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Do Kids Still Program?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the loss-of-impetus dept.


From his journal, hogghogg asks: "I keep finding myself in conversations with tertiary educators in the hard sciences (Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, etc.) who note that even the geeks—those who voluntarily choose to major in hard sciences—enter university never having programmed a computer. When I was in grade six, the Commodore PET came out, and I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to program it. Now, evidently, most high school computer classes are about Word (tm) and Excel (tm). Is this a bad thing? Should we care?" Do you think the desire to program computers has declined in the younger generations? If so, what reasons might you cite as the cause?

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No there's MySpace (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225666)

Kids are too busy taking pornographic pictures of themselves and having sex with teachers.

Re:No there's MySpace (2, Funny)

BorgHunter (685876) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225693)

Kids are too busy taking pornographic pictures of themselves and having sex with teachers.

Only the lucky ones.

yes, they do! (5, Interesting)

yup2000 (182755) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225667)

But they're not programming computers...

they're programming calculators like the TI-83 Plus and TI-89 ... just look at sites like

not only that, but they're learning C, ASM, and BASIC... wow!

Re:yes, they do! (5, Interesting)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225685)

I doubt it. 99% of the kids with those calculators only care about how to get "games" to run on them. Maybe the 1% already know how to program on computers anyway. And you're almost guaranteed that the teacher won't be giving a lesson on even how to make basic functions to save time in calculations.

And it's a shame because pretty much any science degree you are going to be doing some programming for data analysis (MATLAB, python, etc....).

Thinking back I remember programming the Apple II's in our computer lab during lunch in 6th grade instead of playing outside. The neat thing about those computers is you had a very simple easy to use programming environment built into the computer. I'm not sure what computers are like now in schools, but my guess is they are heavily locked down and only include office applications and a web browser. That's just too bad.

Re:yes, they do! (4, Insightful)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225875)

Depends on the school - my kids went to one like that, but I pulled them out. The district mandated this miserable hell of a computer that never even worked. The IT was the worst ever - teachers couldn't even unlock students, 1st graders had to remember these crazy user IDs (like U238A_BBA76 - something to do with class number and student ID)

The school they are in now is much different. It's a mix of Macs, Windows, and Linux with no lockdown at all. No real net connection, but the research machines in the library have them. Ironically, even though the Windows machines are fully loaded with MS Software and games all the kids are clamoring to use the aging Mac G3s and the one old G4. I find it amusing, my self.


Re:yes, they do! (5, Insightful)

Nyall (646782) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225882)

Well 0% of the people with playstations know how to program them. 1% may not seem like a lot, (and its a high estimate) but 1% of millions of calculators is still a lot of programmers. I doubt that they know how to program on the PCs. Computers no longer ship with an easy to use basic that gives instant results.

Yes there won't be any formal instruction. Is that a problem? Would any self respecting slashdotter posting at midnight on a friday admit that they needed to be taught programming by a teacher? How much formal teaching did you need to learn the Apple II's built in language?

Game modders (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225690)

Actually, they're modding games, like Neverwinter Nights. The scripting language is very C/Java like, albeit simpler. There's a tremendous number of creative skills you can learn from the whole thing.

Re:yes, they do! (1)

Mrcowcow (931085) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225716)

I am 14, and I program. Yes, I do use TI-Basic, but I also am learning Perl, and know html and a bit of php. There is a Java programming class offered at the high school I am attending. So yes, kids do still program.

Re:yes, they do! (0, Troll)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225816)

Stop it now you'll go blind!

Listen ditch Basic, Perl & PHP they rot your brain. HTML isn't programming. Go pick up a book on lisp, smalltalk or if you must C. Learn principles not implementations. Java is a very poor implementation of smalltalk.

Ditch windows and get some form of *nix on your box. Better yet load up hercules and play with OS/360 or MVS.

Oh and by the way. You're parents are probably right, your friends aren't really, your clothing isn't an original statement, your music is tuneless crap and you are the problem not everybody else.


Re:yes, they do! (1)

fazzy4 (964655) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225874)

I'm 15, and I'm an active programmer in PHP. My school offers classes mainly in Java (which I'm attending as well) and the initial class was on True Basic and Logo. I've been interested in programming for a few years, so in accordance with the first post, sure kids still program.

Re:yes, they do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225717)

I can say, as a high school student, that very few students program, even on the calculators. I do, but only in BASIC, and I am probably the best at it at my school (of 1600 students, in suburb of Cleveland). Most just download something like MirageOS and games, and only a few of those students even download those from their computer, mostly just from their friends' calculators. I think it is mostly college students programming in ASM or for MirageOS, preOS, etc. By the way, on computers I program in mostly C/C++ and Java, though in no way consider myself an expert, yet still perhaps the best in my school.

Re:yes, they do! (1)

Nyall (646782) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225743)

You beat me to this reply.

These slashdot "oh no, the kids no longer have the opportunity to program simple machines like xyz that I did when I was a kid" articles are starting to get monotonous.

-Samuel S

Re:yes, they do! (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225832)

You doggamn whippersnappers with yer Javer and yer Perlscriptz! That aint programmin' Why back in my day, we keyed in Reverse Octal and we liked it!

No seriously, it seems to me like many young programmers who come from the high-level languages with no low-level experience have very little idea of how computers actually work at the low level. They understand what C++ does, ish, but not really how it works. So they run into trouble when they face situations without functionally infinite amounts of RAM and processing speed, and tend to code really inefficiently.

Programming within tight limitations is a good exercise for all programmers, and while it's tough to recommend anyone go try to learn programming on a TI-99 or an Apple II at this point, getting some experience on small systems like PIC processors or even Game Boy Color (not GBA) can really help, as well as show off on your resume, to old farts, that you are the real deal.

Re:yes, they do! (1)

mycall (802802) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225801)

kids 6 years old do not touch calculators.. but in the early 80s, kids 6 years old did play with BASIC for the TI-99/4a (ah, memmmories)

Define Program (3, Insightful)

oskard (715652) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225673)

Most kids are taught in high school that HTML is a PROGRAMMING language. It is very common for younger nerds to want to make web pages. Some of them even venture into Javascriptlets. Few blossom into real programmers, but it could be noted that HTML, because of how commonplace it is, is the gateway language to keyboard hacking.

Re:Define Program (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225736)

I agree. A lot of kids are taking to web creation ranging from site's that let them create content to actual HTML, CS, Javascript, Java, PHP, etc.

I think a lot of these coding kids get involved in opensource projects too and it'll increase as web programming gets more powerful. Firefox, Thunderbird, etc and even AJAX web-based apps.

I think what's declined is the number of kids writing C, assembly, Basic, etc. Projects that require those kind of tools have gotten to big and complex to jump into so easily and the tools required to make these projects managable have gotten very expensive. It's to much to do just for fun. The thing is that the kids have it right. These new technologies are going to mostly kill off the use of older tech like C. Programs that don't need to be written in C/Asm won't be written in C/Asm.

Degrade of Education (1, Interesting)

b0lt (729408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225679)

Having personally experienced the education system of today (sophomore in high school), I'm fairly certain it's because the school system has been seriously degraded from what it was. Gifted students are being dragged down to the level of everyone else, and normal classes are slowed down to accomodate for slower learners due to NCLB. Many schools have eliminated gifted programs completely, in the view that most of the people going through the education system won't amount to anything even if they are educated. This is a heavily biased view, as a smart student surrounded by idiots, but it is more or less true.

Re:Degrade of Education (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225701)

I would think that gifted programs are disappearing because evidence shows that gifted children grow up to be normal adults, no matter how much support you give them. They may start thinking at a certain level earlier in life than other children, but eventually it all evens out.

For what it's worth, I was in a gifted program in middle school but the high school I attended didn't have one. I don't regret the lack, because being part of the normal student body did teach me valuable social skills that the gifted program didn't.

Re:Degrade of Education (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225864)

So what? I was in a "gifted" program in school, and I grew up to be normal like everyone else, but I still had way more fun doing neat stuff, instead of sitting in class being bored out of my mind with crap I already knew frontwards and backwards.

It's not all about some GOAL, and I don't think anyone was breeding me to be some kind of ubermensch. It's about letting kids perform to their abilities at the time. If a kid already knows math, why make him sit there? Why not let him goof around in a different room and solve difficult problems with a bunch of other kids who know math.

Re:Degrade of Education (1, Flamebait)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225709)

The No Child Left Behind Act should really be called the Let's Chain Everyone To The Lowest Performing Student Act. Anybody else want to have a shot at it?

Re:Degrade of Education (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225745)

1) What's NCLB?
2) I don't think that that's changed so much. I never got into the school gifted program, but got into the John's Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and am now pursuing my PhD. I guess that the county gifted program criteria wasn't so hot.

As far as not amounting to anything. When I was a kid, they were pushing vocational computer skills like it was crack. They seriously thought that this crap would make you successful.

As for amounting to anything. For the most part, you really don't have to be smart to amount to anything in life. Remember that major league baseball players make tons more money than professors do, and nobody even watches baseball. They also get more girls.

On the other hand, perhaps you have a genuine interest in science, and really will do something that changes the world. I don't want to discourage a budding scientist. There are other, more important merits to such pursuits.

Still, you can be not terribly bright and have the money, the girls, and the mansion. I guess it depends on how you define "making something of yourself."

I Blame George W. Bush (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225753)

I Blame George W. Bush

Ah, I await my +5 Insightful mods. ... Or is that +5 Inciteful? Hard to tell anymore.

Advice to smart people (2, Insightful) (463190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225830)

Drop out.

You don't [] need [] a [] degree [] to do incredible [] things.

Excessive schooling and socialization could be holding you back, at worst permanently infecting [] you with an inability to create and lead. A mind is a terrible thing to lose!

Re:Degrade of Education (1)

thesoffish (852987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225877)

I wholeheartedly agree. I'm also a sophomore, and my state is terribly behind the rest of the nation in education, so I can't speak for everyone; but in my district at least the Special Ed. program gets more funding than the Gifted program, and the closest thing to a Computer Science class at my school is Comp. Lit, where they teach us how to minimize windows and type office memos.

Re:Degrade of Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225879)

If there is something you want to learn that they aren't teaching you in school, buy a book and read it -- like people have for centuries before you. You aren't entitled to any "special" education above and beyond the norm. In my eyes, there are people who want to learn stuff, and people who don't. An attitude like yours seems irrelevent in those terms.

Primitive interfaces (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225681)

Learning programming was so frequent back in the day because the primitive nature of early PCs required people to be able to do so low-level work to use them well. Heck, the Altair didn't even have a monitor, you had to flip switches to process commands. Freiburger & Swaine's Fire in the Valley [] shows you some of these early computers and their users. Everyone was programming back then because these simple machines attract a crowd of people willing to think analytically.

Apr.28:Prostitute Schedule @ MBOT in San Francisco (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225809)

Like Las Vegas, San Francisco offers prostitution as a tourist attraction. If you want to buy some prostitution services (i.e., hand job, blow job, or full sexual intercourse), you need to merely walk through the doors of the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater (MBOT), located at 895 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, California.

Check out the prostitute schedule for April 28, 2006 at the MBOT [] .

The prostitute schedule is updated daily.

Unlike Las Vegas, San Francisco does not regulate prostitution. So, the MBOT heartily welcomes everyone -- including HIV-positive customers.

is this a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225682)

more kids are programming than ever these days

most likely due to the fact that computers are much more common for a family to have than they used to be, as well as the fact that information on programming is much more readily available due to the internet.

seriously why was this even posted

Clickteam? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225683)

Do Clickteam's The Games Factory [] and Multimedia Fusion [] count as programming?

This just in... (1)

distilledprodigy (946341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225684)

Kids don't seem to be learning how to deliver mail in school anymore. For some reason, the school system has started only teaching students how to put the address and stamp on an envelope instead of teaching the students how to run a route. We are still trying to figure out why the educational system has decided to only teach what most people will use, instead of what one profession uses.

A better analogy is auto shop (1)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225817)

Kids don't seem to be learning how to deliver mail in school anymore.

People have used couriers of one form or another for ages, and never really "delivered mail"-- mail is a substitute for showing up in person to communicate something.

A better analogy is auto shop - a lot of schools used to have auto shops where kids could learn to work on cars, either repairing their own or those of people in the local community. I've been hearing of a lot of those programs going away due budget cuts, even though it's a very useful class and not just for kids who want to be auto mechanics. Kids going into any sort of hands on thing (e.g. machinist) benefit from it, and it can also demystify mechanical things for the "white collar" crowd.

And yeah, I think it's bad when they cut auto shop programs.

Answers (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225689)

Is this a bad thing? Yes, it sucks.
Should we care? Eh, I don't really know if I care or not, as long as I'm not stuck with the "geeks" who don't understand anything about computers.
Do you think the desire to program computers has declined in the younger generations? Yes
If so, what reasons might you cite as the cause? I don't know. When I was a kid. Video games were all the rage, but not that hot. I had a computer that, essentially, all you could do with it was program it, when I was about 5-6 (well, my parents, but they let me play with it as soon as I showed I wouldn't break it). Perhaps I was just lucky in that I didn't have cool 3D video games. Perhaps kids today should be inspired by them, but the technical hurdles to do anything interesting are too high. Perhaps culture has changed in that being uneducated and stupid is now cool.

When I was a kid, I thought than engineering and science were cool. Really, these folks were my heroes. I went to lectures at the local physics lab (aimed at high school and college kids) as soon as I could (I was the only one there with a chaperone, haha). Do modern kids have astronauts as their heroes, or pimps and drug dealers? Do modern kids even think that society gives a shit about them, past whatever age they're able to tell the difference between a heroine needle and a lollipop?

Different area of sick... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225775)

That's a different area of sick than where I come from, but they're still sick. Prostitutes and drug dealers aren't a problem for people here, but their lack doesn't mean that society cares about you. This society is sick, and anyone who tells you to live up to society's standards is telling you to live up to sick standards. P.S. Rush Limbaugh, the heartthrob of those who tell us that the prostitutes and drug dealers are the main thing that's wrong with America has been arrested for prescription drug fraud. [] yields arrested_and_liberal_blamed.php []

Re:Different area of sick... (0)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225803)

I was thinking more along the lines of the heroism that was attached to scientists, even by the media. When I was a kid, you couldn't walk without tripping over a VHS of a movie that lionized astronauts, and portrayed science as cool (weird science... space camp (everybody envied the kids going to space camp, there was even a made for tv movie about space camp)... watching shuttle launches on tv).

What do they have now? Rap? The older rappers weren't the breed that you have now, even the gangsta rappers. Modern gangsta rap lionizes selling drugs, killing, pimping... so on. Kids emulate this stuff (they don't do it, they just pretend to be part of it).

I didn't pretend to become a thug... I really went to school, and I'm really getting "Dr." thrown in front of my name. I was really shocked when I moved to the YUPPIE high school to see kids pretending to be in gangs, when I moved from an area that really had gangs and kids who DIDN'T want to be in them.

Re:Answers (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225858)

"perhaps culture has changed in that being uneducated and stupid is now cool."

ummmm....that's a change?

Entry Barrier (2)

Vampyre_Dark (630787) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225691)

The entry barrier is higher these days. When I was younger just getting into programming, I found a little program called QBasic.exe and I started messing around with it, and I moved on to C++ and all that after a few years.

What do you need to do to get started today? printf("Hello world"); has turned into 100 lines of WinMain()s and WindowProc()s. Maybe it's different in C#, I don't know, but it hasn't been around long enough to make a difference in this case anyways.

Add onto this the complexities of getting of making your software run properly on a limited user accounts, and the fact that the simplest windows program requires knowledge of most of the C language, and I can picture it being very hard to learn.

Re:Entry Barrier (1)

Lendrick (314723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225761)

You can do about the same stuff with Javascript that you can do with QBasic.

Furthermore, if you really want to get into things, Perl, Python, and many other versatile and powerful dynamic languages are readily available on the web for Windows. You can use them easily at a console (which is the same thing you were doing with QBasic) or you can jump right into GUI programming. Furthermore, given how readily available libraries like SDL and OpenGL are (even for interpreted languages), you can jump right into game programming, which is something that motivates a lot of teenage programmers.

Hence: The barriers to entry are about the same, and it's easier to do much cooler stuff now.

Re:Entry Barrier (1)

Vampyre_Dark (630787) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225867)

I know OpenGL. I use it every day. I'm a C++/OpenGL/Win32 guy. It's not the same at all. You can't even use OpenGL unless you know how to init a win32 window, and then you have to learn how to link libraries (look in any newbie forum, asking why they get opengl linker errors drives a ton of them off. attempts to explain the linking process often fail for many attempts).

Just to get a suface that you can create 1 dot on, you need about 400 lines of code for the window and the frame buffer to be set up so you can even make a call. Then from there you need to understand how to make a program loop. You need to set a glColor3f(), have a glBegin(GL_POINTS)/End() pair and project a vertex into the frustum eg: glVertex3f(0.0f,0.0f,-25.0f). Then you need to flip your buffers.

Do you know how I put a dot on the screen when I was learning a few days after discovering qbasic?

SET MODE 13 --(320x200x256)
PSET 159,99

That's it. That's an entire program. I hit F5 and it popped up on the screen. There's no linking or compiler paths and all that junk. I also didn't have to read some several 500 page books to have a vague idea of what was going on.

I don't think the entry barrier is about the same. :)

Re:Entry Barrier (1)

lhbtubajon (469284) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225798)

Mod parent UP.

I can't tell you how many times I've been interested in learning to use a programming environment, only to be thwarted by the proprietary bells, whistles, and hoop-jumping necessary to just play around with a few lines of code. Obviously, there are still compilers out there that offer a straight path to learning, but the real deal these days is Visual Studio. Just TRY to launch VS and get going without a manual, a walkthrough, and some serious persistence.

I'm not saying it isn't/can't be done, but I am saying that it's a nasty barrier for those who are interested enough to play around, but not enough to work at it for 10 hours with no payoff.

Its still taught in some places (1)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225694)

Although im 6 years out of high school, in early high school we were taught LOGO Writer in IT along with Word/Excel etc etc.

In my final years I took an elective, IT Systems which was learning VisualBasic and programming theory, I loved it, although there was only 12 people in the class.

Everyone uses a computer, but programming can be a bit of a distraction when you have 30 of your friends asking what your doing on Friday night on what ever IM program you have open.

Re:Its still taught in some places (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225731)

Everyone uses a computer, but programming can be a bit of a distraction when you have 30 of your friends asking what your doing on Friday night on what ever IM program you have open.

Don't you mean that for those of us with friends (especially talkative girls. Ok I'm kidding), "what ever IM program" is extremely distracting when you're trying to program? That would be why my programming projects take 5 hours on a Sunday night...

Yep, they are. (5, Interesting)

FireballX301 (766274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225696)

I cut my teeth on C++ when I was nine. Graduating from HS this year with a few years of C++, some cursory Java, some cursory web 'languages' below my belt.

The main issue here is that programming isn't necessary anymore for kids - whatever any kid wants to do they can rush out and buy a bit of software for, or find a utility online. All the functionality they'd want is at their fingertips already, so programming is left to the tinkerers.

And I rarely program anything for fun anymore because I'm overscheduled. Too many classes, too many bloody standardized tests, and programming itself isn't rewarded at the HS level because of a refocus on reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic. Out of the set of dedicated students, the more well off kids burn time at prep schools and cram classes, the less well off burn time studying. Few chances to program 'for fun' - I've got a really old RPG engine that I add bits and pieces to every now and then, but there's no way I can finish it anytime soon.

be glad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225698)

Let them learn it on their own time. Grammar and high school can't even properly teach foreign languages let alone programming languages. The programming teachers in my school had never programmed before in their life. You really think a decent coder is going to take 25 G's a year to teach kids that don't even care about programming?

Better off on their own time where they have a chance to somehow form a good style. Teaching it in HS is just a breeding ground for bad habits.

pick up programming as needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225699)

Some colleges/universities require programming for some science majors. If they need it, they'll pick it up. Anyone who can handle the physical sciences can pick up programming without much difficulty from a book, online tutorials, or their advisors' source code. It's not rocket science *grin*.

Not so much the desire but the need to program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225702)

We have so much more ease of use than the good old days. If you wanted your computer to do most anything, you had to do it yourself. Now the os and apps are so rich and deep (maybe too much so) that you need to do much less. I bet those word and excel classes cover macros and vba, so in that sense they still program some.

Perspectives Change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225706)

For me thats pretty odd. I would have expected the numbers to improve, being that in the early 90s when I was in grade school, computers were not exactly something other school kids looked up to you about.

I would have though the perception of computer knowledge and not being socially acceptable would have changed a bit since then.

Who could teach it? (4, Insightful)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225710)

Let's see, what will a qualified programmer do?

Work in an environment where pay and job security is according to seniority, not competance. Work with lazy and dumb students who disrupt class, yet can not be kicked out or even (except in Texas) spanked. Get stuck doing odd jobs like minding the bus loading/unloading area and trying to stop food fights.

Work in a cubicle for $40000 to $150000 while surrounded by fairly intelligent nerds and all the Mountain Dew you can drink.

Gee, I dunno...

Re:Who could teach it? (1)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225765)

Boom. Well put. One of the largest problems with American education, second, IMO, only to class sizes.

Re:Who could teach it? (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225870)

Work in an environment where pay and job security is according to seniority, not competance

Sounds like half the private sector jobs I had ;)

Yes, but not many (0)

taylortbb (759869) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225719)

There are still those of us that program, I'm 16 and know Java (6 years), PHP (3 years), VB (5 years), Turing and, although not programming, HTML/XHTML/CSS (10 years for HTML). But fewer and fewer people my age program, I haven't met anyone my age with my kind of experience. In my high school programming class we have an incompetent teacher that doesn't get OOP and most people in the class take it because it's easy not because they care. There are some of us that program, but fewer and fewer.

I can't program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225725)

I've been using a computer since the second grade for gaming, graphics, web surfing, etc. I read Slashdot, Digg, and other tech sites on a daily basis. Yet I can't program for shit; I have no idea what C++ is or any of the other program languages I read about. My friends are the same way: computer literate, but not in the "hard" aspects of it.

Ya, I'm good in science and stuff, but ask me to program anything and I'll break down and cry. You should've seen me trying to learn Ruby so I could code in RPG Maker...

I'm afraid to take a programming class because I might be terrible at it. The last thing I want is to screw up my GPA just to learn some programming skills. For this reason, schools really should teach *some* basic program skills (at least HTML) at the high school level.

Yes and no (2, Interesting)

Hi-Tech Redneck (24821) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225727)

Yes, kids still enjoy programming, but not all kids. It isn't all that long since I gradutated high school, and I can say that in my experience it's an issue of earlier specialization among geeks. Those who are interested in a topic are becoming more focused on that topic at earlier levels of education as opposed to not until college. What this leads to is the branching that you used to see later in life.

To phrase it another way, if you are interested in some other hard science and not a do-it-all genius type, why devote the kind of time it takes to be a good programmer if you have little or no plans of needing it later in life? Even at that early stage, you ask your programmer geek buddy to code what you need. You just need to learn to be good at giving specs, not writing code.

Before the flames and such start, I'm not saying this is a correct view, but it seems to be a prevailing one. To some extent, I find myself in this view as well. I'm a sysadmin, but I know a little programming. However, if I need anything beyond a basic script, I'm going to go to a real programmer to get the job done. Why? Because I've become specialized and I don't have the time and/or brilliance (and when it comes to programming, frankly the inclination) to master other fields.

Different skills needed nowdays (1)

mh101 (620659) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225729)

Now, evidently, most high school computer classes are about Word (tm) and Excel (tm). Is this a bad thing?

Well, back in the early days there was no Word or Excel for people to take classes on...

Back then, there weren't the number of applications we have in everyday use today, so there wasn't a need for classes and books on how to use them. Instead, due to the lack of applications, we needed to learn to program so we'd have something to run.

Plus computers were such a new thing, and it was something not a lot of others were doing at the time.

I imagine all the folks who take part in robot battles and other robotics hobby stuff will have a similar lament 20 years from now when robotics becomes so mainstream that there's more courses and books on using your RoboButler 3000 than how to build a robot.

Re:Different skills needed nowdays (1)

looseBits (556537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225769)

When I was 8 and my dad brought home that Apple II, I played a few games on it but I also quickly learned Apple Basic. After some time, I could write code that was at least in the same ballpark as the comercially available software.

Today you teach a kid to program, they just don't get the same thrill from the computer printing "Hello, World!!" because look at what they are judging their programs against: Quake.

I am thinking between the ages of 6 to 10, I'm not going to let my kid know there is anything out there any better than that old C64 I've got laying around.

Actually, I'm in high school... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225734)

And most of this is completley correct. I am a pretty big anamoly in my average sized high school, in that I actually know how to program. (C, I bought the K and R book in eighth grade) The only programming that is done outside the eight person comp-sci class is when someone decides to put a HTML break in their myspace profile. It makes things kinda lonely for me.

As a HS math teacher (1)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225737)

I've been pressing hard for the opportunity to teach a CS class. I think that there are plenty of students who want to learn how to program. Almost every single student who has played a game thinks it would be cool to make their own.

But it isn't a major part of our curriculum, so that if they finally see it in HS they are very put off by how difficult it is. When they see how technical and exact one has to be simply to make a computer say "Hello world!" (big whoop) they get exhausted. They either become convinced that they're too stupid to do it or the computer is too stupid.

I think you've hit on one of the causes of this phenomenon: programming is not focused on in school. There is very, very little opportunity to do it. If we raised these kids programming computers, they would not be put off so easily. Younger kids can conquer "Hello world!" and would probably be excited about it. They would grow up understanding how crazy and weird programming can seem. Then, when they are working in HS, they could sit down with realistic goals and attain them.

Simple things not cool any more (5, Insightful)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225740)

Back in the eighties it seemed cool to be able to create a crudely animated ASCII stick man, and programs like that could be made by an enthusiastic amateur. These days such an achievement would be seen as totally lame (in comparison to what kids routinely see on PS2 and X-box), and achieving PS2-like results is beyond amateurs.

There's little an amateur can achieve that is of any use to them - all their basic needs are satisfied by software preloaded on the computer, and if they do any programming it is likely to be on a calculator rather than a computer.

That said, people with a programmung bent (and probably flair) will continue to be attracted to programming - Its just that 'the others' won't.

Precisely (2, Insightful)

Fruny (194844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225878)

I think you've nailed it right on the head. On the forums, I see kids coming in almost every day who aspire to write an MMORPG right now. Many give up when you try to guide them through their first step because they can't immediately manage results on par with the games they usually play.

Logical Conclusion (1)

wildsurf (535389) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225741)

This topic reminds me of a short story by Isaac Asimov: The Feeling of Power [] . I hope things don't get to that point.

Well, coming from... (4, Informative)

cshank4 (917540) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225746)

...a current highschool student. I must say, programming is a dying art among my peers because it's seen as 'uncool, unhip and boring.' There's no drive for it any more. I'm in my Junior (Grade 11.) year and I'm just picking up some C++ and C. Granted, I learned how to program for LinguaMOO's and I picked up some HTML back in 5th and 6th grade, so it's a little easier for me. But the point is, it's been... convoluted? I guess that'd be the word I'm looking for. It's been washed out by things like sports, staying fit and doing drugs. Hooray.

It's Too Hard!!! (4, Informative)

AaronBrethorst (860210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225747)

Seriously, the complexity associated with modern development tools is way too steep a curve for your average 14 year old to wrap their heads around. We're trying to address this to a certain extent with the Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions [] , but it's a tough problem. It's no longer as simple as getting a bare-bones BASIC interpreter built into your computer's ROM. I think there have been some cool advances in this space, though, in the recent past. Take the Kids' Programming Language [] , for example. It's is expressly aimed at the younger crowd. I've seen a demo of it (the guys from Morrison Schwartz who created it came by to give a talk on it last year), and I must say that I am suitably impressed their work. Check it out if you have a younger child who you want to introduce to development.

Re:It's Too Hard!!! (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225861)

the problem is that there IS no BASIC interpreter shipped with windows or Mac OSX

Learning curve of linear vs OO? (4, Interesting)

jgaynor (205453) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225748)

Do you think the desire to program computers has declined in the younger generations? If so, what reasons might you cite as the cause?

When I was in elementary school we had this GREAT program called 'LAMP' (logic, art, mathematics, programming) where they took the smart kids out of class every once and a while and had us do extracurriculars in the above-mentioned subjects. The 'programming' aspect consisted of nothing but logo and some linear BASIC on TRS80s, but it at least got me interested in futzing with my Commodore 64 to the point where I could make rudimentary text programs and dream of mastering the 'poke' command.

Without an easy-to-learn language like BASIC where do you begin to teach the fundamentals of programming? The syntax, class structure, includes, etc of modern object-oriented programming languages are a huge barrier to picking up the basics. Would you start a third or fourth grader out on Java? C++? I certainly wouldn't be able to handle that - I had a difficult enough time making my LOGO turtle move around. Perhaps the best solution would be some sort of drag-and-drop IDE, like visual basic for 6 year olds, where children could understand the concepts of programming without being overwhelmed by the syntax all at once. Anyone know of one? I seem to remember something similar using java beans demoed by Sun while I was in college . . .

10 print "Hello, world!"; goto 10 (1)

Guncrazy (633221) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225752)

I remember why I gave up computer programming. My TRS-80 Model III became obsolete, and being in 8th grade, I didn't have $4,000 for an IBM-PC.

While I got to the point where I was programming my own games in BASIC, none of them were ever up to the quality standards of commercial software (although they were fun, if I do say so myself.)

If there really is a decline in kids' interest in computer programming, I'd guess that it was because there are so many programs out there that already do most anything kids would want, and they're so easily accessible. Games, CD-rippers, instant messaging, P2P networks, and even just browsing the web. Computers today provide a smorgasbord of options for kids who are, more often than not, conditioned to expect instant gratification. Learning a programming language takes time and effort, and why would anyone want to do that if their efforts would be far lamer than what could be had on a whim?

Back in my day (geez...and I'm only 35), if we wanted a computer to do neat stuff, we had to tell it what to do. Or try to find some other nerd to swap floppies with.

Yeah... (2, Informative)

seabre (889946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225754)

I recently graduated high school and am currently pursuing a math degree...My high school didn't really have any decent computer classes, and offered zero programming classes. The computer classes that we did have you could basically not do anything and still get an A.

But I mean, you don't need a school to learn programming. I started in elementary school with the second edition of Kernighan & Ritchie's C programming language book and I've been hooked on coding ever since.

A Problem? (1)

Chrismith (911614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225757)

I never really realized that this was much of a problem. Hell, I went to a high school of 200 students in the middle of nowhere -- cornfields on three sides, and such -- and I took courses in HTML/web design and BASIC/Visual Basic there. The year after I graduated, they introduced a C++ class, and I think now they've also added Java and some sort of Flash course. They seem to be doing pretty cool stuff there, and like I said, this is in Bumblefuck, Midwest. I'm surprised that other schools are so far behind in terms of programming.

Why bother? (1)

DesireCampbell (923687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225767)

Kids today don't program because it's already done for them.

Think about it, why did all of you start programming? Because you wanted your PC or your Altair or your Commodore to do something that it couldn't do "out of the box".

Now, these days, what don't kids have?

Killing the love (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225770)

In my last year of highschool I'm doing a class which will basically net me a free certification, while leaving me time for important things like the hardest level of maths possible and physics. I'm counting that said computer class will not be noted on my UAI (University Admission Index, the little number that tells me whether it was worth going to school or not)... But I never want to do a job near a computer again because of the class. Constant word, powerpoint and excel trite (Well, not excel once you get to do something fun with lots of formulas) really saps the will to want to go into a computer field. I once started playing around with BASIC a few years ago, and spent a few hours creating the worlds shittiest text adventure... But the thing is most computer classes are based around churning out secretary monkeys as quickly as possible, not anything challenging or interesting (Although we had a brief stint with Maya)

It's all about sports now... (1)

yamamushi (903955) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225771)

At my highschool, its all about sports now. Not the education. The computer science class at my school stopped teaching C++ or even Java in favor of just teaching Oracle. I don't really consider database programming as an entire years study, is much computer science. When I think computer science, I think assembly programming and getting to know your architecture. I was kicked out of my computer science class 2 years ago, for booting linux on one of the computers. It set the IT department frantic "how did he get past our windows security?", blah blah blah "you can't use a computer anymore". In the long run they got me into a computer security program at a local college so that I wouldn't take courses at the highschool. It's turned out better this way I suppose. In my case, there aren't any programmers at my highschool, except for all the people who think HTML is programming. When people see me carrying around "The C programming Language" in one hand and "Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment" in the other, the most intelligent comment I ever get is "hey isn't that like Linux?". There isn't any incentive for us students anymore, all of us are ranked by our grades rather than our ingenuity. An elegant written piece of code might interest someone, but a great football pass and you're suddenly the school hero. I program because I enjoy programming, but for most students its hard to find joy in programming, and for those who do find joy we are a dying race.

My experience (1)

tejarz (587736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225774)

I'm about to graduate from HS, so I'll give my experience. Most kids where I go don't know about programming other than its gotta be hard. Some people do program their TI-83, including me. For us its interesting; everyone else just wants the program. I am interested in programming on computers; however, there's nothing that I can really think of to go after. I've downloaded the VB, VC++, and VC# express editions from Microsoft, and have all the tools installed on my Ubuntu partition. Like I said before, I just don't have an idea of what to go after.

Re:My experience (1)

mogasm (818130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225834)

Try writing WMI scripts in JScript. It's a great intro to C#ish .netish No compiler, neat information about your computer, and you have to use the web for reference which is common

More relevant topics (1)

Marko DeBeeste (761376) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225780)

Hindi and a good curry recipe.

One of the big issues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225781)

One of the big issues is everyone is convinced "I will just take comp sci in my senior year", "I will just learn in college". However for learning programming nothing is better than independently learning, which no one is willing to do.

It's too easy now (1)

Whammy666 (589169) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225782)

Computers are all too easy now. My first programming language was assembly on an 8080 processor. It wasn't because I had any burning desire to learn assembly. Rather it was because assembly was all that was available. There were no programming suites available in the late 70's for the hobbyist. (In fact, I did hand compiles of my assembly code.) Nor was there an operating system, or a boxed computer for that matter. You did everything from scratch; the hardware, the OS, and any software you wanted.

Now I see kids who brag about 'building' their computer. Hah. I'm sorry but building a computer doesn't mean going to the store and stuffing a prefab case with a ready-to-run motherboard and video card. Geez, I hand built everything with a wirewrap gun and soldering iron. I even had to make my own monitor by using an old TV set.

I'm not trying to brag here. I'm actually trying to make a point that kids today just don't get the same training that the old timers got. You learned a lot by designing and building a system from scratch. That's something that 99.9% of the kids now will never do and for that they're short-changing themselves out of a wonderful learning experience and the insight on how a computer really works on the inside. It's unfortunate, but today's computer training seems to stop at the windoze logo.

This is new? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225784)

Kids not programming isn't new ime. I finished high school in the mid 90's, and I was the *only* person in my year who ever did any programming, either at school (excluding "computer classes" in primary school where we very briefly (2-3 classes) encountered turtle graphics) or at home.

Main reason - when I first encountered computers (microbee 32k, when I was 7 - most of the people I went to school with didn't start till much later) they were novelties. To be honest, they weren't all that useful, they definitely were not intuitive to use, and they often failed in "interesting" ways. To actually use them, you needed to delve a bit... and for a nerd like me, once you glimpsed all the really cool stuff going on "under the hood", you were hooked. And because the machines were slow, if you wanted to do stuff (usually pointless stuff, but fun :) then you needed to learn the computer inside and out. A lot of programming (basic for me... it was in the rom after all), lots of poking round in memory to do cool tricks (mmm, 8 pcg banks for full screen hi-res graphics), assembler if you wanted fast/obscure functionality, hardware hacking (by which I mean soldering, not plug-n-pray-you-can-find-a-driver stuff)... the list goes on.

Now, for better or worse, computers are ubiquitous, intuitive (or at least standardised), powerful, and there's a huge ranges of ready made applications to do damn near whatever you want. There's nothing to give you a kick-start into programming so you can, say, make labels for tapes (my first program :). Hence less kids are going to do it.

Well, that's my 2c anyhow.

Fault: High School (1)

mogasm (818130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225790)

I went to a high school for a bit that was on Newsweeks 100 best public high schools. The offerings for computers was either related to television producion or graphic design. It was an absolute waste and anyone who wanted to learn how to use the visual studio that was installed on the computer graphics lab computers along with corel draw were forced to figure it out on their own.

Interest? Necessity? Changes in technology? (2, Interesting)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225792)

My first programming experience was with a Mattel Aquarius that I got for Christmas when I was quite young (five or six, maybe). There were some game (and other) cartridges. But, when you didn't put a cartridge in, you turned on the computer and got an "OK" prompt. Time to start entering BASIC code! Of course, most of us can't be expected to know what to do with that right away. Good thing the Aquarius came with two (if I remember right) manuals. One was a set of example programs to try to teach BASIC programming on the thing. Typing on the soft-key keyboard wasn't that great, even with the control-key macros for the most common BASIC tokens. The other manual was more of a language reference. Between the two manuals, I learned a whole lot about basic control structures (such as GOTO, unfortunately).

My next computer at home was an Apple IIgs. Guess what happened when you turned that on with no disks? An Applesoft BASIC prompt. And, it came with another programming manual, A Touch of Applesoft BASIC. Programming that got a little dull, though, as the manual had what I found to be less interesting examples. I talked my parents into getting me a subscription to Nibble. Then, I had example programs to type in, both in BASIC and assembly. Well, the assembly was just hex codes until I eventually got a compiler. But I found it all rather interesting at the time.

Now, computers come with no such resources. You don't get a BASIC prompt when you turn on your Intel x86 machine, and you don't get a programming manual in the box. I'm not saying that BASIC is the best way to go to learn programming at all, but at least it was something. Plus, there exists software to do most tasks now, at least most tasks that a kid would think of.

Also, the perceived identity of programmers seems to have changed. In my Apple IIgs days, there were a lot of programs developed entirely by one programmer, often distributed as shareware. Of course, these folks still exist, but kids probably think that programmers are adults who work for someone like Microsoft, if they even think about the subject at all. Few would probably think that they could try programming because it isn't presented with the computer and it isn't presented as something that an individual could actually do as a (geeky) hobby.

It's a shame, really.

never having programmed a computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225797)

Bah, kids these days.. When I started university I already had Atari Basic (at age 6), 6502 assembler, STOS Basic, 68000 Assembler, GFA Basic, Pascal, BBC Micro Basic, 80x86 Assembler, QBasic, Logo, C, C++, mIRC script, Javascript, Bash, AWK, Perl, Python and PHP under my belt. I claim to have learnt Java on the train home from my first class (Java in a Nutshell had a chapter of Java for C++ programmers).

That said, first year classes are supposed to teach you programming, and if you can learn the skills and come out of it three years later with good marks then that shows a lot. Probably a lot more than starting uni knowing how to program and coming out three years later not having achieved much more. After all, in the industry you never stop learning until you reach management. Then other people learn for you...

One problem with kids not programming is that they might not develop a taste for it until it's too late to choose a programming course - I work with several people who did commerce or science degrees and then found they enjoyed programming. Too bad they don't have the CS background to back it up and hence suck at it (to varying degrees).

My EXP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225799)

When I was in primary school, we learnt LOGO on the Apple IIe.

Around the end of high school, we dabbled in some BASIC on the Acorn and Delphi on the PCs. By then, however, my programming abilities were lost. I then dabbled in some Pascal and then wrote off my ability to program and concentrated on more creative outlets (3D, film making, etc).

It wasn't a good idea taking a C++ class to regain lost marks, especially when the text books relied on a prior knowledge of Java...

Answer (0, Flamebait)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225804)

Probably the same reason why the US is #20 in the Top 20 Education Systems of the World.

yes they do (1)

narkotix (576944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225808)

The group of gifted children (8 to 12 year olds) that I was teaching up until last year were programming mindstorm creations! Strangely enough there are a heap of kids out there that are still interested in engineering, science and mathematics. The school that I involved with did things from creating their own tv shows, mechanical marvels (robots, planes, powered carts), electronic music creations and brilliant artworks created using computers and digital camera's. Heck I even got the kids to beta test an interface I cobbled up similar to a work related project i was working on! They give an interesting perspective on how things should "be". The time I spent working with those kids was indeed enlightening and fun. Its amazing how many basic things us "adults" miss because we tend to think from a more holistic point of view.

I think it's still out there. (1)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225810)

It's just changing with the times. Javascript and Flash are pretty easy languages to pick up and the environments are everywhere. They might not be programming in Pascal or C++ anymore, but instead using ubiquitous web technologies to release their creative juices.

No more GWBASIC (5, Insightful)

songbo (614466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225812)

Frankly, I think the real problem lies in the fact that the standard OS nowadays (Windows) does not come with a readily accessible programming language. Back in the good ol' days, there was GW-BASIC and (later) Q-Basic. Qbasic even came with some games (remember gorilla?), that you could look at and see how things are done. All that made for a low technical barrier to entry (but not for good programming style). Now, unless you've got an inclination for programming, there's no way you can get started easily.

the rise and decline of the goto statement (1)

larry_larry (669612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225813)

Some hard stats on this would be good. Certainly there is tons of resources available for the self taught programmer. I find it hard to believe there aren't more kids programming today than there was back when there was one or two pets for a whole school. Not to mention lego mindstorm, PHP, and Python. One thing you can be sure of is that the number of kids using goto statements has declined over the years.

I'll take a stab at this ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225815)

My nephew used to brag to me about how he was some l337 haxor with mad skills.

He was hanging out on various web sites with all of the other cool script kiddies. In his mind, getting stuff from the web without knowing what it was; or designing web pages with a WYSYWIG HTML editor; or using a level-editor to make a new map -- all of that WAS cool. He just couldn't grasp that he wasn't doing anything difficult, and certainly not worthy of his haxor belief about himself. In reality, he was running other people's programs and using interfaces to do stuff.

Kids today either don't fully understand what it is they're doing, or think something utterly trivial is l337.

They can accomplish a whole lot of 'meaningful' tasks with the software which is readily available for free. They don't *need* to try and cobble together little wee programs to achieve minor tasks. Back in the day, we were happy to achieve tasks which are, nowadays, stinkin' trivial. Because the computer didn't do much unless we made it so.

Kids nowadays don't find themselves confronted with the need to program -- they're not staring at a blinking cursor trying to figure out what to do. They go onto teh intarweb and download it. They're not trying desperately trying to figure out how to write something to make the creation/management of D&D characters (or, whatever). They're downloading free (or pirated) software which already accomplishes what they need to do.

People aren't programming out of necessity anymore, they're running software on the magic box which has always been there. They don't need to think about how software gets made in the first place. The generation before them have filled in most of the gaps for them.

As a kid... (5, Insightful)

PurpleMonkeyKing (944900) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225818)

Programming kids are few and far between. In Grade School, I always had the desire to make "a cool video game," but no adult I knew had a clue where I should start. It wasn't until 7th grade when my parents got dialup internet access that I had any clue what to do. I found GameMaker, but I outgrew it rather quickly, because I wanted to be like the "real" game programmers, so I made it a priority to learn C++.

For three years, I taught myself through online tutorials here and there. Freshman year of high school I did a lot of programming, because I wanted to show my stuff off the the computer programming teacher (the class is only offered to sophmores and higher). Last year, once I was in the class I discovered how terrible high school is. In a one semester class, the other students only had a rudimentary knowledge of functions and no idea what OOP was. Basically it was a study hall for me, though I did write a tic-tac-toe game in C using SDL to show I did something.

I'd have to say that my knowledge of C++ is pretty rough. I may know syntax, but I sure as hell don't know how to use it for anything complicated. That said, sophmore year, I competed in the National FBLA competition for C++ programming and got 6th! This absolutely surprised me. Surely there must be more people who know C++ than this?

I'm disappointed in the US, in my teachers, and the school board. I've tried as hard as I could to learn in high school, but I end up being a slacker. Even classes at the local technical college (I've taken C# so far) have been a disappointment.

In general, students aren't encouraged to do programming at all. Math books have logic cicuits, boolean logic, and tons of example BASIC programs, but teachers skip over them. Educators need to educate, not push kids through school.

cesspool (1)

keyrat rafa (856668) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225819)

this feels like a myspace page.

Byte Magazine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225820)

Ah. I had the Commodore 64 and I remember spending days copying the programs from Byte Magazine and then have my dad go over it because they never seem to work. The thought of making video games made me eventually teach myself basic. Now that I am an engineer, I do find it strange that many of my peers didn't learn how to program till college. I think since kids are growing up with computers, they almost treat it as an appliance and have no interest on what makes it tick. Since there is no "wow" factor, so they just don't care. Its almost depressing how computers don't facinate me anymore. I remember loading my first program off a tape drive, getting our first disk drive (1541) for the C64, the first time I used windows on my AST Advantage 486 we got from Radio Shack, the first time I logged onto a BBS over the phone line, the first time I played Doom against my neighbor, the first time I logged onto the internet via a BBS, and the first time I logged onto commpuserve and used a web browser. I can go on and on. I remember being so facinated by the technology and how every time I turned around, there was something new and innovative. I do think we are heading for trouble because without this facination, I probably would not have become an engineer.

Yes, they do (1)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225828)

I started with BASIC when I was 10, moved on to C++ when I was 14 and got invited down into my nations capital twice for a school of excellence. At my school, this isn't rare. My mentors before me both did similiar things, and have both ended up going to the IOI. I'm hoping to reach that level but whether I do I don't know.

The problem is that my school is a private one, where we have oodles of P4's with Visual Studio .NET. Visual Basic is taught to everyone, and those that one to go on to more can just sign up and come after school for an hour and a half, and then go up to our private campsite at the end of a term and write PacMan or Space Invaders or something nice and simple like that. Public schools don't have those sort of resources, and it's sad to see people miss out. Some of my public-school friends have what it takes to become programmers. It's a shame to see they don't.

No need? (1)

tmandry (710511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225831)

Perhaps there's no need to learn how to program it - all the software they need to conduct research and whatnot has probably already been made?

Still a Few (1)

Doytch (950946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225838)

I'm turning 18 soon, and while I realise that there probably isn't as many people programming in their early lives, I think there are still some. However, that's not the point.

What I find interesting is to look at why this is. Going off assumptions, I believe that the computer was all the rage when many /.ers were growing up. When something is new and exciting, everyone wants to get a piece of it. I believe that's why many people programmed as kids, and continued to even later. Fast forward to present, and computers are simply the thing that most kids access MTV or AIM/MSN with. There is no awe that is brought about when using a computer, even from me.

That said, what does the future hold? Can my generation keep up or start ambitious projects like the F/OSS community puts out? Who will program for fun in their spare time, when they don't do it now?

my 2 cents (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225844)

Should we care?

I don't think so really. There are still enough kids interested in it that we don't have to worry about a lack of developers.

Is this a bad thing?

No. I don't think it's as dire as you might think.

Personally, I'll write a script here and there just to do something I need it to do but, no matter how much I love computers, I just can't seem to sit down for 12 hours a day and enter lines and lines of code. But there are people out there that can. I'm not sure the desire to program has declined as much as the desire to pogram for fun has. It's boring and takes a certain type of person (that's a quality not a cut) to do it. We need programmers, if we didn't we wouldn't have linux kernel or even Microsoft (a shame).

Most computer classes in high school teach office applications because that's what needed. High school is to teach you to learn and the basics to function in life. Colleges/Tech Schools are there for further educating in a more specific field. I don't see programming classes going away from colleges any time in the near future.

It's not a frontier anymore (2, Interesting)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225848)

In fairness, part of the early push into programming was because it was different and neat.

You really had to be something if you could pull anything off.

I can remember working with the better students in our 8th grade class to create a dithering routine for images displayed on Apple II and Apple III systems.

At the time, it felt like a gigantic accomplishment.

Can you imagine the dirty looks kids would give you now for even showing them a dithered image?

A lot of the really cool frontiers have been supplanted. For example, overclocking is now seen as cooler than programming.

Now, any true geek knows that hardware geeks are the slum dwellers of the geek world. It's a nothing skill compared to something like building a secure interface and database for a user-driven website and putting it out live on the internet to be assaulted by every kid with some CMS hacking bot.

I was talking to a 15 yr old kid who thinks he's a hacker because he can run a couple scripts to piss with Yahoo Messenger chats!

It was impossible to explain to him that he needs to channel that interest into real programming, and not just downloading someone else's program and committing vandlism with it.

That's just the state of things.

where's the data (1)

doubletruncation (939847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225856)

I find these sorts of conclusions, based solely on anecdotal evidence (individual conversations with professors) highly unconvincing. If anyone wants to know the answer they should do a real survey of high school curricula now vs. 10-20 years ago, or perhaps a survey of alumni who majored in these "hard sciences" vs. current majors. But as it is, I think individuals who did program and whose friends program will conclude that "yes kids program" and individuals who didn't, or who didn't have many friends who programmed, will conclude that "no kids don't program." There's almost nothing to be learned from that.

Without the bloodhound gang (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225862)

It's only 'cause 321 contact magazine isn't around anymore and those little BASIC programs aren't avalaible to type in.

There was little else to do with the computer (1)

mdpowell (256664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225863)

I started programming in BASIC on an Apple IIe and IIgs in 4th grade essentially because I had run out of other interesting things to do with the computer.

Sure, I had an office package (AppleWorks) and a graphics program (Deluxe Paint II), and a few classic games (Space Quarks), so it was much "better" than the really early days of home computing. But still, that was about it, and it was fun to write letters, draw, and play the same simple game for only so long. My parents weren't going to buy me the interesting-looking games that were on the shelf, so I started writing programs. And then started writing my own games.

Nothing I did then would have won an award or gotten published in a good conference, but I sure learned a lot of math and programming concepts based on a few books and a bit of adult guidance. Usually I learned something when I had a need for it. I learned about arrays because I wanted a way to store a bitmap for the 40x40 low-resolution graphics mode. I learned a suprising amount about geometry when I wanted to draw a circle; the concept of x^2 + y^2 = r^2 was a bit foreign to me when I didn't even know pi*r^2 or 2*pi*r, but literally my dad gave me the equation and I muddled through enough to get a circle to (very slowly) render.

I still say that experience over just a few years (almost all of my "fun" programming was from 4th-10th grade and about 75% of that was in 4th-6th) had a huge influence on my life path; I have a Ph.D in computer engineering and work in industry now.

I don't really think kids are any different now than before; it's just that they have so many "fun things to do" handed to them that there is less necessity for creative thinking. To start programming for fun in an era of unlimited cheap/free game downloads and unlimited free communication over unlimited distances would take a degree of dedication I may not have had.

And I don't think the "complexity" of modern programming interfaces is at all the problem. A quick google search shows plenty of free LOGO interpreters, and I'm sure the same exists for BASIC. Heck, you could do more fun/experimental programming in Matlab than I ever did in Applesoft BASIC with much less programming knowledge or outside assistance.

The blame can somewhat be placed on schools (1)

yayotters (833158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225873)

Schools near me offer very few good computer classes; which is why I'm switching to a different school that actually offers useful courses. All schools seem to offer extremely basic classes like "Computer Applications" which is mostly Microsoft Office Suite programs and is very easy/basic. The only programming courses offered are Visual Basic(Programming 1) and MySql & C++(I think, in Programming 2). In order to get into these classes though, you must have Computer Applications 1 & 2, which, are useless in my opinion and merely delay the time before you can go to Programming courses. I said "somewhat" due to the fact that most middle-class Americans can buy a book on programming from Though not all people can learn only by reading a book and some of the books are quite costly.

It came with the computer (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225883)

I started programming because my computer came with a copy of BASIC.

US education decline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15225884)

The level of education in US highschools and the first years of most colleges is one of the lowest in the developed world. In fact, we are already considered a developing country in terms of basic education. A reasonable education budget would help reverse the slide and propell us to the top again but with the current government wasting our tax dollars on ever increasing military spending and "homeland security" our intellectual and economical future looks rather dim.

Minutely Important (1)

Oink (33510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15225885)

Let me just say, that I think firstmost that this is unimportant. I'm a graduate student in physics, so I know a bit about this. But most people in my field will agree that knowing the physics is a lot more important than knowing how to program. In fact, computers are often more of a hindrance to that education. Students that learn to rely too much on solving problems on the computer end up missing out on some of the skills they really need to solve problems and actually *UNDERSTAND* what is going on. Instead they just trust the computer to give them the wrong answer, without any sense of whether that answer is reasonable. I do think that programming is a useful skill, and that undergraduates should get some exposure to it. However, they don't need more than relatively basic programming abilities to do any possible data analysis they need.

The crowd here may not like this, but the *really* good programmers that go into physics tend to focus on it too much. They are looked down on, because they end up becoming 'mechanics' rather than thinkers. If we're talking about academia, this basically dooms you to a life of being a research scientist at best.

Remember the most important point. Computers are just a tool to be used to get to a result, and the results needed by most any scientist require rudamentary programming skills at best.

Just on a personal note, I never programmed at all until my 2nd year of undergrad when I needed to learn Fortran to modify some existing simulations. Now I've had a lot of exposure to Java, C, Python, and several other languages. Ya know what? I personally think I'm getting a little past the boundary of healthy balance.
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