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Ask Slashdot: Software for Youngsters?

Cliff posted more than 15 years ago | from the ecouraging-the-next-generation dept.

News 168

Maniacal asks: "I was wondering if there were any games or software programs out there that could keep a kid's interest while teaching him or her the fundamentals of programming. There are plenty of learning games out there but I haven't seen any that cover this area."Maniacal continues...

"When I was a kid in the 80's, the only way to get your computer to do anything was to write programs yourself. So, with BASIC book in hand, I spent hours upon hours out my eyes and teaching myself to program. Computers today have to many things to keep a child interested so that type of exploration is gone. If there aren't any such programs available, then any suggestions about a good language to start with, basic books that a 6-10 year old child could understand, and/or inexpensive compilers would be appreciated."

I remember programs like Logo (which could be considered a language, too) and games like Zork which kept my interest in computers when I was growing up. One concern is that today's games are more distracting, focusing on the environment provided by the game, as opposed to interesting, which focuses on not just the game, but on things external to it as well. Any comments?

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Quake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023899)

Quake and QuakeC. 'Nuff said.

killer kid app (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023900)

Any NNTP news client will work, as long as the kid can get to the binaries newsgroups. Nothing will hold a kids interest in computers as well as getting some good p0rn. Just ask any BBS sysop.

Mindstorms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023901)

One suggestion: Lego Mindstorms. Build robots out of Lego pieces and then program them. Ages 12 and up.

Pro: It's not an abstract activity, you actually build stuff and then tell it what to do. An outcome of a MIT project (with Seymour Papert, I believe).

Con: Expensive (~$200 for a set). Not a 'real' programming language (no variables, for example). My 11-year old was impressed, but actually did very little with it.

No Subject Given (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023902)

Lego Mindstorms. Phenomenal, really. The included CD-ROM has an interactive video that teaches the basics of how to program your robot, and the "visual language" thing was much better done than I thought it could be. Once you've got the "mindset" of programming, I don't imagine that the jump to a "real" language would be terribly difficult, and I think that the lego set does a great job of working on that mindset thing.

Computer controlled robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023903)

I remember seeing way back some lego-like things that you put together and plugged into a computer. Then you issue commands from the computer and made the robot do things.

I don't remember what it was called, but maybe something like that would help.

Ask Slashdot screens messed up consistently. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023904)

I view Slashdot through three different Linux machines, one OS/2 machines, and two different NT machines. No matter what machine I am on, the Ask Slashdot articles are always WIDER than my actual screen. Other slashdot screens are fine. Nested replies to Ask Slashdot articles are fine. So why is it, then, that Ask Slashdot articles are wider than all other screens on many different systems? Has anyone else noticed this problem???

Robot Odyssey is still one of the best... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023905)

I'm not sure how many people remember this game, but it was really, really good.

From simple IO up to parallel interface programming, this game rocked. My brothers and I spent HOURS trying to get past some of the higher level puzzles. I never did finish it. One of my brothers did, and wouldn't you know, he's the one making $40/hr with no college to speak of (yet.)

Unfortunately, this game was CGA graphics only, and died out a long time ago. I tried to order it, and The Learning Company (who made it) had a hard time finding someone who knew about it. That was 10+ years ago.

Anyone else remember this gem?

Andrew Gilmore
(no, I still don't have an account, but I'm lazy, not a coward!)

Lego Mindstorms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023906)

The Lego Mindstorm set is just what the doctor
ordered. It won't do anything until you
program it to, their is even a C like language
for it!

TRS-80 Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023907)

I remember when I was growing up, probably 10-12 years ago, in grammar school a friend of mine had a TRS-80 (model II) with the ultra cool cassette media. We spent hours upon hours learning the machine language and writing games for it using mostly get and put calls with Character strings..

Later, we even began charging local kids a nickel per game, it was a perfect learning environment for programming.. and Capitalism!

In my opinion, too much of software is dedicated to the Front End, and ease of use, because most people in this generation dont have any desire to know thje hows and whys, they just want the easiest possible solution. Only us Nerds care, and we are a relatively small though diverse marketing target group..

Scripting languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023908)

The game ain't ready for use yet, but one of Altima [] 's planned core features is the ability to "script" one's character. It isn't aimed at being a teaching aid, but it might provide an encouragement to young people to pick up programming.

Altima is planning on using Python. That'a a good language to start with, IMHO, and I've suggested it to a few proto-programmers just recently myself. Cross platform, free, good documentation, simple syntax, useful for a variety of applications, it's not a bad language.

There are such programs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023909)

I know that there are games out there to help kids learn to program. I know of one in particular that was designed to teach Basic. But, I can't remember what it was called. Not much help, I suppose. I'll try to find out and respond again.

But, to get young people interested, I would suggest Basic or Pascal. I know that these aren't exactly useful languages, but I would hate to dump a 6 year old on C/C++, while they might not have as much of a problem understanding Basic.
There should be free Basic and Pascal interpreters.

Interplay's Learn to Program BASIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023910)

Interplay sells a BASIC primer. []

there are things, though there should be more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023911)

Yes, there are programming games, languages, books, etc that are meant either for a younger audience, or an audience just getting into programming. Some of these are used even still by experts in the field because they support from beginners to advanced.
I wouldn't be too worried if I were you though, there are plenty of kids getting interested in programming today. Of course, they might not start out by hacking around with inadequate resources like we did when we were younger, but they'll encounter that later as they learn more.

Games that help that I can think off the top of my head include: GNURobots(haven't tried it personally), Crobots(old C game), Probots(old pascal game), i'm sure there's a java equivilant to these, and probably others I don't know about.

As for languages, I would advise that BASIC is not a good starting point for a programmer because it teaches things half-ass backwards and causes lazy coding styles which are hard to grow out of for those who started with it. This might seem crazy, but C is actually a good language to start with for someone who has no experience programming. Not only does it teach good coding styles, it also teaches fundamental programming methods but it also sets them up to easily learn other languages (C++, java, pascal/delphi, etc) and it is a powerful language and imho (in my humble opinion) an easy one to learn.

There are tons of books for beginners so finding one is a non-issue. My personal favorites for beginners are: "Crash course in C" author unknown,
"Programming C++ in 21 days" author unknown (personally I avoid C++), and try for lists of other programming language books I haven't found a good beginner book for java. Tutorials on the net are also useful resources.

Nelson Rush (

virgin has... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023912)

just that. it is a learn basic with animated guides and the like. while basic isn't even
good as a first programming language, it would at least hopefully get someone interested in programming.

Not just you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023913)

They are messed up on my screens as well (Linux, Win95, HP-UX) and are too wide even in the archives.

Ask Slashdot screens messed up consistently. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023914)

Yup, me too. Using Linux & Netscape 4.5.

Learn to Program BASIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023915)

I remember seeing a fairly positive review of this a ways back. It's a tutorial CD-ROM that has video, animations, games, etc. to teach BASIC. Runs on Win and Mac. Supposedly very geared towards creating games and writing programs to help you with math homework. When I saw the box in a store I thought it looked very cool for a younger user (aimed at about Junior High, great time to start programming games).
Of course we know how great it was to start with a blank screen after hitting CNTRL-RESET-REST on an apple and then turn that into a real game, (I'm only 19 and already getting nostalgic, damn, computers do make you age prematurely), but it makes a lot of sense to give kids a graphical programming environment where they can play around. Produced by Interplay, by the way, who made some amazing games back in the day (Wasteland!).
Also check out those yellow boxes -- C programming Starter Kit and Visual Basic Programming Starter Kit. They look friendly enough to appeal to smart Jr. High Kids or younger high schoolers. I wish I'd had that when I was younger. It's almost impossible for a new programmer to sort out all the varying compilers, tutorials, etc.


Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023916)

Here's an idea. Don't buy your kids ANY games. Tell them that they have to write their own. Then buy them a couple of books, a Basic Interpreter, and a C compiler. It worked for me when my father did this. Learned all about SPRITEs, and ultimately learned machine language (remember the C-64 ML cartridge?) on cheap machines. Had alot more fun then my friends who had Ataris! Also now have a better job!

Please don't teach your kids BASIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023917)

As someone who grew up and was FORCED to learn BASIC before I could move on to Pascal/C... Please don't teach your kids BASIC. You'll ruin their minds forever. Why not start when they are young with simple building block games? (Can you show Daddy a queue? How about a stack?) heheh.


LOGO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023918)

Check out logo. There are free versions available, or you can buy a really spiffy implementation from the folks at

Robot Odyssey is still one of the best... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023919)

see for ZZT.
there is also MEGAZEUX which is more OOP.


Jeez! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023920)

Most of the time i'm too lazy to code something. Why would i want to tinker around with Lego MS just to move some parts of some "robots". OK, if this Lego Robots could do some really amzing stuff, but I doubt it. So, motivation is the key.

In quake i have need to play a good internet game. I'll do quite some hacking just to improve my gameplay, customize configs, playing with bots, etc... i'll even get to code something, because i need it there and it can be usefull for me! After all it's a hell of a lot of fun, and that's what count;'s

Problems with Mindstorms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023921)

I'm seeing a lot of pro-Mindstorms comments on
this board, many of them by people who *heard*
of it, but didn't actually try it. I have bought
this set and while I do like it and think it's
a great idea, I'd like to throw in some warnings
into the mix.

The language that comes with Mindstorms is
very limited and, to my programming-addled brains,
somewhat weird. The major problem is that there
are no variables. You cannot store a value to use
later. There are some clumsy workarounds for
specific situations, but they are ugly. There are
other limitations as well (such as on the number
of commands inside a loop). I am suspicious that
somebody who started programming in Mindstorms
would (a) quickly become frustrated when trying
to do something sophisticated; (b) would have
problems switching to "normal" programming

As anecdotal evidence, my 11-year old kid was very
excited about it, but didn't actually do much with
it and by now ignores it. It is also vastly overpriced.

Again, I'm not saying this is a bad product.
However it seems that people's expectations of it
are a little bit too high.

Macros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023922)

Macro writing is a good easy entree into programming. For example, if the kid/person writes an essay for their English class, encourage them to leave the formatting until the end, and show them how to write a macro to bold all the headings. But don't save the macro; let them write it again themselves the next time. It's easier to be interested in something when you can do a hands on task that brings real benefits, like saving repetitive actions in a word processor.

Not me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023923)

Either they fixed it, or I don't have that problem.
Using IE3 on NT4

my first psudo-programming language (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023924)

The first thing I remember using as a psudo programming language was LOGO. It's easy to learn, introduces concepts like functions and parameters (sorta), recursion, reiteration, and geometry. Graphical output is easy, and keeps beginners interested. There used to be some books out that gave a bunch of animations and shapes for the user to make. From there I learned BASIC-A. A better choice now would pro'ly be QBasic.

Many Kids Love Graphics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023925)

Since he's good at math, at first I tried getting
my son to write simple C programs for things like
Pascal's triangle or a command-line calculator,
but he soon got bored. When I showed him how
to put lines, rectangles, etc. up on the screen he
got alot more excited.

With my son, I had the best luck with Tcl/Tk.
Before you flame me, I know Tcl doesn't teach good
structure, but with a few lines of code, you can
throw up a canvas and start placing things on it
without dealing with the intricacies of compilers
and GUI libraries, and that can be valuable when
you're dealing with kids.

Aaaahh, Rocky's Boots! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023926)

I LOVE that program! I used to use that when I was a kid sitting in front of my elementary school's apple IIe!

I still fondly remember Rocky's little 'success!' dance he'd do when you completed the circuit properly.

Sadly, I can't recommend anything equivalent these days....nowadays kids are messing with garbage like Visual Basick and getting no real knowledge about the fundamentals of computers, programming (and especially OO programming...NOTHING with a microsoft label does OO properly).

As a career choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023927)

I don't counsel my kids to be programmers like daddy is. Although I've been at it for 20 years, I don't believe the field will remain fertile for another 20. By the time my 5 year old is 25, I don't really expect programming to even exist as a profession.

Logo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023928)

The closest thing I've been able to think of is Logo, and I've given this some thought. I've had my cousin's twins on their own computers since they were a year and a half old. They're crazy about them, and I'd like to see them get started in on programming them.

Unfortunatly as I think back into the recesses of my mind and remember getting Logo back in about 1982 for my VIC-20, I also remember that BASIC held my attention a LOT better than LOGO ever did.

Kids don't need training! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023929)

My nephew, under 3 years old, is learning
computer remarkably fast just by exploring and
playing games. Except for typing on the keyboard,
he probably knowns more than some people at

actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023930)

Perhaps the key to getting a kid interested in programming is to avoid getting them interested. If you take a moment (for those who are programmers reading this) and think about it, if my father or mother had tried to get me interested in programming I probably would have been horribly bored and gone on to do something completely different. On the contrary, my parents bugged me constantly and actually tried to get me disinterested in computers altogether. I think the key is, that we as humans strive to accomplish things that we set ourselves to accomplish, not something that is on someone else's agendas.
Maybe it works for some kids, but now that I think about it, it probably wouldn't have for me.
Just get them a computer and the development tools and leave them alone, let them make the decision.

Nelson Rush (

Assembly Language ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023931)

I find that Assembly Language is a great way to get kids started in the joyous world of computer programming.

Just look at what it did for me.
|X X|
I may have lost all sanity, but at least I became a really good programmer from it.

you can't force a kid to be a hacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023932)

why do some people hack logo/basic/pascal/C/assembler through school, and some people play football/basketball/baseball/popularity games? well..
because not everybody can be a hacker. :)

being a hacker is a great thing, but not everybody's cut out for it. the only thing you can do is help your kid along and provide them with stuff they need to explore. not just computers, either - mechanical engineering (i.e. playing with tools, lumber, hammers, nails, and saws to build things) is very important. having a decently-stocked workshop and allowing your kid to play with stuff makes all the difference in the world - and don't get mad at them for breaking stuff, either.

remember, having a soldering gun and an ohmmeter in the house might make the difference between you having the next steve wozniak and you having the next bill gates.. which one do -you- think is more of a hacker?

have i rambled long enough?

-drew (always annoyed when non-computer-types call him 'the next bill gates')

magazines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023933)

When I was a kid I had Run magazine. I read game reviews and bought games for my Commodore 64 but I also typed in long programs from the magazine. Games were worth spending days typing but i even wasted lots of time typing in a database program. That's what we need today- a magazine with free programs you can type in. Obviously no kid is going to type up quake2 from a mag but you could have a program that does a neat trick in visual basic (or better: realbasic) that folks wouldn't mind spending a few days typing it up.

This is what you are looking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023934)

seems like a lot of fun...

Klik'n'Play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023935)

Kilk'n'play is a program designed to allow the simple creation of games. It has a full graphicly based programming feature and lots of precanned graphics and sounds. It's available from Europress, and they have an on-line demo ( Supposedly Corel distributes it in North America under the name Click&Create but I can find hide nor hair of it. Another similar tool is called The Games Factory, but I've never seen it.

Klik'n'play is only available for Mac and Windows alas. It's very cool, and I had a lot of fun with it when Maxis was still publishing it.

Netscape prob (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023936)

I think that this is a Netscape problem with nested tables. Gecko resolves this problem, and I don't think any other browsers have it.

Go with Legos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023937)

Give 'em Legos and encourage them to use them "beyond
the scope." I remember building Lego cannons which
used rubber bands to fire the long pieces with surprising

More Programming Environments for Kids (or Adults) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023938)

Try StarLogo. Freely available for PC and Mac
from Tufts and MIT. Nice graphical interface, and
a simple language. (?) has an interesting environment for making virtual worlds. Not alot of
programming, but it might be useful nevertheless.

squeak is interesting, but i wonder how kids will
view it.

robotwars (i think) for the apple ii was a great
intro (but not practical outside the environment)

Robot Odyssey is still one of the best... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023939)

Another vote for Robot Oddyssey. The BEST educational game I've ever seen. You can get it for an AppleII emulator. I've even downloaded it from and run it. Fantastic game. Of course, the graphics and sound are primitive by today's standards, but what a game....

Felleisen and Friedman, not Sussman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023940)

"The Little Schemer" is by Daniel P. Friedman and Matthias Felleisen, not Sussman. (Sussman wrote the forward. His own Scheme book, "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs", is definitely not for beginners.)

Toontalk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023941)

Mindsprings for sure. But check out ToonTalk [] , there's a trial version for download. Actually I encourage everyone at /. to try it - a very imaginative teaching environment, and you might learn something about concurrent constraing programming languages as well! -- Dave

Rocky's Boots (and warbots)? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023942)

Rocky's Boots was this weird game for the C64
(as well as clones on the similar platforms)
where you build circuits out of logic gates.
It was pretty fun. Also, maybe this is a bit too
advanced, but those games where you write the
control code for automated fighting robots are
damn fun.

Plenty of good stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023943)

Lego mindstorms look like the future, I'm out of college and I still get a kick out of them and I'm even thinking of buying one (mostly so I can take pictures of people in the shower like in the commercial...)

Logo is still cool. Especially for youngsters, there is something very satisfying about drawing pictures on a computer screen. It's primitive but it get's the ball rolling.

CRobots and Corewars are also pretty cool, it's about time for somebody to make a more modernized stereo sound and 3D graphics version of these. CRobots was a bit limiting because the stock robot was one of the best possible designs but the idea is good and it's still a little fun to play. It wouldn't take too much work to make CRobots a sophisticated learning tool for young programmers to be. Add a few different types of weapons, some mazes, etc..

SQUEAK!!! maybee... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023944)

On the contrary, Squeak (and Smalltalk in general) is much
easier to teach to children than other languages. In fact, that
was one of the goals of Smalltalk.

Squeak also has a very nice experimental UI called "morphic",
which has easily-scriptable objects (so kids can tell objects
to move, change color, etc.)

-- Tim Olson

Quick Basic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023945)

It's what got me into programming, so don't
knock it. QB 4.5 is best, but the one that
comes with DOS is pretty good too.

Robot Odyssey is still one of t... Let's write it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023946)

That was one of my favorite games of all time! 4 color CGA graphics or not, it still is more fun than most stuff today.

I've even got the disks to it stuffed away in my closet somewhere. Anyone know how to break the copy protection so I can run it under an emulator? I haven't found any computer it will run on besides old 8088 Tandys. :(

I have actually contemplated now and again writing something like this for a current OS. Any interest out there?

kiowa at mit dot edu

TeachScheme! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023947)

Incredible Machine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023948)

Great game that teaches problem solving. From my experience if someone is a good problem solver there is a real good chance they'll be a good programmer.

There probably is a newer game very similar.

Brian Macy

REALbasic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023949) []

This is a Macintosh only product but It handles some things much better than Visual Basic.


Corrupting Young Minds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023950)

Quake's the last thing to do so. C is the real culprit here.

C, Java, Pascal, and similar languages are the *worst* possible choices for teaching kids and newbies about computers. BASIC is nearly as bad, for reasons cited by others, but it is at least *interactive*. Kids (and most adults) learn best interactively. So... give them an interactive programming environment.

Squeak is intended expressly for this purpose ( although it needs to go through another devel cycle or two before it becomes easily approachable by novices.

Rice Scheme would be another possibility, since it's interpreted, cross-platform, and includes a graphics subsystem.

Concurrent Clean, although proprietary, runs on Windows and MacOS, is well-integrated, has graphics, and is an all-around decent functional programming system.

Even a good Forth system would be better for kids than C. Sheesh.

Teaching programming by using C and other low-level compiled languages just doesn't make any sense; nor does the "give them the tools and some books and cut them loose" approach. Like many others here, I was weaned on BASIC, interpreted Pascal, and Forth. It's far easier when you're starting out not to have the obstacles of edit-compile-link-run to deal with, and to work in a relatively safe environment where you're not going to have be concerned about hanging the system if you run some bad code.

Do your kids a favor. Teach them a real programming language. C typifies the worst-is-best approach to programming, and really isn't good for much other than writing kernels and device drivers, which newbies aren't likely to be doing.

SimTunes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023951)

It does'nt exactly teach kids programming but it teaches all things which are preparatory for it -- logical thinking, etc. -- and it does it in a very subtle but fun way.

It's sold by Maxis and was developed by a Japanese artist, Toshio Iwai, and was initially presented as an exhibit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

My child (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023952)

I've been thinking about this for my daughters.

Logo, BASIC, Perl - probably in that order, plus I'd even consider a markup language like HTML for beginners, sure, it's not programming per se, but I think it demonstrates some basic syntax principles...

(not anonymous - just lazee!)

Alice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023953)

TRS-80, Apple II, etc.. Emulators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023954)

I learned basic overnite with a trash 80, level 1
rom computer when I was about 12. It was great, it was interpreted, it was simple enough to get a handle on. The Apple II was just a simple, with much better graphics. Why not boot up an emulator, give the kids an old basic book with games they can type in themselves and let them start with a OS that is not bogged down by gui's...and a lot of stuff that is not really necessary to begin the process of learning to code.


Just about anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023955)

Personally, I think that anything that teaches that a computer will do _exactly_ what you ask it is useful. You also can't argue with it, or say, 'well, that's not what I meant...'

Agreed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023993)

I agree with Cliff's addendum but I'd like to amend the question:

I want to know about books/programs that will get ANYONE into programming. I know two adult females who are interested and able but not knowledgable.

Go ask ALICE! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023994)

Definitly check out Alice. it's at;

It is an authoring environment for 3D worlds,
aimed at beginners, to teach programming. It uses the Python scripting language which is a good OO language. I also agree with the mindstorms bit, I remember writing Lego/logo programs on an Apple in high school. Cool stuff.

adults and older kids (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023995)

For adults and older kids I'd suggest the "Little Schemer", used with DrScheme, a "smart programming environment". For information on DrScheme see . You might also be interested in the TeachScheme! Project: " To teach with Scheme, students only need to learn about five language constructs. Then they can design and implement compact simulations of ping-pong, lunar landers, hangman, and other (graphical) programs. The effect is that students focus on problem solving and not language details." See and hen.html.

Carnage Heart for the Playstation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2023996)

despite the violent-sounding name, this game is
about robots (strictly robots) trashing each other
with guns, missiles, etc. on the moons of jupiter.

the trick is that the game player programs the
robots' AI using a sort of visual programming
language-like environment. you can test your
programs against each other, against the computer,
or against programs by other players.

it may not be a kids game (there is a strategy
element to it) but i know at least one
non-programmer who has gotten interested in
programming after playing this game.

Here too. (1)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 15 years ago | (#2023997)

IRIX 6.2 and 6.5, Communicator 4.x. Also does it on my linux and FreeBSD boxes at home.

- A.P.

"One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

RE: Ask Slashdot (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#2023998)

Posted by Bocharn:

I think the kid should select himself if he wants to do programming or do anything else.
I started with playing games on Commodore. I could
stop the loaded program and modify the BASIC code so that I have more lives in the game. As I grew older the love for programming grew by itself.

Learning to program---in Tcl? (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024002)

Obviously your used to a static scope language. Dynamic scoped languages are older, and much more interesting. Who wants to pass be reference when you can really confuse everyone with uplevel (or is it upvar) tricks.

I'll agree that static scoping is a lot easier to program in, a lot easier to read, but it isn't the only way, and you should be exposed to dynamics scoped languages a little just because once in your lifetime it will be useful.

I've programed my 10k lines of TCL/TK, and for the tasks I was doing it was great. Yeah, C has good points, but TCL worked, was easier to program and more readable then your average perl script. Is it a perfect langauge for every task? No, of course not. Is it useful and easy to use? yes.

Might be useful ... (1)

felicity (870) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024003)

I once worked on a project that made a Java-applet to teach programming. Basically it's this GUI display where you write a program that creates a world and some robots, and then has them walk around and do stuff (kind of logo-like).

You can poke at it at:

(there's supposed to be a, but it seems to have gone away.)

Mindstorms (1)

seth (984) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024005)

LegoMindstorms are perfect. The language is a visual and reimisent of Logo. The software and product was designed by the same people (Papuert (sp?)) who designed the original logo teaching language.

Logo is great, then scheme (1)

kfort (1132) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024006)

Logo is a great little language. Dont cut it down. Its a functional style language that makes a great introduction to something like scheme. I suggest logo, then scheme.

Lego Mindstorms... (1)

tamarik (1163) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024007)

Yep! I bought 2 of them as they can talk to each other. This mixes robotics and computers together. Haven't got the hang of their lang yet, maybe your youngster will. Got a couple neat robots running around the house fscking with the cat. Now need to figure how to get them to rise over all the wires laying on the floor.

music lessons! (1)

The Curmudgeon (1303) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024008)

Nothing teaches structure, style and discipline like professional music lessons and hours of practice.

I hate to suggest this, but... (1)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024009)

I think a better approach would be to provide the opportunities (like have a machine available, and maybe some good tools), and let the kid decide for him/herself whether s/he wants to become a programmer? Give the kid time to be a kid, and time to find out what s/he likes and dislikes.

My step-daughter is 13, and not at all interested in programming, but through her own interested decided she wants to build some web pages. Now she's reading up about Javascript and doing image maps and all sort of stuff. I hope this leads to an interest in technology because she's smart and could be a good engineer/programmer/whatever, but if it doesn't I'm not going to push her.

Logo (1)

Stratus (1790) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024012)

Remember Logo? You give it commands like:



DRAW 100

...and it makes neat pictures. It's what sparked my interest in programming.

There's a web version at:

Ask Slashdot screens messed up consistently. (1)

fizbin (2046) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024013)

Well, if you look at the HTML code, you'll see what's wrong - the problem has to do with how one's browser interprets "width=100%" in an image tag that's inside a table. The image is the little image [] - this image forms the bottom of the title bar (in this case, the "Ask Slashdot: Are There Computer Programs Designed to get Youngers Interested in Computers?").

Now, this little image is given a table cell (<TD> element) all to its lonesome. The desired effect is that this image fill up the entire horizontal width of the table cell (hence the width=100% in the IMG tag). Unfortunately, Netscape is (incorrectly) interpretting the 100% as relative to the table one up in the nesting hierarchy, making that image too wide, which then screws up everything else.

The workaround that most slashdot pages employ is to use this image as the TD's background, instead of having a 100% image tag inside it. This is rendered correctly in Netscape.

And good lord, you do not want to run weblint on slashdot-produced code. I shudder at the prospect.

I think the Rob's made the code available, though - some aspiring perl hacker code get their ten minutes of fame by giving that code a thorough cleaning; it really needs it. (And while they were at it, they could make the HTML output have linebreaks every now and then so that bugs would be easier to track down)

Robots in arenas (1)

rjforster (2130) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024014)

There was a shareware program called Combat Zone for windows, came out 1994 IIRC, that had you programming some robots (in ROBOL) to do things like turn, use radar, move and shoot the hell out of other robots. Nice and simple, in some ways too simple. This was written by guy who yearned for something similar to what he learn't to program on way back. I've looked for similar things for ages and finally noticed on freshmeat something called RealTimeBattle which is a Linux rewrite/extension of a similar thing for windows but isn't Combat Zone. You can program for this Linux one in any language (examples in Perl, C++ etc) and the program tries to use real physics for accelerating, turning etc.

So there's at least 4 of these 'Robots controlled by a program you write in an arena shooting other robots' type programs.

The real way these things grab you is when you put your program up against your friend's and watch the fight. Then good honest childhood rivalry makes you a better programmer for the next fight.

I just tried freshmeat to get the homepage for RTB but couldn't get in. You try.

It depends on the age. (1)

dsfox (2694) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024016)

UCB logo might be a good place to start. I was thinking about putting a front end on it for really young kids - like kids too young to read.

ZZT and MegaZeux!!!! (2)

richieb (3277) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024019)

ZZT and MegaZeux are game building systems that allow you to play and program games in ASCII/VGA text mode. Because you can edit the fonts the graphics can get pretty fancy. With MegaZeux you can add sound to your games.

Each games comes with a built-in programming language (an object-based one) that allows you to program the "robots" in the game. There are also many built-in elements.

My son learned to program ZZT and MegaZeux by himself - by reading the help and by reading other people's code. He was 9 when he started.

I had tried LOGO with him, but he quickly lost interest - it took too long to do anything beyond pretty spirals.

ZZT and MegaZeux run on DOS (although a MegaZeux is being ported to Linux). Here are some links: []

My son's Web page []


Learning to program---in Tcl? (1)

thomasd (3336) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024020)

I'd be interested to know the answer to this one too. My feeling is that probably the best way to learn is the way we all did---by writing programs, plain and simple. When I was learning there were magazines with lots of listings to type in and debug---I guess these days books will have to do instead.

As for languages, I'm not sure Basic is really the answer any more---it looks horribly primitive. Java might be nice, although still a bit complicated. Actually the best bet might be (of all things) Tcl. I know it looks strange but for a first-timer this doesn't really matter. It's simple and (with Tk) you can do all kinds of cool graphics and windowing stuff right from day one.

Links for robot games (2)

Doug Loss (3517) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024023)

Here are links for:

RealTimeBattle []

GNU Robots []

Both run under Linux, both are GPLed.

Doug Loss

Programming, per se? Or structured thinking? (1)

MrSpock (5029) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024024)

I'm not sure there are any educational games that teach programming, per se, but at least back in the day (Apple ][, or thereabouts), there were some games that taught the kind of structured thinking that gives rise to an interest in programming. A couple such examples are Rocky's Boots and Robot Odyssey. I'm sure there are others, but those two come readily to mind.

Hope that helps.

What worked for me (1)

eGabriel (5707) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024026)

Mind you, it was the early Eighties.
Basic, Logo, and those ultra cool Atari, TRS-80, and Commodore machines. I sat down and wrote stupid games and simulations all day long, and taught myself assembler to make them crash more.

But I was already interested; "Wargames" and "Whiz Kids" and the whole blossoming geek culture. Dress your kid funny so he or she can't make friends, and teach them to speak their mind and build within them an intimidating vocabulary. They will either turn to role-playing games, vandalism, computers, or all of the above.

Gortek and The Microchips (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024029)

I still have my copy of Gortek and The Microchips for C-64 (on cassette). Taught me the basics of conditional looping, arithmetic, and some BASIC cruft. Also had a fun game that taught me to touch-type.

If you want your kid to learn computers and programming, give him a stock Linux box set up to access the internet, give him the root password, back up the root partition, and cut him loose with some introductory programming books.

Ask Slashdot screens messed up consistently. (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024030)

Me too... Could be a tag-nesting problem. The problem shows up on the main Ask Slashdot page and on the "reply" page, but not on the "Flat Mode" page, if that helps narrow it down.

It might be worth running the page through a web-lint kind of program to see if a tag is getting dropped or added somewhere.

HTML to JavaScript to Perl (1)

Pasty Drone (8425) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024033)

I learned Basic and Extended Basic on a TRS 80 4A like many others my opinion the only help there is a similar logic to current languages. The best thing basic taught me was to constantly re-check my work, but I agree with other posters that the games you can create are pretty dull by today's standards.

Here's what's going on in my extended family...

First create a web page (yes, I know many people don't consider HTML manipulating to be coding)together, then look at the html and explain the logic patterns in it. Using Notepad, then encourage your kid to create her own. When you upload it, you'll be able to point out and analyze the mistakes together. (That's why I suggest Notepad rather than an HTML editor that points out your mistakes as you make them.)

When she feels comfortable with HTML, start helping her add JavaScript and then Perl to her pages. The Dummies books are definitely written at a level that most kids 8+ can understand.

I would recommend this approach for parents with kids starting anywhere from 8 to 11, depending on their development. Before 8, just keep them around while you's amazing how much they pick up from watching.

JavaBlue, Squeak, ToonTalk (1)

MrRobahtsu (8620) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024034)

Since I haven't seen any other mention of these, I 'll give it a shot.

Sorry I don't have URLS for all these, but that's what search engines are for. These are the ones I'm keeping my eye on for when my 2.5 year-old twigs can type :-)

  • JavaBlue
  • Squeak (used it, it's pretty cool)
  • ToonTalk (commercial, Winders only, free demo)
  • Python IDE's
  • CRobots (GNU, I think, even has a GUI)

End of an era (1)

NoData (9132) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024035)

I too nursed on the sweet teets of the BASIC language. My digital alma mater was the TI-99/4A. Great, great computer.

I think the driving force that pushed most geeks of our generation into programming was games. Specifically the fantasy that one could master the machine and forge one's own kick-butt arcade creation was a huge motivator as a child.

But for us, we grew up in a time when the standard for great games was Combat on the 2600, not 3-D shooters like Quake. Today's software is so rich it just seems it would be frustrating to be a kid trying to strike out on his/her own. Gee, I made a happy face that flits around a maze eating dots. That's great. We had tools like sprites and PAINT commands. Today, you have your Open GL and malloc()'s. Woo hoo.

Ahh for those simpler times...

C-Robots? Pascal Robots? (1)

PD (9577) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024036)

Haven't seen anyone mention these classics yet. You write a C or Pascal program to control the robot. Your robot then fights other robots. Last robot alive wins.

MUDs and MUSHes.. (1)

incubus (9714) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024038)

Definitely Mudding is a good way to get teenagers interested in computers in general. MUD/MUSHes which allow programming of objects generally have good programming tutorials and often people to assist in the learning process.
Some places are almost competitive about their coding practices.... competition being something that motivates a lot of teenagers.

But be warned.. there may be social consequences :-)

Squeak (1)

NYC (10100) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024039)

Squeak is an interesting programming environment.
The Morphic environment is a object prototype based programming enviroment. Kids can program Morph objects to do various things, both by using VB-type controls and via code.

Alan Kay, one of the creators, and one of the greatest minds in CS, created Squeak with kids in mind.

Plus, Squeak runs on almost any OS known to man: Unix, Win32, MacOS (PPC, 68K), DOS, Itsy, WinCE, etc...

SQUEAK!!! maybee... (1)

PureFiction (10256) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024040)

I remember reading on /. or wirednews about a new programming language called 'Sqeak' that teaches OO programming to youngsters. Supposedly it will be easy to use and program, but I really don't know much else about it. I beleive it was an open source project, anyone heard any more of this??

Learning programs for kids (1)

tgeller (10260) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024041)

I'm surprised no-one's mentioned Stagecast Creator. It started out in life as Cocoa at Apple [] ; Larry Tesler (yes, that Larry Tesler) took it and ran with it when Apple killed the project. It's a world-building sort of metaphor. --Tom, who also learned BASIC on a TRS-80. Microsoft BASIC (remember?)

heh.. :) (1)

ArthurDent (11309) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024043)

In _my_ day, all we had was a C64 and a BASIC interpreter! And we LOVED it!

Wow. I remember... (1)

-=Zak=- (12712) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024047)

I remember when I started out with BASIC on my TRS-80 Color Computer. I was only like 6 or 7 years old and was amazing people that had no idea about computers.

Nowadays, I don't know... My first non-BASIC language on a "real" computer (my 8088) was Turbo Pascal. They still teach that in a lot of high schools... That's what I'd probably recommend, but maybe that was easier for me because I had already been programming in BASIC for five or six years by that time.

I'm interested in hearing opinions as well... I have a two year old that loves playing with my computer. I'd really like to get her interested in something other than games.


Chipwits (1)

ghira (13007) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024049)

Suitable for even younger users than "Omega" would be the
rather impressive "Chipwits", which I remember seeing in the
days of thin macs and fat macs. You programmed a little robot
by plugging program modules together on a grid. Basically,
you had to build a flow chart. You had about 8 grids available,
and could use the 7 "extra" ones for subroutines.

It was quite impressive - the game came with a variety of maps
you could program the robot to deal with. You had to teach it
about food, obstacles, bombs, and so on.

Omega (2)

ghira (13007) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024050)

Origin used to sell a game called "Omega" which was, basically, a
BASIC-ified version of crobots, with rather nicer graphics, and
some Origin-programmed enemies you could defeat.

You also had a limited budget with which to build your cybertank
(until you got to security level 10 and had an infinite budget),
forcing you to decide whether to have faster weapons,
more armour, repair kits, or whatever.

It came with a library of pre-written routines to do things like
follow left-hand walls, or whatever, which you could use
until you wanted/needed to modify or re-implement them entirely
to suit your own needs.

No connection with the roguelike game of the same name, of course.

There's crobots itself, of course.

LogoWriter/MicroWorlds or even Hypercard (1)

cnicolai (14338) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024052)

In elementary school we learned LogoWriter on the Apple IIe. It's a derivative of Logo--draw things by telling a turtle to move, interactive interpreter, simple functional programming with global variables--with some multimedia features.
You have four turtles; each can take any shape or be invisible, which is cool for representing characters in a game. The main window holds graphics, bitmapped text, and text-editor-style text, all programmable. There's even rudimentary event-driven programming--you can tell it what to do when various control-keys are pressed, then do something else in the meantime.
Definitely a lot it couldn't do, but programs were quicker to write and more engaging than my native BASIC. State of the art for my class were races/obstacle courses where the turtle moved inexorably forward while you kept it on the path by pressing control-keys to turn.
LogoWriter was by LCSI. I heard they might have updated/replaced it with MicroWorlds, which I haven't seen.

A step up in complexity and power from LogoWriter is Hypercard. I never got far into it, but the HyperTalk language is English-like, with object-orientation everywhere (each object has its own code area where you can extend its vocabulary). If there's a mac classic around that nobody wants, you could dedicate it to hypercard, which hasn't changed much in the past decade, so it still works fine on slow machines.
Or, slightly far out, how about Squeak, a graphical environment written in Smalltalk, source code included? See
Whatever you choose, prefer stuff that's interactive (no compile/run if you just want to try one command) and has a modern approach, like object-orientation and stuff. I guess BASIC is good at showing you how the computer does one thing after another, but it's not a good way to organize programs.

Old machine... (1)

aonaran (15651) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024055)

I think giving a youngster an old machine like a c=64 or some other basic based machine, with very little software and a simple book on basic programming is a good (and cheap) way to go.

When I was young, my friends all had ataris and nintendos or segas, i had a Vic-20, about 20 tapes and a small stack of thin books on basic. I was forced to use the computer to learn math (it was that or a boring night with dad and a text book)
And it didn't take long before I got curious enough to start writing a few simple programs.

I think a vic-20 now goes for about $10 with a bunch of tapes and accessories at the average yard sale.

Give a kid an old machine, and limit the time they can spend on Mom & Dad's machine (and NO nintendo! Let them play with the neighbor's) You might be surprised at what they will come up with.

The Incredible Machine (1)

dar (15755) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024057)

There was a game in the early 90's for DOS and Mac called The Incredible Machine. The premise was that you were given a number of items - basketball, ropes, pulleys, balloons, ramps, etc. A different list for each game. You had to build a rube goldberg-like machine to perform some task. It was a lot of fun and the logical thinking that went into getting the machine to work is the exact sort of thing that hooks a person on programming.

Just checked. You can buy The Incredible Machine 2 or 3 from Sierra. 2 runs on DOS 3 runs on Win 3.1.

Here's a couple of urls: 10100 10100

Let me know if you try it. I'd like to know how it works out.


It's simple... (1)

Abe Fromin (16648) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024058)

Take the kid to the computer store and have him pick out some killer games. Then buy him all the parts to build a killer machine and guide him on building it, with playing the games as an incentive. Worked for me once upon a time.

Lego Mindstorms... (1)

twinkie (80950) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024063)

It sounds like what you may be looking for...

While I myself have not dredged up the cash or time to grab one myself, it seems the perfect solution...

Its combination of real objects with behaviors and properties, and its programmable nature, combined with the joy of putting things together and seeing them do something, may just be what you're looking form.

Lego Mindstorms is a new type of kit where, besides standard passive blocks, there are active elements; motors, sensors, and a central brick which is programmable via PC (Soon others), which contains the code needed to run anything you build and attach to it. Examples of things already done with the Mindstorms technology; A photocopier, a optical punchcard reader, a robot that follows lines, etc. A cross between Logo, basic, and Lego!

Gee, I may be first too!

RoboRally, sort of... (1)

tad (101999) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024064)

There is a board game from Wizards of the Coast called RoboRally. You "program" your robot in batchs of 5 segments with commands like "turn left", "Turn right", "back up 1 space", "forward 1", "forward 2", etc. There are all kinds of obstacles to avoid or deal with (conveyor belts, lasers, pits) and robots can "interact" by either shooting or pushing each other (granted, usually by accident). Getting an instruction wrong (left vs right say) or getting shoved one column off course can have disastrous repurcussions (call them "bugs" ;-).
It isn't particularly deep, but it is fun and teaches the basics of planning ahead. Just avoid most of the expansions, or just use the cool boards out of them. SOme of the later rules were just silly.

Give me a break... (1)

Valdier (398217) | more than 15 years ago | (#2024066)

QuakeC is the best route as to how not to learn programming correctly... Also it's sure not an easy way to learn especially if you are new to programming.

A few months back I saw that interplay ( was working on a "C for dummies" sorta program that teaches you the basics as well as associates it with basic game programming. I don't see mention of it on their site currently but it's probably there somewhere.

Another good resource... go to a community college and take an intro programming class... good choices would be C, C++ or java. Java probably being the best if you want to learn the concepts of Object Oriented programming.
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