Fostering a programmer
Sunday, January 15, 2012 9:21:26 PM
This Sunday morning (no church goers here I'm afraid) I decided to see if I could expose my daughter to the wonderful world of BASIC.
I certainly didn't want to force her so without saying anything I lifted down the TV on the living room floor, went upstairs and literally dusted off the C64, took it downstairs, hooked it up and tuned in the right channel.
Annika, recently awoken, immediately looked up from behind her coloring book and asked "What's that? What are you doing?". I said "This is my old computer that I had when I was your age. I'm going to try it out again.". She frowned and said "That's a computer? It looks more like a keyboard!" as she sat down next to me on the carpet.
[ It's at times like these you realize that you're from a different era than your kids... Like the first time Annika wanted to watch a movie at grandma's place. Grandma gave her a VHS cassette. Annika tried to pry it open but couldn't so she eventually turned to me asking "Dad, where's the disc?"
Or like on another visit to grandma when she asked me "Why is grandma's phone tied to the wall?" ]
For about an hour we played around with the old C64, starting with 1 PRINT "ANNIKA"; 2 GOTO 1, the infinite loop printing ANNIKA all over the screen, testing her math skills by using stuff like PRINT(7+5) and finally we sat down with the old game book and entered in "Death valley" together.
She played it a few times, going through the whole spectrum of emotions from "Boohoo it's too hard!", via proud smirk as she beat it the first time and all the way to "Sigh...is that all?" as she beat it the third time.
Was she bitten by the programming bug? No, I don't think so, but none the less I think it was a good experience and I'm not giving up that easily.
I think when I grew up, before the time of Internet there weren't as much digital entertainment readily available so I kept coming back to my book of BASIC games and eventually learned to make my own. Perhaps the fact that the difference between a commercial game and one you typed in yourself wasn't as great back then as it is now made it more inspiring to make your own games.
Why would kids of today be entertained for long by 50 line ASCII games when there's an abundance of polished and art directed games available for free? And why would they make their own games when whatever they come up with will look like crap when put next to any $1 game on the app store?
I still have hope though. I think a Raspberry PI with two motors hooked up provides some appeal no flash game can combat. I will persevere. Even if my kids end up as hairdressers or construction workers I will make sure they have at least been given a better than average chance to pursue a career in computer science.
Let me get back to you in 10 years when she's decided what university to attend!