Despite having just turned 40, I consider myself very young. Those who know me would probably say that’s code for ‘immature’, but I’ll take that too. Whether or not I’m really considered young in the grand scheme of things, I can still remember my school days very vividly, and the lack of opportunities we had to code in school when compared to children of today.
No, this isn’t going to be one of those ‘back in my day’ posts, but back in my day we didn’t have PCs and Macs in every school. In primary schools, we had nothing. The closest we came to a computer was a scientific calculator, and only the rich kids had those. In secondary school, we had computer rooms, but they resembled the control room scenes from films such as Apollo 13. There were huge machines with very little power, and lessons were taught by people who seemed to have just opened the instruction manual for the first time.
Coding was very much not on the school agenda.
It didn’t deter me however, and my first attempts to code occurred as a result of my Texas Instruments Home Computer and the video game scripts that would feature in their magazines. If you’ve not heard of one of these before, don’t worry – they’re pretty obscure and were advertised by then TV legend Bill Cosby.
The Texas Instruments Home Computer
The computer worked on game cartridges, much like the more popular SNES or Mega Drive, but it was also a computer with a keyboard. The magazines would feature game scripts you could type out into the computer and then execute to play games, but you couldn’t save them as there was no hard drive and I didn’t have the additional storage device.
I remember one weekend leaving the computer on from Friday through to Sunday evening as I spent every spare moment I could muster entering code from the magazine into the computer, with lines such as ‘GOTO Line 443’ being part of the script.
I didn’t really understand it, but that wasn’t the point. I was entering code and creating something.
It didn’t work.
Somewhere in the hundreds, possibly thousands, of lines of code I had made a mistake. Let’s face it, I’d probably made several mistakes. The result was the game, when executed, would load up with a start screen but the game itself wouldn’t do anything.
I really wanted to play that Space Invaders game.
Even so, it did do something. I saw results for my countless hours of effort. Admittedly it wasn’t the result I’d hoped for or expected, but it was a result.
While I couldn’t pursue this line of interest in school, I was inspired to pursue it further out of school. It’s this interest in the purity of code, the mathematical certainty of code, that led me to where I am now, at Engage Web.
My journey was a long road with little academic help but, thanks to the affordability of computers, the next generation of coders is finding it a much shorter path. This week is National Coding Week, and it’s being celebrated in many different countries around the world – including the UK.
National Coding Week is aiming to get more people into coding, and not just children either. In truth, the children are probably the ones who will be teaching the adults code. The website for National Coding Week even talks of coding events around the country, and a reverse mentoring system where you could learn from someone younger than you.
How’s that for progression?
The website suggests that adults can learn from the children in one of the many coding clubs around the country. It says:
“Children are learning digital skills in school or through coding clubs such as CoderDojos. We therefore would like these clubs to open their doors to parents for a one-off session in which the children will teach the adults some of the skills they have learnt.”
I wish we’d had CoderDojos when I was younger. An interest in coding in the 1990s was akin to admitting you had no friends or social skills. Today, it’s just something kids do.
National Coding Week is also being supported by banking giant Barclays, and its ‘Digital Eagles’ initiative.
— National Coding Week (@codingweek) September 5, 2016
It’s great how mainstream coding has become, and that children are starting to code in primary schools as part of their lessons. The only thing to ensure now is that the lessons and languages being taught are updated quickly enough to keep up with new technologies.