of Code! I have to agree with you that I think there is son much information which is freely available and accessible but it could be overwhelming.

It would be great to see programming a bigger part of the school curriculum. I hated trigonometry and mathematics in general while at school. When it came to programming, I loved learning about trigonometry in the context of solving programming problems.

 

Isn't the web itself made computer and code more accessible - not only by making documentation accessible but by making everybody able to see code source of things they can directly see?

I think the first time I was placed in front of code was when I clicked on "View source" in IE4 or something. I remember Berners Lee saying something like that in his recent article (can't find the source unfortunately).

Definitely, the thing that attracted me to the web is that before GitHub, websites were a way to see source easily. Inspecting a webpage would give you unminified JS. It could give you ideas about how to tackle a problem in CSS by seeing how your favourite website solved it.

This is still the case today however, build tools have resulted in less easy to understand web pages from a learning perspective. The client side code is often obfuscated and minified for performance.

 

"As a child I found it fascinating being able make the computer run these simple programs"

I remember my very first program ever... It was in the 80's and I have been studying BASIC only on paper, on hobby electronics magazines (in Italy there was Nuova Elettronica [New Electronics], a very good magazine with lots of very interesting projects and tutorials... I learned a lot from it).

One day I was at a computer exposition and there was this computer available with BASIC on board. I wrote a small program that printed the multiplication table of "2" with just a basic for loop...

I still remember how much I was excited (my heart was running) when I typed "RUN" and saw the multiplication table printed on the screen...

 

That’s so cool, I think that is the power of programming! Making something appear on screen with some simple commands is a great first experience.

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