Goodbye, Hello World

John Lunde, to the Instant Man, on the subject of the allegedly-declining geek population:

This is something I foresaw when home computers quit being shipped with BASIC: <10 PRINT “HELLO”> seduced a generation. When finding out if programming is interesting costs a couple of hundred dollars up front (and weighs seven pounds), though, not many will try. Not that it has to be BASIC, of course, but there ought to be some ‘easy’ language supplied with home computers to inveigle potential geeks.

Of course, on some of those machines, notably the Commodore 64, if you wanted to do much of anything you had to work in that machine’s flavor of BASIC, and machine-specific commands don’t translate too well across platforms. That said, I used to rewrite Applesoft BASIC stuff to work on the 64, and it wasn’t that difficult; then again, I also had a COBOL (!) compiler for the 64, and I wasn’t worth a hoot at COBOL.

Jenn doesn’t see a problem, though:

This is only a problem if someone wants it to be. Javascript doesn’t require anything beyond a browser and a text editor. Python and Java are both freely available (and free even). Even QBasic is still available as a download. The problem is that computers have gone from being something semi-mysterious and a serious business tool to being something you carry around in your pocket. There isn’t any real wonder left to them and so kids don’t explore them like they used to.

The alternative may lie in MMORPGs:

Other options if your kids are into games are Lua which is is used in World of Warcraft and Linden Scripting Language in Second Life (of course in Second Life you have to watch them constantly so they don’t fall in with furry Gorean slavers. Keep them in the kid friendly areas).

Given the sheer participation levels of WoW and Second Life, it’s hard to imagine we’d ever run out of geeks, unless you buy into the stereotype that they just don’t, um, reproduce.

1 comment

  1. FMJRA Saturday – In which I reveal my secret crush on Charles Johnson « A Conservative Shemale »

    23 January 2010 · 9:30 am

    […] Dustbury picked up on the question about why we are producing fewer geeks. I thought about this a lot this week and I think one of the reasons is a steady de-empahsis of math and hard science in schools. This opinion is formed anecdotally. Obviously I don’t have children of my own in the schools, but listening to friends talk about their kids education. There is a serious problem. Parents could (and should) step in to help fill the gap but I am afraid most of them don’t realize what’s missing. When I mention that I am an engineer I can’t tell you how many people tell me “Oh my god, I could never do all that math.” Then they tell me that they are real estate agents or bankers or graphic artists. They don’t see the disconnect. […]

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