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Introducing Children to Computers?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the next-generation-of-IT-workers dept.

Programming 886

Years ago, kids could be gradually introduced to computers through learning languages like LOGO and educational computer games. Many of us started our computing careers at our parent's workplace, logged in to a word processor to type away, only to become fascinated with the whole computing thing. So Slashdot, let's hear how you were lured into the digital life. What was it that drew you to a life of programming? How old were you when you first used a computer? What pieces of modern software do you think would be a good way to introduce today's kids to the world of computing?Two of our readers had a few related questions: "A family friend has asked me to help teach her 13-year-old the art of computer programming. I initially thought this would be easy to approach but times have changed since I cut my teeth on text-only, ROM-based, BASIC interpreters. Twenty years ago, it seems there were much more clear and concise paths one could take to learn programming. Now I'm at a loss as to what language and resources I should use. Everything is so high-level that I'm having trouble finding convenient, simple tools that promote the fundamental tenets of programming, allowing newbies to jump in and see immediate results, without getting bogged down in corporate-centric APIs. It seems nowadays most programmers end up spending more time learning the development environment (and thus being confined to specific platforms) than core, transferrable programming knowledge. I'd like to ask my fellow Slashdot dwellers what tools, languages and approaches they have used to help introduce new people to programming?", and from "My daughter is a huge fan of TuxPaint and ChildsPlay. We use Linux and MacOSX (and occasionally Windows) on different computers. We like to have stuff for her installed wherever we go. The two I mentioned go a long way, but we would love to pick the collective Slashdot brain on this one."

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Linux, the open OS. (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248499)

My first memory of using a computer was plugging a HUGE game cartridge into the back of my family's Vic20 and being in some castle (like Dracula's Castle or some shit). It was a text adventure game that I really never mastered. I think I was about three years old.

My father started me writing programs in BASIC before I was four (as that was what he was doing and of course I wanted to know how). I could read most things by then and this was not much more than just copying what he did anyway. I mostly remember playing around with simple things like PRINT, GOTO, and INPUT. Nothing very complex although I suspect (but don't know for sure) that my father never did anything terribly complex in BASIC.

We progressed through the Commodore stages (C64, C64C?, C128D) and when I was in 7th grade we upgraded to a Packard Bell 386SX-16 with a whopping 2MB of RAM and a 40MB HD. This is where my love of computers really started... I sat down my first day and discovered the DOS prompt (PBs at the time had a simple GUI menu that basically sucked) but quickly found myself unable to load anything from the 3.5" disks.

LOAD "*",8,1 was giving me "Bad command or file name" repeatedly... Dejected, I sat down and read the DOS 5.0 manual from front to back (several times actually). I spent time writing crap in Q-Basic (and eventually QuickBasic) and then moved on to Turbo C++ (which I must say had a far less interesting manual than DOS believe it or not ;))

What I enjoyed most of all (and I have posted about that on Slashdot before) was thumbing through the old-school Computer Shopper looking to build my dream machine and making sure I priced it the best I could.

I miss the days of old-school computing when everyone knew at least some part of what was going on inside their machines and the OS even allowed you to! I missed that part of computers until I moved to Linux in 1996.

I'm just glad that with Linux I can continue to allow it to remain that way. I can forever live in the world that I had grown up in. So to answer your question about what I would do to introduce a child to a computer... Linux!

Linux allows you to get right down there in the trenches with your machine. You get to see what the hell is going on when it boots up. Sure, most people don't care (because they don't have to) but we all grew up watching DOS boot before Windows. We knew how to edit config files and save on what little memory we had so that we could run NewGameFoo.

I enjoyed learning about computers and playing around and finding out how they ticked. It scares me that NO ONE will know how soon as Windows does NOT really allow you to know. Everything is behind a shroud of secrecy and hard to find registry settings that are buried in deep trees of information.

At least with Linux a child gets the best of both worlds. A modern operating system GUI with nearly all the comforts of Windows while still being able to learn if they want to.

But that's just me. I learn by doing not by example. Using a computer that is open to explore was the best option for me.


Re:Linux, the open OS. (2, Funny)

sevinkey (448480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248574)

LOAD "*",8,1 was giving me "Bad command or file name" repeatedly...

Oh man does that bring back memories! Took me an hour to figure out that I just have to type in the program's name!

Re:Linux, the open OS. (1)

psallitesapienter (809284) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248677)

Well, that's pretty much what I did. I even have the MS-DOS 5.0 User's Guide right in front of me. Not that I read it anymore, bat that helped me open the world of computers when I was 11. I played Lode Runner when I was 7, & the first PC I can remember is an old 8086 or 8088. I also remember when my dad upgraded to a 286 with colors!! That was a big day & I even wanted to see Louts 123 in color, just for the sake of it.
I also remember programming Logo & Basic. Not that I ever got to serial ports, but it was useful.

Yes, introduce them to IP piracy at a young age! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248678)

And make sure while they use Linux you explain to them how lots of big coporations such as Sun and MS paid $$$ to develop the technology that you now enjoy in cloned form for free. And then you can show them how to download mp3s for free, and later on, games and applications from large publishers such as Electronic Arts.

If you're really lucky, you can teach them the tenants of communism and why selective communism is a good thing for computing society.

Of course, later in life, when they are bombed by a guided missile from North Korea that is powered by embedded Linux, they will wish they had learned to use the Mac instead and resent you, but you won't care because you'll both be dead.


Re:Yes, introduce them to IP piracy at a young age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248696)

I'd mod you up if I could, sir.

Re:Linux, the open OS. (1)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248689)

During my sophomore year in high school, a buddy and I discovered a CBM 8032 (with a tape drive) in the couselor's office, and obtained permission to come in during lunch to fiddle with it. We learned BASIC on that machine and programmed a very crude version of Pac-Man. Then I purchased a C64 and went on from there.

Those were the days. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248503)

It doesn't answer the question at hand, but that's a sure way to guarantee they will stay away from computers forever. (0, Offtopic)

lack1uster (627987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248583)

A goatse link? You're the coolest. Do us all a favor and stop being a dumbass trying to impress other dumbasses.

On the "computer programming" question (3, Insightful)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248505)

Enroll them in a class. If they have the money, it's the best way. Nothing beats a trained instructor

(If s?he gets a crappy teacher though, you've wasted your money)

Re:On the "computer programming" question (1)

NekoIncardine (838965) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248554)

A Commodore 64 and copy of "The Simpsons Arcade Game" did it for me. I actually spent time making BASIC scripts to quickly launch whatever game was in the disk drive when I was about six years old (Hint: disable write-protect and add a small text file). Then, two days ago, I tried to run a C64 emulator, and couldn't remember how to use the LOAD command. Moral of the story? Shortcuts don't pay.

Re:On the "computer programming" question (1)

quizteamer (758717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248594)

If the kid is 13 can't they take some type of class at school? I know some of the local 7th and 8th grades do some type of computer programing, usually using BASIC. But if your going to teach the kid, you might want to teacher them some Java. The only reason I suggest this is that the AP computer science exam now uses Java, so it might be an advantage for the kid to learn this if they plan on taking any type of AP computer science class.

Whoa, Cowboy! (2, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248643)

Enroll them in a class. If they have the money, it's the best way. Nothing beats a trained instructor

I suggest evaluating that class/instructor yourself, first, or take the class at the same time as your kid. Bad teachers abound, don't just assume people you get on with just fine are good at teaching, some of my friends couldn't and shouldn't teach. (I know, I've sat through some of their courses.)

FRISTPSOT. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248506)


Re:FRISTPSOT. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248535)

Man you sorry excuses for first posters. Fucking GARCIA [] owned your sorry asses again.

Fucking douchebags.

Myst (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248513)

I got myst, a cdrom, and a soundcard on my gateway 25mhz pc. When it didn't work a couple of days later I started ripping things apart.

And thus, a beautiful first reply was born

Oregon Trail! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248515)

Ohhh yea. Spend all class hunting!

BASIC (3, Interesting)

gaber1187 (681071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248518)

I got started when my cousin, who had a TRS-80 and a 386 gave me a book called "It's Basic". I started programming on Apple II's in our classroom and then got really interested in building a computer for as cheap as possible. Well, with 512 MB hard drive and 4 megs of RAM and a 486 DX 66 MHz running only DOS 5, I ran into one problem after another trying to get everything to work. Needless to say, I learned a lot and ended up getting a job at a local internet service provider based on my experience when I was 16.

I'm going to bet practically everybody else here had a very similar beginning... :-)

frozen bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248519)

nothing gets a child ready for life like a game of frozen bubble. pretty penguins and crucial skills for running the pool table at the arcade.

I was first introduced... (1)

SECProto (790283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248520)

The first memory I have is of playing wolfenstein 3d on our old 386. A couple months later, I remember playing it, with my moving around, while my friend fired and opened doors. It took practise, but we were unbeatable after that (not that the game was very hard in the first place).

4 years old (1)

FiReaNGeL (312636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248524)

Computers we're always part of my life... even in pre-school, we had 3-4 computers we could 'play' (do some pre-school math) on...

Coleco, Tandy1000, 386... now that I think about it, I always had a computer nearby. Programming came naturally from a 'want-to-know-how-it-works' mentality.

When I was young... (2, Interesting)

trisight (306703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248525)

My father had subscriptions to Atari magazines that used to come with programs in them and he would sit me down with a magazine and I would type the games straight out of the magazine to play them. It was an Atari 400 with a tape drive on it for storage (remember that loud screaming noise that sounds like it would be on an industrial song track). I was 5 or 6 at the time. Later he would teach me how to change different things and teach me what they meant.

I program for a living now and always let him know that I owe it all to him. Feels good when he comes to me with programming questions now. Kinda brings a little tear to my eye...

Re:When I was young... (1)

AceCaseOR (594637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248635)

Antic Magazine! I remember that! However, when I got starated with computing it was on the Atari 800. I never really got to use the ST.

no modern technology needed (1)

LiquidMind (150126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248526)

"What pieces of modern software do you think would be a good way to introduce today's kids to the world of computing?

i think a keen mind and a curiousity for new things is all it takes and kids seem to have plenty of both. I don't think there's anything you need 'to do' per that quote "if you build it, they will come"
if nothing else works, tell them there's porn on the internet ;)

Pr0n! (4, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248595)

> if nothing else works, tell them there's porn on the internet ;)

There's porn in this .tar file. Here's a spec for the .tar file format. If you can write a program that extracts the .tar, you can keep the pr0n!

If you replace "pr0n" and "tarfile" with "game" and "disk", that's pretty much how I got started.

I asked what the computer was for. They told me it could be programmed. I RTFM'd, and figured out how to use the thing to "program" a game whose source code was in the form of ink spots on dead trees.

From there on, it wasn't too hard to figure out that I could make the game better by changing some of the numbers (probability of hitting a target, radius of a targeting circle, etc).

By the end of the day, I realized I was having more fun programming the thing than I ever did playing the game.

It's been 20 years now, and I'm not hooked. I could quit any day I want to. I just don't want to.

As soon as I could. (1)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248529)

I was about 4 when I was introduced to a computer. I spent the next several years of my life learning QBasic [] , tho...but let's not get caught up on stupidities, shall we? ;)

If it were me... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248532)

I'd just hook an electrode up to your mother's penis. Failing that I would drop a monitor onto a small child.

wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248533)

1st reply ever for me. i think

I played games at friend's house =P lamr games ^^ learn under water n stuff hehe

/ MackanZoor

Duh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248537)


Re:Duh (2, Interesting)

slungsolow (722380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248611)

Yes, it is amusing... but one of my greatest memories ever dealt with downloading a topless picture of Cindy Crawford off of a BBS. I think it took a good 15-20 minutes to download and my brother had previously installed a program that let you view the image as it came in. Oh man it was killer.

Now the earliest I remember would be playing some tape based games off of my brothers Commodore 64. I don't remember the games that well, and I know my brother hated to let me use his computer, but I think it was worth it.

How I started down the digital path... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248538)

My dad burped a lot.

I think (1)

i_r_sensitive (697893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248539)

I was seven or eight, playing with a TI-99 running LOGO, and a real robotic turtle.

Never quite have equalled that experience either...

The most important thing (imho) (3, Interesting)

wcitechnologies (836709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248542)

In my humble opinion, the most important thing that we need to teach children at a young age is to TYPE. Just as everyone doesn't remember learning a first language but always struggles with a second, teaching kids to type is much, much easier than teaching teenagers to type. At that stange of life, your mind is designed to soak up new information like a sponge. I learned in 1st grade, then grew up watching my peers (from other schools) struggle through intermediate school.

Re:The most important thing (imho) (3, Funny)

savagedome (742194) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248578)

At that stange of life

I recommend a spell checker too.

karel (4, Informative)

utexaspunk (527541) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248545)

I first started using computers when my dad brought home our Kaypro 4MHz 8088. I learned DOS by watching over my dad's shoulder, and then trying to play games between when I got home from school and when he got home from work.

as far as teaching programming goes, try karel the robot [] that's what we used in high school before learning pascal, and it made the structures seem very logical.

First Computer Experience (1)

zachthemagictaco (843689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248547)

I was the first one in my family to be familiar with computers from the time I was first born. When I was born, we had an old Commodore machine with DOS installed. It had some fun games, including Wheel of Fortune, and a word processor, but other than, that, it wasn't that special. One fine day, my father accidentally screwed up all the filenames, so that was the end of that. I do remember the old truly *floppy* "floppy" disks with fondness. When I was around 4 or 5, my mother got an Apple PowerMac 7200 that was primarily to be for her computer graphics (she was taking a class on it at the time). My brother, who was about 10 or 11, immediately became infatuated with it, became a Mac person, and then taught me how to do many things on it. Today, I have an iMac, albeit a rather old one, and am still a complete copmuter geek, but with more experience.

Commodore 64 (Later 128) (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248555)

My good ol' Commodore. That thing was great.

I was already into computers by the time my grade school started me on Logo and some other Apple stuff (Hyper Studio anyone?). Of course, I didn't know my career would be in computers or anything. To me, they were just these "awesome" machines that let me play games and do homework.

It wasn't until my Freshman year when I was exposed to programming languages (other than QBasic) that I decided this is what I was going to do with my life.

ts2000 (1)

solitaryrpr (199842) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248563)

Anyone remember the old Timex-Sinclair 2000 with embedded basic and the unstable 16k extension pack?...many is the night I spent learning BASIC there...anyone remember getting magazines that actually had complete programs you could could type hex? Ahhhh....those were the days...then you could graduate to C64...

Re:ts2000 (1)

easter1916 (452058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248664)

I do! Except I was poor and could only afford the TS1000 at first, and not the super-duper expensive 16K RAM pack that had to be scotch taped to the edge connector to prevent it from falling off...

Re:ts2000 (1)

ploppy (468469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248686)

Anyone remember the old Timex-Sinclair 2000 with embedded basic and the unstable 16k extension pack?

Yes, though in the UK/Europe it was known as the Sinclair ZX81. It was a UK computer and was renamed for the US (never really knew why).

The Sinclair range of computers (ZX80, ZX81, Spectrum, QL), is probably responsible (blame?) for the generation of programmers in Europe in the 80s/90s. Even Linus Torvalds started out on a QL!

How i got started (1)

Sarflin (636906) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248565)

Typeing basic (apple II) and the Binary hex entry of small games from magazines in. This was cool as I typed in these lines of code and out popped something that was fun. I started wondering what the jiberish ment and that was how I got bitten by the programming bug.

computers are fun (1)

shadowzero313 (827228) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248570)

I had a NES when I was 2 or 3. I started playing Gorillas(QBASIC game) and Lemmings when i was 4-6, i think. I didn't immediatly grasp that I could change gorillas then. It took until about 2nd or 3rd grade for me to learn just a wee bit of programming. I'm not sure what the best way to get into programming would be, though. I restarted programming on a TI-73 graphing calculator in 7th grade. It's pretty good for starting out on. If you go that route, go for a TI-83/84 silver edition. Same basic thing, but more functionality, esp. for math.

Squeak! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248571)

Squeak [] !

First memory: LSL in the Land of the Lounge Lizard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248576)

My first memory involves my father stepping away from our Olivetti M-24 with a CGA screen for a few minutes and me casaully navigating his Leisure Suite Larry I character into the street, only to have poor Larry run over by the taxi. Good times...

About 12... (2, Interesting)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248579)

It was the DOS days. Daddy bought a brand new IBM PS/2. I wanted to know how to calculate things on it and he showed me good old GW-BASIC (That is indeed Gates-William-BASIC, I started off as a Microsoftie).

He showed me statements. I figured out how to write a scientific calculator in BASIC. It never became my thing until daddy gave me a Pascal book and Turbo Pascal 4 (?). It was a dream! I reinvented bubble-sort, and stuff like that. I was sold. I knew I was going to go into computers.

That's why I enrolled after highschool in the computer science classes in a not too remote University. I learned about Linux and BSD, became a OpenBSD fan... I managed to get through my eductaion and get a job as a programmer. I launched Java in the company that took me (and it was a big commercial success), and now... after 6 years... I quit that company. I left to become a teacher... I'll be teaching computers to high schoolers... and so the circle ends.

kazelsnet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248584)

I was seven - It was a new MAC L3 or whatever. My dad finally brought it home, as I had been pestering him about it for weeks.

I wanted a game installed. My father couldn't figure out how to do it. When he woke up the next morning, I had installed it and was already yelling at the screen.

Old timers (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248587)

Heck, I started playing around with BASIC back before there were PCs..... well, ok, there were the TRS-80 and Apple II.... I think. Memory is the second thing to go, you know.

But on to what she wants to learn. Perhaps XHTML programming first? It's relatively easy, low-cost, no real tools, and almost instant gratification. Just what a common teenager likes.

Once they're through that, they can learn some scripting language or something along the lines of Java or .NET. Get a good book on the language syntax of whatever you choose to teach. Once the simple concepts are learned, and the syntax understood, it's time for deeper things, like OO abstractions, if they're still interested.

Logo is a good... (2, Interesting)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248589)

way to start on computers, as it is simple and imaginative. If you can find a PC Logo Emulator/program I'd start with that :-) and I'm sure there is one available out there.

You know what also would probably be an easy way to get someone in on programming? Straight up line number GW-Basic or AppleBasic. Simple, and teaches basic programming concepts fairly well (If statements, loops, etc with simple input and output). Beats trying to teach the principles of OO design at an early age. Little baby steps would be key...

Re:Logo is a good... (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248697)

LogoWriter...Apple IIe...brings a tear to my eye thinking about it. Ashame I went to an under funded urban public school so that all stopped after 6th grade. I had to pick it up on my own at home, and then in 11th and 12th did independent study with computers where I got to play with Mozilla :D

Ahhh Oregan Trail...the best game ever...I think i always picked the carpenter

The poon tang (1)

BlastM (663010) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248590)

I'm living the "digital lifestyle" because of the babe potential.

The potential has yet to be realised, however.

Sesame Workshop (1)

Chazmati (214538) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248593)

My three-year-old likes the web-based Sesame Street [] games. I was surprised how quickly he learned to use the mouse. He can double-click a shortcut and open the web page, select a game, and play.

Step one (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248596)

Step one: Give them a computer with a command line interface.
Step two: Introduce them to GUIs once they've got an understanding of what gets buried under billions of lines of bloated code.

Sinclair ZX81 / Timex-Sinclair 1000 (1)

easter1916 (452058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248600)

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 (TS1000 here in the USA). 1K of RAM (800-odd bytes free for programs and data), a monochrome display, a membrane keyboard, a 1KHz Zilog Z80 processor... I loved it. Taught myself BASIC by reading, reading, reading... mostly simple game listings from the UK mag C&VG (Computer and Video Games). Years later in a fit of pique I took an axe to it and tossed the remnants to the winds.

Introduced to computers BY children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248603)

I'd like to read about grownups' experiences when first being introduced to computers BY children.

Parallax Basic Stamp (3, Interesting)

mainlylinux (825237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248605)

Check out the Basic Stamp from Parallax. There are kits that use it to teach logic, programming, electricity/electronics, etc. Price is good (radio shack has the whole kit for $79 bucks - it's called the "What's a microcontroller" and it comes with everything you need to do a bunch of nifty experiments). User forum support is pretty good too: [] Dan

I second the Basic Stamp (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248679)

Little controllers like this are the only thing around now that approaches the simplicity and understandability of early computers. Plus, you can get relatively inexpensive kits that use the BSII to do cool things like desktop robotics. And since the stamps use a real PC as the interface, the progression is natural to more flexible and hard to understand languages when PBasic isn't enough any more.

I think it is important to start with something like PBasic instead of Java or C because it teaches the fundamentals like binary math, finite math, flow control, and what variables and instructions are without overwhelming a young mind with cruft. When you learn those core concepts first the more advanced stuff is much easier, and you're more motivated to "get into it" because you know where it's going.

HyperCard, anyone? (1)

Sigh Phi (324315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248607)

My first home computer was a Mac. I learned a lot from HyperCard and MS-BASIC.

I'd say the closest thing to HyperCard now is the web, but the underlying structure requires a broad range of knowledge, from markup (HTML), graphics (Photoshop or other image program), code (Javascript, PHP), and persistence (MySQL). It's not at all easy for a beginner, but it's the modern RAD environment that most closely resembles HyperCard.

Apple ][ clone, in 1982 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248608)

It was in 1982 that I touched a thing called "computer" for the first time in my life. It was a box used for some unknown purpose in my father's electronics company. I had to have it, and my father somehow managed to get me one - it was a beige generic apple ][ clone with 10 inch (or so) green monochrome monitor. It was just amazing - beeping, flashing screen and all! I spent most of my time playing games on the box - Lord Runner, Dig Dig Dig, Captain Goodnight, Rescue Raiders, Ultima, M&M, Drop out and numerous other titles.

And when I read the story about the Morris worm, I decided to understand this computer thing *completely* - and I think I achieved that, after doing a EE as undergrad, and compiler as master. From quantum physics to high level applications, I think I know the basic concepts, theories and practice for all things computer...

First Experiences (1)

Yhippa (443967) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248612)

This is kind of interesting, because the first time I ever used a computer was for LOGO waaaaay back in Kindergarten. There was a class of about 20 of us and we all got in line to "timeshare" with the Apple IIe. In fact probably through 5th grade all I managed to hack on was LOGO on Macs. Of course, kids nowadays have access to computers because they are so cheap. Still, I would recommend Mac to kids these days so they don't get frustrated and experience a decent UI. If they're really into computers, some BASIC programming should do the trick.

my start (1)

ScislaC (827506) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248616)

Tandy 1000... when I was 4 or 5. And to think... if the command line (DOS) made sense to a kid back then, why are we dumbing the kids down with GUI stuff? When I have kids... learn how it works and how to control with the command line... THEN they can use the GUI.

Bigger Question... (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248617)

This is going to be an American-geared question, but when are we going to start including computer skills in our education system? Why is it not something that we there not standards that children know when they graduate high school? And what should those standards be?

From my father's telecommuting. (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248620)

Which meant bringing home a teletype and accoustic modem and setting it up in the basement. Giant rolls of yellow paper and the constant ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk as it printed. Occasionally, we would be allowed to play exciting games like horse racing...where you picked a horse and it would give you the race announcements.

Ah, timesharing on an old GE computer.

Rule #1 about children and computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248622)

Do NOT talk about children and computers

(Too many porn jokes)... Ba-dum ching! Thank you, I will be here all week. Remember to tip your waitress.

IBM PC Junior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248623)

Age 3. Carmen Sandiego. The IBM PCJr rocked my socks, day after day. I still have it lying around somewhere.

Dont! (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248624)

Save them from a life of isolation and not getting laid...ever.


cmpkilla (47878) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248625)

Well I don't know about you, but my first computer experience was when I was popping quarters into a video arcade when all of a sudden I was sucked into the arcade and had to battle it out with the Master Computer Program mano y mano. I even learned how to play frisbee, and ride a motorcycle while I was at it.

Quest for Glory... (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248626)

... or, back in the day, it was "Hero's Quest." That old sierra game is what really sprung me into computers and programming. Played around with basic at home, and pascal in high school.

Anyway, with the question. First thing a child should know is how to get around on the computer. This includes command prompts and everything. Once they are truely mastered at this, I'd find some free compilers and teach a little bit of basic. If they have a school with an MS partnership, they could pickup visual basic pretty quickly.

Don't be an elitist and try to teach the kid C or C++ or anything overly complex. Give them a bitesized language before introducing them to the big stuff. Would hate to see the kid drown cause you put too much in front of her.

Commodore 64 (1)

MP3Chuck (652277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248627)

I used to be a speed demon at typing
LOAD * ,8,1

Back in my day... (1)

ScooterBill (599835) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248628)

We didn't have 3.8 GHz machines that could run 200 fps on the latest fully rendered first person shooter.

We didn't have 24 inch LCD monitors with better resolution than you can see.

We didn't have high speed internet connections that make a T1 seem slow.

We didn't have no computers. Heck, electricity was still pretty new.

We did go outside and use our imaginations.

But seriously, watching my kids pick up computer skills is astounding. I have no idea what they'll come up with given the unlimited time and energy they seem to possess.

Speak & Spell (1)

heir2chaos (656103) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248631)

Though it wasn't a computer by today's standards, it was my first real interaction with technology. I actually learned to spell using it, though turns out that those displays had a side effect... no lower case. I was in kindergarten and my teachers were suprised that I could read so well, but lost when it came to lower case letters.

TI99-4A and BASIC (1)

PoderOmega (677170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248633)

20 GOTO 10
I'm not yelling either, slashdot lameness filter

Start 'em young (2, Interesting)

J-Doggqx (809697) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248636)

My dad (also a computer programmer) enrolled me in a programming class at the YMCA when I was 7 years old! He then got me a Tandy computer that plugged into the TV and used a cassette player for storage. That got me writing small programs.

Ever since then (and my impending video addiction with the Nintendo systems a few years later to present) always kept me hooked on computers. My small programs became larger hobbies and eventually my career.

So I guess my point is to start the kids young, they can handle it. Dust off a copy of BASIC and show the kids what you can make a computer do. It doesn't take much.

F5 (2, Interesting)

kngthdn (820601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248637)

LOGO is waaaaay too turtle-centric. If you really want to screw up your kid's brain, teach the 'em BASIC. I don't mean Visual Basic, either. QBASIC is the only way to go. If they learn that, they'll be stuck drinking Mountain Dew forever. ; )

I got started using DOS on my dad's 386 "lunchbox" computer when I was 5 or 6. My dad taught me all the important commands, like "cd", "mkdir", "del", "format" (that one was *really* fun), "edit", and "cp". He was very patient, and even brought home PC World from his office each month, which was much better than it is now.

DOS is (almost) gone now, but I suspect the GNU tools & BASH might be be best for kids just getting into computers. Forget Windows...they'll just use IM & surf the web. Java is far to high level, and C++ is too complicated. A few years messing around with gcc and Dr. Dobb's journal should do the trick.

Kids and computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248638)

I was introduced to computers when I was 28.

Kids (say, pre highschool) should not be introduced to computers, television or video games. They should read, read and read some more. But, then, after 32 years of computing, I've become a techno-curmudgeon.

Cold, Hard Reality (5, Funny)

Mignon (34109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248641)

What pieces of modern software do you think would be a good way to introduce today's kids to the world of computing?

Today's world of computing? Give the kid an EULA from Microsoft, a C&D from Disney, and a subpoena from the FBI. I'm not completely joking, either.

Advent, Trek and Rogue (1)

saddino (183491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248645)

for making me want to figure out how to program. But I probably owe special thanks to Ken Arnold for writing curses [] and giving me a way to move things around on my terminal in a least some facsimile of what I saw in games at the arcade.

And course, had a C compiler not been available in System III, IV, V and BSD, then I would've just sat there playing games instead of learning how to program. Which is why I think every OS should have a development environment included (kudos to Apple for thinking a commercial OS should too).

What about Hardware? (1)

deemaunik (699970) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248647)

There's been alot of mention of software and programming, but one of my main passions has been dissecting and rebuilding hardware. Testing all different ways they work with eachother, finding out what the benchmarks with RAM chip X with an nVidia Card, versus an ATI Card, etc. All these little tweaks that modders obsess over are one of my hobbies, and have been since I was a child. From the start, I was taking apart phones, finding out just how loud my mother's liquid cooled 500 watt towers went while she was napping, and taking apart my Tandy 1000. Or finding out that unprotecting a 5 1/4 game disc to save my games to it instead of my six pound 40MB HDD was a bad idea. All these experimentations have made my life alot more interesting over the couple decades I've been on this planet, and I plan to pick up all graveyard parts I can find to give to my daughter when she's old enough. Because taking things apart is fun. :)

RISC OS? (1)

oberondarksoul (723118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248648)

I remember when my father first brought home a computer from work - a state-of-the-art (for its time) Acorn Archimedes. I cut my teeth on that machine - it had a friendly UI, powerful command line, BASIC built-in, and would be perfect for a youngster today to play around on.

They're dirt cheap on eBay these days - an A3020 would set you back only about £30. It has the OS and a load of applications in ROM, so there's no risk of accidentally 'breaking' the computer, there's plenty of information available online to help you out, it's not susceptible to any viruses currently circulating, has the best version of Lemmings... ah, those were the days.

Computer ??? (4, Funny)

lexsco (594799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248649)

you were lucky. There were 150 of us using abacus in middle of 't road.

Lego Mindstorms (5, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248653)

What more can I say. Let's face it kids today are not going to write a video game to be proud of today like they could back in the Apple/64/Atari day.
However something like mindstorms is fun and accessible. Also a good way to get your feet wet programming.

Logo - Basic - C (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248659)

Summer after 4th grade (1981) I took a summer course: 4 days, using an Apple ][+, learning LOGO. We also had an Atari 800. I still have my first project printed out on 13" white/green lined formfeed dotmatrix: it drew a pacman ghost.

The following year in 5th grade I had a TI 49 and a Commodore PET at my disposal. All we had were tape/catridge games, so I didn't learn much except how to look at other people's source code, which didn't make any sense at my age. The teachers knew nothing at the time.

6th grade was the only year a teacher took the initiative, and using another TI49, she gave me a list of programming flash cards from a tutorial and I REALLY learned BASIC.

After that it was 100% on my own at home on the Apple //e using Beagle Brothers software and some basic programming books from the Waite Group. I progressed to an IBM and C in 1986 yadda yadda yadda...

Logo was fun enough to get me thinking about programming, but I think the 6th grade teacher who forced me to go through the flashcards at a slow pace and really do the exercises to learn basic taught me the most. When I finished the cards I was able to write a simple "galaga" like game which was really rewarding.

Earliest memories... (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248662)

My father was into sci-fi - BIG TIME. He loved almost any movie where space was represented. I was 6 years old when he started taking me to the planetarium.

A few months later (and against my mother's wishes I believe), he took me there when they had showed 2001: A Space Odyssey. My dad had to shut me up as I was bawling through the 'HAL disconnect' scenes. It was then my parents knew something wasn't right. :)

At 9, I got involved with electronics projects until the magical day the TRS-80 came to my local Radio Shack. I was shocked to see how 4K could fit INSIDE the keyboard! I ran and got another geek friend of mine from across town. When the clerks (who knew about as much as we did at the time) moved off and left us alone with the basic prompt. My buddy typed in something that gave us a 'syntax error'. We couldn't make it go away so we left in a hurry, terrified that we had 'broken' it. Nonetheless, that day changed me (a networking tech/hardware fanatic) and my friend (who became a computer engineer) forever.

games, always games. (1)

LackaDaisy (825281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248669)

my dad brought home his mac from his work, with a bunch of crazy cool games on it, can't really remember which ones, but i never got off unless kicked off. oh and HAPPY WINTER-EEN-MAS []

I did! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248670)

I actually was introduced to programming at the age of 8 through using LOGO at primary school.

Ah the memories... (1)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248671) the late 70's I was hooked on a friend's TRS-80 with a funky cassette unit for saving/loading programs and data. A bit later I was hooked on another machine, this time a friend's Apple ][+.

A lot of the summer was spent at a nearby Radio Shack with my own cassette tape as I hacked up goofy things in their BASIC that was on the TRS-80 "business model", I forget the exact model number. (Yeah, that's truly nerdy. Spending a lot of your summer in Winnipeg, Canada at a Radio Shack). The guys there got to know me and I talked a couple of people into actually buying those things. Not bad for a 14 year old. So after playing with the TRS-80s all day and my friend's Apple ][+ at night I decided on the Apple in ~1980 and haven't looked back.

Taught myself the 2 BASICs Apple offered (Integer and Applesoft) and 6502 machine language. Installed a z80 card for CP/M, etc etc.

Back then it was pretty much only the geeks that had computers. Now they're just commodity items and every neighbours' kids think they're leet because they use kazaa or whatever.

So to sum it up: get the kids some educational software and a couple of good manuals. Let them learn at their own speed and they'll decide if it's right for them. Forcing them into computers will just relegate them to the throngs of Help Desk people.

I learned on a PDP 11/70 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248672)

that my dad had in the garage, about 25 years ago. Then we got an apple ][, and it was off to the races.

I think todays kids should learn the same way. Hey, it worked well enough for me.

1972, a teletype, Gecos, and GAMES... (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248674)

Actually, I think it was really an 'Execuport' portable teletype that my dad brought home one weekend in 1972 so he could work (he was one of the authors of Gecos.) We dialed in at a blazing 300 baud.

Simply put, he showed me how to play games on the thing and I was hooked. (Star Trek, Adventure, etc...) I demanded he bring that 60 pound execuport home again and again. He got very strong arms and I taught myself Basic so I could write my own games. I then went on to get my first job (at age 16) programming inventory applications on this thing called an Altair.

Games... it's always the games that hooks them in.

Doom did it for me... (2, Interesting)

farsideofthemoon (766786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248675)

I became addicted to Doom and Wolfenstein back in the day and only in between playing doom did I mess around with the computer to do other things and gradually gained more and more knowledge. Also when I was much younger my dad wouldn't let me touch his computer so when I was finally around one that I could I did everything I could imagine(except that you sick bastards).

Use the Scotty mrthod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248676)

Introducing Children to Computers?

"Hello Computer!"

First computer use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248681)

I was in 3rd grade and instead of going out to recess, I stayed inside to use the teacher's computer to find out the whole 'internet' thing was all about. Got my 486 a few years later (it was old then) and gradually got newer computers then started building my own.

One word: Porn (1)

thepseudogenie (752975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248682)

My uncle got himself a 286 with a color display... He had this floppy disk with pictures of nekid ladies... That's all it took for me - the desire to get as much porn as humanly possible.

My story (1)

myusername (597009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248683)

It was in 1986, I was 6 years old and my dad had a 286 12mhz with 1MB of ram that he used for his business. On the weekends he would bring (lug) it home from work and let us mess around on it. He had backups of everything he needed and he had a friend who was good at computers, so he was not worried about us breaking it. I would want to play games on it like castle and sub, but he would make me go through "Learning DOS" which ran off of a 5 1/4" floppy and would save my progress. Once I completed a lesson he would allow me to play my games. I'm glad he did that because it was kind of neat being 6 years old and knowing how to edit autoexec.bat and config.sys. It must have made an impression on me because now I'm a systems administrator!

The local Hobby Store... (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248687)

On my block, the local 'mini-mall' consisted of a liquor store, a TV repair shop, a beauty salon, and a hobby shop (back in the infancy of D&D and Avalon Hill games ruled). I cant remember it's name, but Le Maison de Gier comes to mind (not that I speak french).

At this hobby store was a dime operated apple computer. One dime got you a few games. I managed (at age 9 or 10) to break in to the code (after watching one of the owners working on it), find where the "dime" counter was, change it, and play for free.

I did similar things to the 'lives' in many of the games. I still remember my first intro to computer RPGs... BENEATH APPLE MANOR. Loved that game...

Day at the office (1)

ZWarrior (194861) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248690)

My father was in the US Air Force and spent a lot of time working on forecasts and predictions using some rather large (for the time period) computers. I grew up looking at green-bar and punch cards, and then hearing the clickety clack of a teletype when I visited his office.

Later we were assigned overseas, and I spent even more time in the office since he was a single parent, and baby sitting wasn't afordable on his salary. All that time led to learning that computers are easy to use, and how to work with the systems to get what you want from the system. My junior high school had 2 Apple IIe computers that I learned to disassemble and reassemble, as well as code in BASIC.

Even later, the mother of a friend of mine had a job with the Corp of Engineers, and we spent a great deal of time playing a MUD on the DEC. This lead me to use my talents to start writing basic MUDs for myself.

I eventually saved up as much money as I could and purchased my first computer (Atari 800XL) and continue writing apps for my entertainment and utilities for my use. I took courses in PASCAL and BASIC in high school on a early Macintosh and quickly learned that my skills were not in graphics!

Since then I have always been involved with computers. I am now a consultant in Windows networking, as well as network design and support.

I am also active in a gaming clan and help others teach kids, toddlers and up, to be comfortable with computers.

The one thing that I have to say about kids these days is that they are so exposed to the world f computers that they are picking it up faster than we were at their age. Many are leaving high school with knowledge of systems that we had to learn about late in our careers. I had to tutor a kid in a Cisco Networking class in his Junior year of high school!

The march of technology is getting faster, and the next generation is catching on to that pace even faster than the one before.

Beggining with and Atari 130XE and then a 80286... (1)

romcabrera (699616) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248692)

My first "real" computer was an Atari 130XE (before that, I had the Atari 2600, and even before that, a Pong machine - I still have it getting dust at home!).
I began copying the program listings that appeared in the Antic Magazine (any of you remember it?). I was about 6 - 8 years old at the time. Slowly, I began modding those programs, and that thing leaded me to another thing, and quickly fell in love with all about it.
Next, I made the big jump, from that 130XE, to a 80286 with COLOR SCREEN!!. Nowadays I'm a happy Oracle/perl hacker... and also have worked as a sysadmin. I think that letting your kids "try and fail", is the best way for them to learn and became interested in technology.
A quick anecdote: Doing the crossover between the Atari D.O.S., and the real DOS in my 80286 clone (well, it was really, my older brother's computer), once I wanted to delete a directory. What did I do? Well, first I delete all the files in it "del *.* boy! that's easy". But then, I saw those funny files didn't disappear ("." and ".."). So I typed "del .." , and... yes!! I deleted all the files in root! I was just a 9 years old kid, but that didn't freaked me out, just encouraged me to investigate and learn more.

Personally, I will keep my kids away from them (2, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248694)

Simply because i want them being active and playing outdoors. Yes I have a degree in CS, but the last thing i want are my children constantly playing on the PC or sitting infront of a TV.

I understnad their importnace, but i also understand they can be abused and used in a way to foster lazyness.

Oregon Trail (2, Funny)

Origami Unicorn (845992) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248695)

Honestly, I have no better memory of my introduction to computing than Oregon Trail for the Apple II. I fondly think back on shamelessly killing hundreds of pounds of buffalo, only to bring fifteen back and have Sarah die of a cholera.

First Computer Experience (1)

sheepoo (814409) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248701)

I wrote my first Computer program on a Toshiba Laptop , using the GBASIC language(1995). It was a simple addition routine and I still rememeber it :) LET a = 1 LET b = 2 LET c = a + b PRINT c Immediately after that I got a copy of MathCAD (I think it was version 3 or 4) and rigth away started solving my maths problems on it. That started the fascination with Computers There is no looking back since then. As for the question as to how Kids can learn Programming Languages, I think the biggest issue is where to start? If you start teaching them something like Visual BASIC then you right away run into the problem of teaching them how the GUI works, how to use he widgets etc. etc. I would probably start by using something as simple as HTML.It may not be the best way but at least it gives the KID the right thing to play with.

First computer (1)

nooch (538215) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248705)

When I was 7 I saved up for a Tandy Color Computer 2. It hooked to the TV and had a very simple basic interpreter, no hard drive, 16k of memory and not much else. I taught myself basic, wrote some silly games, but not much else. Didn't even have a way to save my code.

Later, I would play games at my mom's work, like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (on an old ass XT, monochrome). That was real gaming. Or on the Apples at school. Ended up with a Mac Classic at the house later on.

I didn't become a mega computer pimp until I got to do builds for a independant PC retailer at the age of 16, building 486s. Went on as a computer science major in college, but botched that like so many intelligent but aimless geeks. Now I hate computers and study music. I could be a well paid computer dork, or a penniless guitar player. Oh well... rock and roll.


Snap Circuits are great fun (1)

Twid (67847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248707)

I recently sent a Snap Circuits [] set to a friend's child for his 11th birthday. He's been having great fun with it. I liked it so much i got the Pro set for myself for Xmas. My 3.5 year old daughter has been surprisingly interested in how it works. She loves to make the lights flash and the fan spin, and she's very curious about how it all works.

Snap Circuits are the equivalent of those old 100-in-1 electronics sets with the springs and wire, but with a much nicer design.

Not exactly software, but still a great way to introduce kids to computing concepts. Projects include basic gates, LED's, timer circuits, and other fun stuff.

Let's see.... (1)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248708)

When I was first journeying into the world of computers, I believe I started off playing video games on my 286 with 1meg of ram... Wow that was a long time ago. I played zeliard incessently, and I literally cried when my harddrive crashed and I lost all my save games...

The games were still amazing though, since I had never owned a NES or Amiga or those other gaming systems. Anyone else remember rudimentary games coded in gwbasic?

Slightly later (I think), anyone else remember Hugo's House of Horrors? Man, the first one scared me SO MUCH when I was playing it.

Commander keen was fun as well. Guh, I'm only 21 and I feel like an old man...Rambling on randomly about figments of memory of my long-ago youth...

To get my parents to stop bugging me about gaming, I also would play SuperSolvers Spellbound! and Math blaster (man I had so much fun blasting trash and building rockets by solving math problems). See look mom, I'm learning!!!

Oh yeah, and don't ever forget gorillas (written in qbasic). That game was classic! I played that endlessly...heh

So yeah, I started off with games. I wouldn't recommend that with the current generation though... They have too many games. Sit 'em down at a linux box and let 'em hack at it, that's what I'd do if I had a kid who was interesting in computers.

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