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Ask Slashdot: Do Kids Still Take Interest In Programming For Its Own Sake?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the too-hip-to-be-cool dept.

Programming 276

nirgle writes "I have been wondering lately if there are any kids interested in programming for its own sake anymore. When I was my nephew's age, computers were still fascinating: There wasn't a laptop on every table, facebook wasn't splattered on every screen, and you couldn't get any question answered in just a couple seconds with Google. When I was 10, I would have done anything for a close programming mentor instead of the 5-foot high stack of books that I had to read cover-to-cover on my own. So I was happy when my nephew started asking about learning to do what "Uncle Jay does." Does the responsibility now shift to us to kindle early fires in computer science, or is programming now just another profession for the educational system to manage?" Another reader pointed out a related post on the Invent with Python blog titled "Nobody wants to learn how to program."

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Programming for programmings "own sake" (5, Insightful)

ProgrammerJulia (2589195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259315)

Anyone rarely does anything just for its sake. There's always some ultimate goals. As a become adult, programming became means of getting money and helping with business. When I was a kid, programming enabled me to make games and sandboxes that weren't otherwise available. I did some great things too.. but I never wanted to program "just for the sake of it". I wanted the results of that programming. Even if that meant a little fun sandbox game made by me.

It's not just computers, this is true for everything. Everyone does something for a reason. For me, programming was a way to create the games and sandboxes I dreamed of and enjoyed. I never really even finished anything, but I had my mind going around the AI and the general gameplay mechanics. Especially when I was waiting for bus or doing something other boring stuff. But, I was never really fascinated about computers or programming *per se*. I was interested at what those techniques could give me.

So rather than trying to educate programming, computer history or other boring stuff, try to tell what fun stuff you can do, or whatever he would be interested at. Everything else will come later, and the kids will either pick it up themselves or ask, if they want to.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259355)

You're one hell of a fast typer to submit this comment at same time as this post was published without subscription to help you.

Well, not surprising considering you need to karma-whore right now to post comments like this one [] (note the timestamps there as well).

And here I thought DCTech/InsightIn140Bytes/InterestingFella et al. have left the building.

And yep, programming games and sandboxes for yourself is probably what submitter meant by "programming for it's own sake". Did you enjoy playing those unfinished games, or did you enjoy thinking about the possible end result, or did you enjoy tinkering with algorithms for "AI and the general gameplay mechanics" and seeing them come to live? If the latter, then you were programming for programming's sake.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260121)

Goddamn it. I knew I smelled a fucking rat. Why do these assholes have to come e on here with this anti-Google astroturfing bullshit? Google: HIRE YOUR OWN HIT SQUAD. Don't wait for what happened to IBM with MS fudding and killing OS/2 to happen to you. This shit is serious. The PR and reputation companies like waggoner and edstrom are massively funded by MS Facebook and Oracle and they are gunning for you. Seriously, I know you don't want to get your hands dirty with this petty shit but these assholes play for keeps. Do something. NOW.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (0, Offtopic)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259379)

You mean you question the logic of doing shit just for DOING IT?! OK! Hand in your geek license!

*also demoscene*

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (5, Interesting)

Hogmoru (639374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259391)

I disagree, so instead of modding down I'll reply :-)
I guess there are several kinds of people, those like you (I think I get your point), and those like me : *I* was really fascinated about computers and programming *per se*.
It was not about one or a few particular goals, it is about the idea of an infinity of things that became possible, and being able to bring new kinds of solutions to almost anybody on the planet. In this regard, somehow I'm joining your point, because of course there always are ultimate goals, but they were not my own : they were other people's goals that I thrived to reach using my craft : programming.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259429)

Spot on. And I think programming is going to be more popular now with the mobile platforms making it extremely easy to make your software available for the masses.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (4, Interesting)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259441)

Everyone does something for a reason. For me, programming was a way to create the games and sandboxes I dreamed of and enjoyed.

In psychology, the motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic: []

Intrinsic means that you do the things for the pleasure of doing them. In your case, creating games for your enjoyment.

Extrinsic means that you do the things to get a reward or avoid a punishment. In your case, it's about getting money.

If the extrinsic motivation becomes bigger than the intrinsic motivation, you don't enjoy your work anymore, and you get bored.

Education encourages extrinsic motivation, by grading people, which basically kills enjoyment in learning when grades become more important than learning.
The more educated you are, and the more you are dependent on extrinsic motivation, which makes people search for fame or money.
People with strong extrinsic motivation (and who have good grades at school) tend to fail in real life, because they search for the immediate rewards.

To avoid being bored, the only way is to do things with intrinsic motivation, and that doesn't mean not getting paid !
If you enjoy what you do, you'll be happier, and you can get paid for it, sometimes making a lot of money, but that's not the main goal.
But this also requires to determine if you can accept to earn a little less money in exchange of being happier...

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259713)

Education encourages extrinsic motivation

The point of a true education is to enable one to find *intrinsic* motivation. The trouble is, most of what passes for "education" is merely training.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259947)

The point of a true education is to enable one to find *intrinsic* motivation.

Not really, if education was about finding intrinsic motivation, why doesn't it search for it first ?
You can't find something that you don't search.

I don't remember a single thing that I enjoyed learning at school.
Also, grading is just spoiling all joy, because it's in general completely arbitrary.
The only thing that grades show is how good the teacher is !

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259751)

This is, by a country mile, the best comment I have read on /. for an awful long time.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259755)

You don't need to bring psychology into this. It's merely an observation of human nature that some people get pleasure from the journey and others from arriving at the destination. Let's leave the technobabble out.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259921)

I agree, but "motivation" is the psychological terminology.

In my opinion, it's not the destination that is important, it's the journey.

I would like to quote Buddha: "Happiness is the way".
It means that happiness is not the aim of your journey, happiness is your journey.
It's very difficult to find happiness in what we live :-(

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259767)

Not so fast...

Not all of us lost our intrinsic motivation in spite of doing well at school. I used school to explore the topics I wanted and now I get to play at new stuff each day with my PhD. Perhaps you didn't have enough intrinsic motivation and so you burned out. Too bad for you. Some of us were able to stick it through and now get to play with stuff you only dream about.

- coward

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260203)

Nice post, but it is ridiculous to say people who have good grades at school fail at life because they depend on extrinsic motivation.

Most people with excellent grades at school have them because they already developed the intrinsic motivation - or just had it naturally. Those people don't work for grades, they get the grades as a side-effect of doing the work.

The most educated people succeed greatly at life. In fact, many of them never even get a "job" and stick around in academia where the extrinsic motivation is almost entirely non-existent (except for the ego boost of being published, say).

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259479)

It saddens me how boring computing has become. When I was a kid, computers were my friends, mysterious odd creatures with their own faults, oddities and dark corners. Thus I learned to talk, dream and breathe in binary so that I could better understand and associate with them. Apparently not so today.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (5, Interesting)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259517)

It is much more motivating to be learning to program with a particular project in mind. I'd argue it also teaches you to program better because you can't avoid the bits of the task that you find difficult or tedious. I'm a scientist but I spend a lot of my time programming experiments, models or analysis code.

I teach a research methods module to undergraduate life sciences students. The vast majority of these people have never programmed and never expect to. This is a bit strange when so much of being a professional scientist in my field involves programming. Recently, we changed the research assignment they have to do so that it now involves some very basic programming. Mostly GUI stuff where they build a timeline and a "flow" out of blocks, but there are a few lines of code they need to write too.

I was expecting there to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the content being too difficult, and a rebellion against being made to program. In reality, nobody complained and most of the students seemed to enjoy it. Some of them got very excited about writing a program that made a computer do what they wanted it to do. They also got quite competitive about writing their programs better than their colleagues (to the point of argument, but it was still encouraging to see). These people were not nerds, and talking to them I got the impression some thought computers were just "magic". One student didn't even understand that computer programmers existed who wrote software to make computers do things.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260073)

This is so cool to read this.

I love seeing the wide eyed look of absolute amazement I see in people's eyes when they write even the simplest program.

It is true. I see them energized and envigorated with an unbelievable energy to learn and expand. They become spontaneously competitive, but they also take immense joy in pulling all others up in a joint learning experience. They stop and teach. Someone gets stuck and groups spontaneously form and disintegrate as the knowledge is imparted.

God, it reminds me of 1990 all over again. They were the days. I'm glad to see its still going on!

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (4, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259625)

For me I delighted in making the machine do something, and then when I learned that programming was a thing, yes, I programmed and learned about programming for it's own sake.

I was also fascinated by algebra as a child. Guess I'm just weird.

I agree though - don't try to teach kids what it means to be turing complete, or how to normalise data tables, not at first. Show them something with simple cause and effect, see if you can keep their interest.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260119)

I was also fascinated by algebra as a child. Guess I'm just weird.

You are amongst friends here. Weird is normal. Weirder is normal-er.

Just don't become average or revert to the mean! (good god, I'm a punny man!)

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259745)

Reasons abound.
My own experiences that led me down the path to engineering/physics/electronics/hardware hacking and away from programming.
Early on in high school, the math teacher( custodian of one of the two TRS-80s my school bought) decided that I should be kept far from the console and denied acceptance into "computer" class on the grounds that slipping a "Pink Floyd" tape into the drive to see if it had programming potential was the wrong kind of interest.
Later out on my own in the world of low wages, I was unable to afford expensive, incompatible Ataris,Commodores,and others with their giant piles of documentation,luring me only to repel me with sticker-shock. It wasn't till the 200mhz pentium that I was finally able to join the fuss. By that time I was too invested in everything else to allot time and resources. But, then I'd probably have already died from sedentary complications, had I planted my butt in front of a monitor for the time it takes up. So, a maker/hacker I am with enough IT to make me happy at home and NO, I won't fix your damn computer.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259861)

I had a mini love of programming for a couple of years as a child, because the Commodore 128 hit the sweet spot for a child's interest that I've rarely seen matched since. The 128's devastating secret was that it could produce both Sprites and Lines. So you just design a sprite, tell it to move, design another sprite, tell that to move, draw some lines, ask for a collision check between either the sprites or the lines, and Voila, you have simple games. 100 lines of code for the shell, another 200 for some music and art and effects and easter eggs and stuff.

But then although I didn't have the vocabulary until 20 years later, I looked at the next step and it was like Everest. What I instinctively realized was that Computing was about to go from cool 1-man projects on the 80's suite of machines, to multi-dev projects on either Mac or PC-clone, and that *it was too early*. I am sensitive to the volatility of knowledge, so I didn't want to become like Scotty on the TNG episode "Relics".

So I left programming and formal lab science (that same next leap from projects to pro) for a classical business education that pays the rent. So now my geek interests are in using finished utilities made by everyone else, and sometimes commissioning a couple of my own.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260233)

Even since a kid, I loved the "idea" of programming but I couldn't get myself to make a program that couldn't be useful.

I never really made any programs outside of class or work. One thing that I do love doing all the time is looking at a problem and effectively creating pseudo-code in my head. This I can do quickly and at anytime. I've been doing a lot of reading on how computers work, assembly, latencies, and throughput since I was ~12. I'm always looking at stuff, breaking it down, and juggling around many ideas on how a problem may be solved at the low level.

One might say I "program" all the time in my head, but not so much in real life. I am finding as I get older, opensource projects are looking more and more fun. Being a .Net programmer, C/C++ is looking very tempting as it would let me get back to the "low level".

I would assume there are more people like me. This means there are kids who would love to program, but don't like to program just-to-program. I wonder how many out there are like me.

Re:Programming for programmings "own sake" (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260239)

but I never wanted to program "just for the sake of it".

I did. I'd seen people type in things on C64's and such and then saw a string like their name being printed over the screen endlessly. The result didn't inspire me at all but getting my first own PC was an experience only rivaled by the discovery of GW-BASIC on that machine.

Doing what Uncle Jay does... (4, Funny)

DontScotty (978874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259347)

Doing what Uncle Jay does... Yeah - tried that. My parole officer is still upset.... However the Catholic Church has contacted me back on that job offer....

The little difference (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259357)

When I was my nephew's age, computers were still fascinating: There wasn't a laptop on every table, facebook wasn't splattered on every screen, and you couldn't get any question answered in just a couple seconds with Google.

That can be also seen as an advantage. While most can use a laptop and some software, not many can actually make new apps. The motivation these days might come from standing out as the creator.

People who are naturally interested in programming (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259361)

... are a tiny minority. Always have been, always will be. The submitter seems to think the average 10-year-old should be interested in programming because he was at that age. Well, good for him, and I guarantee there are still 10-year-olds interested in it, but they're going to be awfully thin on the ground -- and this was just true back then as it is now.

Re:People who are naturally interested in programm (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259403)

You know what...there is something special about a 10 year old handing a basic terminal and just see them hack.
I've heard the stories and then saw this BBC show or something about a family that had to live with 80 gadgets, and i was sorta amazed how the the two boys just sat there and figured shit out.

Then offcourse...NEXT episode and they were in the ninties and they got a playstation....

I question the use of the word..."naturally" interested, its....just a series of events that gets people hooked on this stuff depeding on the kids mental stage, BUT it seems to me, the most important factor in this....IS FOR THE KIDS TO BE BORED and have the simple-to-complex building blocks available.

Re:People who are naturally interested in programm (2)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259451)


And the submitter should beware not to drown any spark the nephew thinks he may have. Therefore, it is very important to try to understand where the kid is coming from and where he wants to go.

Maybe programming can be it, but it might be some other, more general interest in computers, if the kid isn't quote clear on what programming is.

Explore with your nephw. If it turns out programming was not exactly what the kid will find interesting, at least you might be able to teach him to be a power user. Or if the nephew decides on pretty much any other interest, you could probably still help him get the most out of a computer to pursue whatever it is he might find a passion for.

Nowadays a computer (and perhaps even some custom app you design together) could be useful even if the kid wants to be a ballet-anthropologist, drag queen or beekeper or whatever.

Re:People who are naturally interested in programm (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260163)

Nowadays a computer (and perhaps even some custom app you design together) could be useful even if the kid wants to be a ballet-anthropologist, drag queen or beekeper or whatever.

So many ORs, can't he be all of them? Man, you are cramping the lads style!

Re:People who are naturally interested in programm (1)

ghostdoc (1235612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259829)

... are a tiny minority. Always have been, always will be. The submitter seems to think the average 10-year-old should be interested in programming because he was at that age. Well, good for him, and I guarantee there are still 10-year-olds interested in it, but they're going to be awfully thin on the ground -- and this was just true back then as it is now.


My nephew at 10 years old asked me if I could teach him programming. I knew him well enough even then to say 'sure, but you've got to love it and want to stick with it' so after a brief lesson in writing local HTML files and using a browser to read them (and how to use Google to find tutorials), told him to create a web page. Sure enough about half an hour later he quit saying it was too boring.

I started learning at about 10 years old on a Commodore Pet that had nothing but crap BASIC and no graphics at all. I bugged my folks to get an Acorn Atom that had rudimentary graphics. No online Tutorials, no interactive debuggers, no GUI, nothing but command line and endless 'error 23: syntax error at line 100' messages, and I managed to code up a reasonable version of Missile Command in BASIC and Assembler. If I'd have had HTML and Javascript back then, god knows what I'd have created, but I know I wouldn't have given up after half an hour saying it was boring.

Some people find this stuff fascinating, most people don't.

Re:People who are naturally interested in programm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259979)

But Javascript and HTML are boring. Web "programming" has to be one of the most mind-numbing fields. I say this as someone who programs for fun and work for 15 years.

Agree to disagree.. to agree! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259365)

I see what you are saying; but I'm at university now, and anybody on my course who stands the slightest chance of coming out of it all with a decent degree has been programming at home long before university; whereas people without real interest fail to grasp many of the most basic concepts of traditional programming.

Although, that being said, there is no doubt that the means to learning programming and the type of programming being learnt has changes massively.

I think you just need two things (5, Insightful)

goldcd (587052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259367)

The ability - which generally just takes a PC, a book and some time.
The desire. You've got to want to build something. You then get to add stuff to it. You then realize you don't know how to add something (this is where you go to the index of the book you abandoned days before, realize it's not in there, rush online, find the solution, realize you've done something else in a stupid way, decide you might want to fix that etc etc). Basically the hump is getting hello world up on the screen and then creating the very first bit of your 'thing'

I don't even think it has to be programming per se. Quite fun playing with APIs on sites that you're familiar with, with something friendly like PHP.
I wanted to look up the prices of my old DVDs I wanted to sell. Pain in the arse on Amazon... oh, hold on they have an API.
Oh, then how about using a CSV to load and dump results to?
Shit, I seem to be getting results back from the wrong bits of amazon, lets add some array sorting.
Would be nice to store lookups I've made - MySQL
Oooh, how about other sites... they don't have an API *googles*... "Oooh Curl" etc.

Basically, if you're interested in something and have time, it will all follow. You can later learn how to do it properly later, but it tends to flow. Nobody wants to sit down and read a chapter on exception handling - but once your program is mysteriously failing, you suddenly find you've become quite fascinated with the intricacies of exceptions. You'll just bolt them on until the problem is fixed, but on your next project you'll have that pain in your mind from the start, and may find yourself now dutifully adding them.

I'm meandering all over the place here now - I think you just need to ask your nephew what he wants to build, make sure it's realistic (or choose a functional subsection to start with). Also nice if it's something that could go online, be run on a smartphone or similar - once you've built this thing, you want to show it off.

Re:I think you just need two things (4, Insightful)

kale77in (703316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259401)

I would say mod parent up... But remembered that *I* have mod points. MAHAHAHAHHHH!!!!

Seriously, you just say: "You know that ANYONE can do that, yeah?" when they like something a computer does.

Myself, I took the 1986 Scientific American article with the fractals on the cover and coded up the algorithm on little PC with 64K or RAM, and never looked back. I've used to assume that the question for a ten year old would be "Would you like to write your own game?" ... But actually, it's "What do computers do that is cool?" and the realization that literally _anyone_ can do that. It's a level playing field. Anything you can see on a computer, you can take apart or rebuild, and then change to make it do what you want.

OK, still mod grandparent. (3, Funny)

kale77in (703316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259407)

I can't use my mod points when I've posted in the thread.

Mod +1 Informative...

Re:OK, still mod grandparent. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259553)

I chuckled when you wrote "But remembered that *I* have mod points". If I wasn't an AC, and had mod points, I'd have given you a +1 Ironic if such a thing existed.

Re:I think you just need two things (-1, Offtopic)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259469)


(also what I said somewhere in this discussion, but mainly this.)

Re:I think you just need two things (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259475)

I had a bash at learning to program a while ago, and one thing that got in my way was figuring out where to start and feeling like I had to learn multuple standards and "languages" at the same time. I made the mistake of asking a bunch of people on a forum which language was best to start with, and I got a dozen replies with a dozen different answers. I then made the mistake of getting a book which claimed to be for beginners but clearly meant "someone familiar with programming but who doesn't know this language". After getting bombarded with concepts and programming language I wasn't familiar with I gave up on that language, went to W3Schools [] and learnt HTML and built a small web page. W3S is simple, it's a "for total newbies" style guide and it doesn't bother even mentioning other optional stuff like CSS until you actually have a grasp on basic HTML.

One thing a lot of places (and people) seem to miss with learning is Keep It Simple Stupid: newbie programmers haven't a clue about all of the different languages available these days, or the different concepts surrounding their strengths and weaknessess, or the standards or versions.... So to take your example, from the perspective of a total newbie:

Basically the hump is getting hello world up on the screen and then creating the very first bit of your 'thing'

OK, I've got my machine displaying "Hello World", and I feel quite pleased with ymself. Now, onto the next step...

I wanted to look up the prices of my old DVDs I wanted to sell. Pain in the arse on Amazon... oh, hold on they have an API. Quite fun playing with APIs on sites that you're familiar with, with something friendly like PHP.

Wait, what? What's an API? And what the hell is PHP? Do I have to learn some whole new language called PHP to interact with my "Hello world" program? Why do I need these API and PHP things?!

Oh, then how about using a CSV to load and dump results to?

OK, you've totally lost me now.

Shit, I seem to be getting results back from the wrong bits of amazon, lets add some array sorting.

I have no idea what an array is, let alone how to sort it.

Etc. etc.

I know nobody can reasonably expect to pick everything up in a week, but the thing is, there are so many different languages, concepts, modules and standards these days that experienced programmers seem to forget that newbies often haven't heard of these things, let alone understand what they are or why they're needed. Learning a new language is time consuming enough for many people without having to learn how to write and interact with MySQL on the side at the same time: it needs to be kept on a single track until we know how to handle that properly, then it'll be easy enough to plug other stuff in. We don't have the years of experience interacting with all of these different things simultaneously that you guys have.

Programming means understanding (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259369)

Programming is a fundamental skill, almost like reading and writing. Children learn the shape of the characters in one year, but they keep learning how to read and write for many more years, because reading and writing aren't mechanical skills. Programming is a formalization of a solution, and this skill is fundamental. The most important aspect of programming is understanding the problem in detail, and that's something everybody could use. It's like writing up a complicated story without loose ends and contradictions: We're not all going to write books and screenplays, but almost everybody needs to express more complicated thoughts than "I want a cheeseburger".

coderdojo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259375)

I disagree, hundreds of teenagers in Ireland are learning to write code on Saturdays at workshops!

NO! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259385)

Don't teach them programming. You're not doing them any favor.

Re:NO! (0)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259413)

Just let them start with BASIC ...

Re:NO! (0)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259567)

Assembly. Those nice short commands and only a few of them means it can't be hard.
I heard Brainfuck has even less commands so it should be even easier, right?

Re:NO! (-1, Flamebait)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259595)

Assembly might actually teach them something useful, while BASIC and COBOL serve to do as much damage to their understanding or real programming as possible.

Re:NO! (1)

hlavac (914630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259909)

Yeah I'm all for low level beginnings. I started at 10 with digital electronics. Then went for assembler. Later I started C (what a relief not having to push arguments on stack, type safety etc). Then object oriented languages (C++ and Java). Each step made great sense, I appreciated what it brings me. Each step allows to write bigger and more complex programs, and if you are careful even as performant as before. Not sure if someone who starts on high level can really understand why some things work better than others...

Re:NO! (2)

ghostdoc (1235612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259951)

Assembly might actually teach them something useful, while BASIC and COBOL serve to do as much damage to their understanding or real programming as possible.

Please don't get into this purist crap.
You really expect a ten-year-old to dive right into Smalltalk or LISP so they will have as pure an understanding of coding as possible?

BASIC and COBOL both had their place and their time, and they did their jobs well. If BASIC hadn't been around I doubt the GenX coders would have got into it so young or so keenly, since most of our generation learned how to code on home computers in BASIC (and then migrated to Assembler when BASIC wasn't quick enough). There's a reason that there's still millions of lines of mission-critical COBOL code quietly running our infrastructure too.

If I had to pick a language to teach someone new in now, it'd be a hard call. I'd love to say C++ and get them into game coding but the amount of work to get from a standing start to something that runs and you can go 'I made that' at is pretty huge, and C++ doesn't cope with newbie errors very well.
Java and C# would be OK, but massive...there's a *lot* of ground to cover in each of them, and while you could start small it'd be hard to stop them zooming off into irrelevant tangents and exploring half-dead libraries.

Python's good, and pretty well-structured and easy to follow, I'd probably go with that as a modern-day BASIC. So (and I know I'm feeding the troll here) would Python do any 'damage to their understanding of real programming'?

Be Careful What You Ask For (3, Funny)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259393)

My cousin and I both started programming when we were ten, back in the golden days of the Apple II and the TI-99/4a (for us). We got into it for different reasons. He delighted in creating varied and colorful system crashes. This behavior turned out to be indicative of a larger mental health issue. I did it because I appreciated the beauty and purity of logic. Eventually I ended up concentrating heavily on computers to the partial exclusion of natural human companionship. This too indicated issues of a different nature. Nevertheless, my hobby matured into a lucrative career. My cousin never matured. You have been warned.

Re:Be Careful What You Ask For (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259507)

Ahh... the age old Mac vs TI argument :o

Re:Be Careful What You Ask For (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260175)

I may have spent all my mod points, but at least I've got my bowl-cut, my bell-bottoms, and a Lambretta scooter -- anyone want to take a couple of laptops and some wine down to the park and groove out in the silicon sunshine?

Re:Be Careful What You Ask For (4, Funny)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260211)

So your cousin is a senior manager at Microsoft?

Offer help (1)

ScaledLizard (1430209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259425)

I suppose the best way is to offer help, and say that you can help best if the kid chooses a similar career as yours. If there is interest, giving a good book can do lot. Later, you may be able to help prepare for tests or give career advice.

If the kid is not interested, let him or her pursue something else, but don't feel bad about it - after all, you offered help.

Back in the eighties and nineties, you could achieve a lot with a little effort - now most often it takes groups of people to achieve little advances, and earlier opportunities are well-covered with patents. Still, we take pride in our work, and need a new generation to continue work on our projects, or these projects will die.

Pure programming for programming sake? (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259431)

No. That is like asking if there are kids who want to weld for welding sake. Or fuck for fuck sake. We don't fuck for fuck sake, we fuck for the climax. Without the climax, fucking would be fucking boring.

Most people code because they want to get something done. Those who don't work in government. Kids want to code a game, the kids that want to code a database or search algorithm tend to be watched by the FBI, from a safe distance, through a snipers scope.

It is the same as with a spoken language. Nobody wants to learn French for the sake of the language, they want to impress chicks. Japanese is only studied by people with a fantasy of picking up school girls, desu. Latin for those who wished to be picked up by Catholic priests.

The easiest way to keep kids interested is to make sure things beep and whistle and spin. It does't matter that much if it is text graphics, direct 3d or leds on a Arduino board, or a programming robot game. What matters is that the concepts have clear examples with easy to understand results.

It is the reason PHP is so popular, its examples are extremely clear and light on the jargon. It is the reason Lego is such a success, nobody has to spend time learning the building blocks of Lego, they are clear... then you can spend all your energy on creating.

Kids haven't really changed but nerdy pursuits have always been the domain of the select few... the few selected by girls not to be dated.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259465)

Or fuck for fuck sake. We don't fuck for fuck sake, we fuck for the climax. Without the climax, fucking would be fucking boring.

Surely people enjoy the process as well.

And surely some enjoy the process of writing programs to beep and whistle no less than listening to resulting beeps and whistles.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (5, Funny)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259527)

We don't fuck for fuck sake, we fuck for the climax. Without the climax, fucking would be fucking boring.

This is amusing because the Slashdot sterotype totally applies (a virgin who is very opinionated regarding things he knows nothing about).

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259571)

You are highly cynical. And I think it clouds your view. I know all sorts of people who do all sorts of things just because they enjoy doing them. Sure they probably not the majority, but that doesn't make them vanish. Some of us even get paid to play with cool toys all day. Its not always like that, but I enjoy my job(both the process which does involve some coding and the enjoyment of seeing your solution actually work).

If there is one thing I've learned in my interactions with kids it is that you can't make them interested. No matter how many bells whistles and flashing lights you display. You can however encourage those who are interested.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259639)

> No. That is like asking if there are kids who want to weld for welding sake. Or fuck for fuck sake. We don't fuck for fuck sake, we fuck for the climax. Without the climax, fucking would be fucking boring.

As a man who's had occasional erection problems (due to blood pressure medications and age), and with women who are not always orgasmic, I must say that you're doing it wrong. The journey is a great deal of the fun, and well worth it even without the orgasm.

> Kids haven't really changed but nerdy pursuits have always been the domain of the select few... the few selected by girls not to be dated.

Oh, as one of the "select few", I've done pretty well. Some of the women in nerdy pursuits are pretty hot.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259765)

I pity you, you really do live a sad, pointless existence if you think thats true. A lot of people enjoy learning things for the pleasure they get in learning them. Do you really think anyone learns ancient Greek, or attempts to recreate the large number of dead languages because they want to get laid? If so, they are doing it wrong.

It's views like yours that have made university education into the trade school farce it is today, learning something solely for your own edification is one of the rare unique pleasures of being human, I suggest you try it sometime.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (4, Insightful)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259855)

I disagree, I think it is entirely possible to want to program for the sake of it. You need a goal, something you are making, but the motivation for doing it doesn't just need to be "I want that thing, so I'm gonna code it together!". It could simply be "I like programming, so I'm gonna build my own thing!"
It's the same reason you had Legos as a kid. Did you make functional things out of Lego, that improved your quality of life? Or did you just like building things?

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259955)

EB White said it so much better than I could, so I'll just quote him:

âoeThe best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then â" to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.â

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259973)

Gah, I mean TH White, of course.

Re:Pure programming for programming sake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260051)

There's actually very little logical reasons I can give to disagree against this. Despite the overall negative response to this, I can't really say I disagree.

But I don't really agree either.

At 2008, when I was only 12, I use to program the z80 processors on the TI80+ calculators. I can't really say I didn't do it for absolutely none at all, but the small amount of effort I did put into it was simply to experience how the asm languages used to work in the past. It was rewarding, and there really wasn't much of a result gained from it other than a small tidbit of information.

Chasing Paychecks (5, Insightful)

SkydiverFL (310021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259433)

After 30 years of professional development, I feel that many developers SUCK! They wear some "architect" or "senior developer" badge but struggle through the most basic concepts. I believe the reason is that MANY coders are simply chasing paychecks or have been pushed into the field. They lack the PASSION that I remember when I first got into it. Everyone was learning to program because they loved these cook PC things and WANTED to do something with them AFTER they soldered everything together. Most "geeks" share that same type of passion. They gravitate to the next cool innovation and, in the process, become great at what they love. However, today, the industry is flooded with bodies that are simply working the cliche' 9-5 and drooling over a six-figure paycheck.

Re:Chasing Paychecks (1)

SkydiverFL (310021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259447)

cook = cool

Damn, if only this text block had IntelliSense! ;-)

Programming itself has become boring... (0)

sithlord2 (261932) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259435)

I decided to go for an network admin job, and gave up on a carreer as a programmer. The reason? Programming has become the most boring task at hand these days. It's all about business-programming these days, were 99% of the work is about updating records in a SQL database.

The business-programmer of today is on the same "coolness-level" as an accountant... No wonder kids have no interest in programming anymore.

When I started programming, there was still some fun involved: talking to IO ports, messing with VCPI,DPMI, and other protected-mode stuff.

Maybe, in the DirectX/OpenGL or embedded hardware world, there is still some programming-fun left...

Re:Programming itself has become boring... (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259519)

Learn control theory and ladder logic. This is a highly challenging and fun career path. Though I've noticed sometimes traditional programmers seem to struggle somewhat with ladder logic...

Re:Programming itself has become boring... (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260131)

I think it is clear you don't even know how to conceptualize just how many programming/software engineering domains you have yet to encounter. There is far more variety than you think because of your experience, and that is likely true for most people, myself included.

actually answering the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259443)

Based on the quality of the vast amount of people coming out of schools, I'd say.... it's 100% your responsibility. Think about this the next time you have some nightmare project problem because fo 10 years of cowboy coding. Hell. go one step further, teach him assembly, then he might actually understand what the hell is going on before he starts stuff things up in a high level language and wondering why it doesn't work right.

Back in the 80s you could compete... (5, Interesting)

Chuffpole (765597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259467)

When I was an 80s teen with my ZX Spectrum, I could write games that weren't too far behind the earliest commercial games. (back then it was even a novelty to have control over what appeared on your old telly screen!)

I wrote games that gave me as much fun as the coin-op machines back then, when things were primitive.

Now though, how can any kid write a fluid 3D FPS shoot-up? I take my hat off to any who can! Where's the incentive? Where's the novelty?

Little 2D games on the kids' Android phones, maybe. Perhaps.

Re:Back in the 80s you could compete... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259485)

Surely the type of kid who could rival commercial games back then can handle something like Unity, Blender's game engine or even Unreal SDK today.

Kids have little context (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259471)

We had a 14 year old work experience lad, who was the nephew of one of the owners of the business, and he wanted to become an app developer - when we chatted about this further, it turned out that his claimed "programming experience" amounted to using the drag-and-drop style of online website wizards, and using apps from the iTunes store.

He had a goal in mind, and he was raring to go, so we decided to embrace this enthusiasm and run with it - so we decided that the best thing for him to do during the two weeks with us was to design and build a basic app - he was thrilled by this. We gave him a task for two hours on the first morning, which was to research the apps out there and decide what was best to build (building a copy of something out there is easier for this sort of thing than coming up with the concept itself).

He came back with "I want to build World of Warcraft". Crap.

We eventually scaled him back to building a HTML5 version of tic-tac-toe, as the logic is simple, the graphics are simple, and the HTML experience travels well. He was given a lot of personal tutorials from myself and the other developers for the first two days, basically a beginners guide to HTML, and then told to see if he could come up with a basic page with a table in which would hold the game board - no styling, no JavaScript, just a basic page with a table.

Despite help from us developers being on tap (we encouraged questions, we discouraged "do it for me" - examples are fine so long as work and understanding was needed to translate the code into what he was doing, so a simple copy and paste wouldn't solve the set issue), by the end of the first day he hadn't grasped the concept of nested elements to build the table. What he came up with even IE barfed over.

The poor kid had no grasp for it at all. I hope it was a failure on our part rather than inability, but really it was inability. He never realised software development was so difficult, no realisation as to what was actually involved in the process or the building itself. He saw pretty things and thought they were simple to produce.

So, anyone who gets the chance to introduce a child to software development, please take it nice and slow and be prepared for lots of failures, lots of frustration and lots of patience.

By the end of the two weeks he was proclaiming he wanted to be a farmer. And now, I hear, he wants to hire out construction equipment (after he was given a day of work experience on a farm).

Re:Kids have little context (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259691)

Sounds like the work experience did exactly work experiences are supposed to: show him what kinds of jobs he enjoys.

Re:Kids have little context (3, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259977)

He never realised software development was so difficult, no realisation as to what was actually involved in the process or the building itself.

This can be said for any technical profession when you are 14. Electrical engineering? That's all about putting a few circuits together and the robot just works right? Then in first year of their EE degree they get introduced to concepts like imaginary numbers and it just gets harder from there.

I remember tutoring one subject at uni and a pissed EE student came to me to complain about their assignment. They were asked to simulate an EM wave propagation through a semiconductor in Matlab, quite simple maths but highly iterative so a perfect task to code up on a computer. The student said "I'm an electrical engineer not a computer programmer!" triumphantly. I said, "Ok, then do the assignment using this," and dropped a pencil and calculator on his desk.

His pre-conception on what it is to do engineering jaded his view of what his was doing. None of the people in the class were programmers, but they were simply using a tool they had to solve an electrical engineering problem, and that was writing a bit of code into a computer to solve a math problem that would otherwise take waaaay too long.

Re:Kids have little context (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260013)

This is more common than one would think. Back in high school, I was taking a bunch of computer courses including a CCNA program and an MCSE program. The teacher for both was an awesome guy (favorite high school teacher hands down) and a good teacher and before anybody asks: Yes, he was certified in anything he taught and a bunch of crap on top.

Anyway, he basically had to keep dumbing the courses down. He had a quote he pulled out from time to time: "I like playing X-Box, therefore I like computers, therefore I want to take this class." And to be fair, there were some computer classes--keyboarding, computer applications, etc--that were great to take if you liked computers and wanted an easy A on your schedule. These just weren't them.

The CCNA course was broken up into four semesters, which was pretty crazy. In any event, enrollment in CCNA 1 was about 150 students. CCNA 2 had about 25, and by the time we got into the last year with CCNA 3/CCNA 4 there were twelve or thirteen of us. In fact, there were so few students that the administration wanted to cancel the classes, but the teacher went to bat for us and we were allowed to finish it out.

The classes were canceled for lack of interest after that year (my senior year).

Re:Kids have little context (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260087)

My experience, similar story, from someone who knows how children learn:

15-year-old kid, work experience (I'm an IT manager, some would say systems- or network- manager, in primary schools). He'd NEVER seen anything approaching a programming language in his life. Slack afternoon because, hell, if you do your job right, the network runs itself. We get talking about computer games while in my office.

Ten minutes later, we're into "Yeah, but how do you do 3D / physics / motion sensing / etc.". After about an hour, he discovers the magic words: It's all a number. Everything in the computer is a number. Once you get it down to numbers, computing is easy.

Kid, admittedly, had a good (but not great) grounding in mathematics. So although we didn't do any of the actual maths involved, it was briefly shown how a 3D object is a set of coords and how all the fancy effects you see are just matrix transformations of those coords. We also got into how, if you pretend an object's mass is M, gravity is G, x-velocity is X, etc. then physics pretty much becomes the same. As, if I remember rightly, I was also able to demonstrate the same for things like joysticks, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, webcams, Kinect, etc. etc. etc. It's all just numbers. Before long, he works out where the numbers come from for just about anything you can mention (e.g. networking, online gaming, colour effects, gestures, etc.)

Over the next few days, we delve deeper but only very casually and only in the slack periods. Before you know it, he's looking at some code I was working on and wondering how it worked. I show him something more interesting (a game I was writing - nothing "modern", literally something you could have done in the 80's), show him a few example lines.

Next thing I know, I've taught basically the whole of the BASIC keyword set in an afternoon, and what they do, the concept of variables, etc. Knock him up a simple "Yahtzee"-style dice game in BASIC just to show him line-by-line and how things work (like variables being a "box" in memory, etc.) - we literally build it up line-by-line in a hand-holding style all the way through. Think we got about 30 lines written. On paper. Without a single computer switched on in the room.

The kid comes in the next day with a bouncing-ball game he's written in QBASIC (written on Windows 7, which is no easy feat in itself!). He has had zero assistance outside of what I showed him. Nothing. Not even Google.

What courses was he going to go to next year? Not maths. Not IT. Not electronics. It was a waste, but it shows you that you can teach anyone if you want to. Most kids *don't* have the self-sufficiency to learn by themselves today without a lot of incentive (read: Money and/or a good grounding in the subject already). Throwing them in the deep end is just scary and pointless, even if that's what we had when we were kids (I learned "programming" from the orange ZX Spectrum instruction manual, which nobody else in my family ever saw a page of).

When I was a kid, the challenge was to learn it for yourself. Now you need to spoon-feed (I hesitate on the word 'need' but with today's generation and teaching methods, it's basically true). Once they have a start and know where to head, then they are more confident running off on their own. Leave them in a room with a HTML manual, you'll never see them try to use it. And don't make it relevant and they'll switch off, like all kids.

You can inspire kids to program, you just need to do it right. Destroying their vision of ever being able to write a computer game isn't the best start. And at what point did you do things on paper?

Hell, I'd rather have a couple of conceptual MMORPG "classes" for characters, inventory, etc. and some pseudocode about how to manage it all than to give them a duff language not designed for programming and a duff "game" to start on. He couldn't get the grid going because, you know what, that part would bore me to tears. If you'd started off in text-mode BASIC, he could knock up a board for tic-tac-toe in about 3-5 lines and get into the meat of the thing he wanted to witness - writing a game.

And no child knows what they want to be when they grow up. They honestly don't. I wouldn't expect them to, any more than I'd expect me to be a fireman now (which seemed so cool when I was six).

Software development isn't difficult. Teaching it to kids isn't difficult. Just throw away the boring stuff at first. Same as you would if you were giving a lecture, or a presentation, or needed to put data into the heads of adults. This is my principle reason for avoiding OOP, new techniques, "cutting edge" languages with kids and still championing BASIC for the first few times. Hate it as much as you like, the entry-level is ridiculously low by literally abstracting away all the nonsense they don't need to know yet. Hell, even *I* get bored explaining the boilerplate to even a simple C or Java program.

Knock it up in text mode, progress to something pretty later (that's *PURELY* interface and doesn't change the numbers you use). The pretty bit takes ten times as long as the text mode bit (for a start, you have to get into coordinate systems, surfaces, redrawing, etc. etc. etc.). Hell, best programming-learning environment I ever saw was Visual Basic 3.0. You clicked, dragged, double-clicked and had a working GUI program controlled by literally a couple of lines of obvious code and a lot of hidden library code.

Graphical programming (2)

jouassou (1854178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259503)

Rather than doing the classic "hello world" in BASIC, kids today start out by e.g. modding games.

Personally, I remember having fun by developing platformers using GameMaker [] back when it was free. This sort of graphical programming got me used to thinking in terms of loops, conditionals and variables -- as well as offering a high-level scripting language that let you access extra features.

I can't remember "for its own sake" (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259515)

When I were a lad, working down the coal mines in the snow 30 hours a day, I learned programming in order to achieve a goal - make computers do fun stuff.

If you want to get a kid interested in programming, give them a simple game compiled from source, ask them what they'd like to change, and let the voyage of discovery begin.

It's not so bad (2)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259537)

My experience is that the kids don't want to do the same kind of programming we did in the 80's and early 90's. At that time it was mind-blowing for me to just have the computer do a simple animation of a couple of lines on the screen. No kid is interested in that anymore.

Later in the late 90's and early 2000's it was all about the internet. Kids wanted to write html and then later PHP etc. They still do it to an extent now but more often then not kids now-days just want to set up and customize packages and templates with very little programming effort (like Drupal).

There is one thing though that kids like to do in the 80's that has survived and flourished to this day - hardware/robotics. Kids love to play around with Arduino, especially with sensors, actuators, LED matrices etc. With all the content available on the internet, including how-to videos this is easier than ever and I think more people do these kind of things than before.

Re:It's not so bad (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260141)

There is one thing though that kids like to do in the 80's that has survived and flourished to this day - hardware/robotics.

And until robots and better artificial intelligence become a fact of life in households across the world, they will continue to have that aura of mystery around them that draws kids interest.

Not for programming's sake (4, Interesting)

HornyBastard (666805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259555)

I started programming when I was about 10 years old for one very simple reason. I enjoy making things.
I recently built my own house for that same reason. I also made most of the furniture in it as well.
If, at the end of the day, I can say "I made that", then I am happy.

Just show them what it is ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259681)

Most kids simply don't know what programming is. All that they know is that software is made, yet they have had no exposure to how it is made. Once you show a child what programming is, and in a child friendly manner, they are much more likely to want to program for programming's sake.

Shortest possible way to produce something (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259719)

Well, when I started on my Commodore 64 you started at the command prompt read to write code, so yeah I'd say it takes at least a little more prodding than before to get into programming. Also you started with just two lines:

20 GOTO 10

Okay, so it doesn't produce a very impressive result but as "bang for the buck" it's pretty good. If the reaction is "All that to produce so little?!" you've lost. Hell, you might have lost anyway if they point you to a $100 million AAA game and say that is cool, I want to make something like that. But since you can't ask for time to be turned back to simple sprite based graphics you can't change that, but at least not start them off down the long road.

Personally today I think I'd actually start them off with a game toolkit where you can script events, like Neverwinter Nights or something like that. First of all because it's a game and looks good and produces something cool, second of all because you can start with a level that already exists. Have them modify it and they'll start thinking about objects, attributes, state, conditions, boolean logic (assuming you want to start them down the OOP path) without banging their head on the really hard issues. Plus you get to make your own adventure, which is creative and fun while learning.

distraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259733)

back then, I was closed on the box, if I wanted fun I would have to make it fun, learn and program,

nowadays possibilities were a dream then, to search and find an answer, all sorts of online documentation, communities

but along with all these came distraction, kids no longer have to make it fun, it's fun already

No they don't (4, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259763)

A lot changed since the 1970s. In the 1970s computer were science fiction and science fiction was en vogue. We tried to build our own computers based on transistors and later on microchips. In the 1980s things already improved so much, that a lot of people could by a home computer like ZX spectrum, Commodore C64 or Amstrad CPC 464. These machines provided a simple BASIC interface. They were designed for start and play. Where play meant programming. And you could dig into those machines and learn to peek and poke around in the hardware. Then you learned assembler etc. In the 1990s this moved to PCs. While old PCs still allowed you to access the hardware and you had to work with the console. Upcoming GUIs made the direct experience of the machine much more complicated. You couldn't re-program Pong in a week, while learning BASIC.

So on one side, computers get more complex and shield people from the machine and the machine feeling, and on the other side the sci-fi feeling is no longer so intriguing today than in those days. While in the 1970s, if you understood computers you could build your own moon lander software. At least a facsimile. And a lot of the people did. And the program would only display longitude, latitude and height above ground, as well as, speed and fuel. But all without graphic (which had to be imagined). Today moon landing is lame. Especially compared to those days. the whole society is no longer in technology.

In short: The whole setting is different. And the nerds of today go into gaming and become dorks.

I learn Englis (0)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259803)

Do Kids Still Take Interest In Programming For **Its** Own Sake?

Do you call "kids" as "it" nowadays? I never knew...

Re:I learn Englis (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259839)

The 'its' here refers to programming - doing an activity for the sake of doing an activity.

Children just need a little push, a spark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259821)

When my daughter received a cheap laptop for her birthday instead of a DS. I explained simple computer parts and binary numbers (counting to 16). I put a linux distro on it. Showed her some simple HTML and installed MIT Scratch. She and her brother made web pages and scratch programs. None of this was too difficult for them. However, their school refuses to educate them on simple computer facts. I believe they are educating them to be consumers and not scientists, engineers or technicians. My children are interested once I lit the spark. You do not need to do half the stuff I did, they just need that spark.

Re:Children just need a little push, a spark (0)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260109)

I believe they are educating them to be consumers and not scientists,

Maybe it is because we live in a society that glorifies consumption and brutally punishes scientists and engineers? Sad as it is, you make it farther in this society by being a consumer of technology rather than a creator of it.

learning and skill mastery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259865)

Learning a new concept is generally a ton of fun. Putting in the practice and effort to translate such knowledge into a skilled proficiency is generally tedious. This applies to virtually ALL human tasks. Even artists who "love to create" find themselves plowing through hour after hour at some point, to master a skill. Whether its brush skills (artist), math skills (science), social skills (salesmen).

If you want to rise above "I understand", above "I am competent", all the way to "I have mastered". It's going to take some serious time and work.

The programmer's first test (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259883)

Regardless of his interests, your nephew has passed the programmer's first test: His program prints "sorry to low" and "sorry to high". Only a true programmer would get the computer language correct, but the human language incorrect.

I predict a bright future.

Yes (1)

ProfessorDoom (82503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259889)

Just asked my kids: 12 year old boy, 10 year old girl. I asked them separately. Each looked at me like I'm stupid (okay, maybe that's accurate) and said, "Yes."

They mainly program Scratch and Kodu but I'm installing App Inventor later today.

Well, duh... (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259901)

The second post mentioned says "nobody want to learn to program" - meaning that people want to be able to program without going through all the tedious learning. Well, "duh". The same could be said for any difficult field, or indeed for learning to do anything well. I'd love to be able to play the piano like a master, but darn, there's all that practicing to be done.

Of course some kids want to learn to program, just like some want to become chemists or doctors. Of those who are interested, not all have the aptitude for it (logical thinking, etc.). Just like a fascination for bridges does not mean that you can be a good civil engineers.

For those who do have both aptitude and interest: It helps to have role models like "Uncle Jay". It also helps to have in-school or after-school classes that start out with simple, fun environments like Scratch. Any /.ers who want to support the next generation: see if you local school has such a program. And, of course, be "Uncle Jay" to your own family's progeny...

Languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259929)

I saw programming as a new language, as many do with with learning French or German - I saw it as a fun challenge that would open doors for me.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259935)

See above.

What about carpentry? (4, Interesting)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259949)

This entire submission misunderstands the real draw of programming. The desire to learn programming is out of an intrinsic desire in some people to create or build artifacts from resources we have obtained. Some of us are builder/creator archetypes and we are drawn to the process of creation.

If the argument held up, then the quality of carpentry would have degraded considerably with the advent of power tools. Nobody needs to hand-spin a spade to drill a large hole anymore, and while I am handy with a chisel, I can still do things faster and with better quality by using a router for certain situations. The power-tools have allowed us to put arguably better quality wood products in a MUCH faster timeframe, and all with the same sense of satisfaction that you get from a beautiful new table, cabinet or chair.

I do think however that in todays age it is a lot harder to stay focused amidst constant distractions, and it is a lot easier to find information than ever before, making us all slightly lazy from time to time. We are more prone to get frustrated and do something else, so the extreme convenience doesn't come without its faults for sure.

Absolutely out of control (3, Interesting)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259999)

Absolutely they do.

My son is in year 8 at Melrose high in Canberra Australia. They are doing two courses specific to this: games programming and general programming. 3d modeling is also a choice. He is doing all of them (chip off the old block!)

Their assignment, for 14 year olds is quite hard. It raised my eyebrows when I read it. I'm a multi time CTO with a deep history is c, c++, java, ror, PHP and perl. They were asked as a 15% assignment over two weeks to write a number of very complex programs displaying skill in some quite complex areas in JavaScript, vb, actionscript and powershell. This is quite an amazing thing! These little fellas are in year 8!

The class is voluntary, but wow, is is hard. The kids absolutely love it. They apparently are hyper involved and super enthusiastic. While the teacher may be a messiah (I don't know her) but its obvious the kids are revved up beyond control.

Hacking (1)

java_dev (894898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260053)

The fascination of the Apple II in 5th grade math lab, getting a PC when they first came out, and the arcane 8" thick code dump print outs my VM programmer father brought home drove me to learn to code. I dont think what drove us exists any more.

An area of fascination that does exist is computer and network security (ie. penetrating and defending syatems). What kid wouldnt be interested in that?

It's the angle I plan to use to get my son interested in coding when he gets a little older.

Kids (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260133)

Best way to deal with them is to say "Get off my lawn" and then they'll go inside and learn how to program. That's how it was done when I was a kid.

Back in my day... (1)

gruntled (107194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260183)

Back in the Seventies, kids were motivated to program because there literally wasn't much you could do with a computer unless you built your own application. We were also convinced that programming a computer was going to be a critical job skill. I remember getting a dream job in 1991 because I had a computer background and I had to confess that my experiential universe would not be particularly useful in the new position, writing about the development of the Internet. "No, that experience will be very useful," the boss said. I replied, "Yeah, I I hear what you're saying, but trust me there's not a lot of knowledge transfer possible between punch cards and Windows."

To me, nothing beats the feeling (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260207)

My favorite part of programming,

Creative expression and control - it's almost a superhuman feeling, watching your work come alive and transform into your vision.

Seeing a program or function work as expected for the first time

Showing your work to a friend/coworker

Seeing it in use by others

Getting good feedback

I'm a programmer and I'm being paid to do something I'd do for free.

Nothing is better than getting paid well for doing what you love to do!

I work with others who do not enjoy it and their code reflects it. This isn't a good field to go into unless you love it for what it is and not for what it pays.

John Reder

Games Obviously (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260237)

When I was a kid learning to program, 5, 6, 7... I started teaching myself how to program so I could write my own games. Before I became a teenager I was pretty good at it- although on more basic computers than we have today. Not tried writing games on a PC.

The few other kids I knew that programmed- they had the same motivation that I did.

I don't think any kids learn to program for the sake of learning to program. It was a fun hobby- but with all the easy to get free or cheap games- it isn't worth it for me now.

Getting off topic but...

Wish I hadn't learnt to program as a kid to be honest... I wouldn't have taken computer classes to get easy As to boost my GPA in college. I wouldn't have been tempted to switch to computer science "because I could" my senior year. I wouldn't be stuck in a dead-end programming job now as an adult. ... when your hobbies become your work- they're not so fun anymore.

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