I liked programming before it was cool

3 thoughts on “I liked programming before it was cool”

  1. I’ve noticed my students usually need to have a real need in order to start programming. Some roadblock to their project success that Excel can no longer surmount. So I was pleased when a former student told me he was finally getting the hang of Perl. What was it that gave him that final push of motivation? He was nostalgic for his youth of re-arranging the letters on storefront signs and decided he needed a script to take in the words and suggest filthy anagrams.. and all of a sudden he is discussing with me hashes of arrays and optimal algorithms for regular expression searches!

    As for me, I learned 6502 assembly so my 7th grade dream, “Attack of the Space Cows”, would become a reality!

    1. Interesting! In both these examples, though, the “need” isn’t really a need but rather a realization that there are cool things one can do with programming.
      “Attack of the Space Cows” sounds great. As I think I’ve pointed out before, I’m amazed / impressed that you picked assembly language to work with. (I’ve never dared to try it.) These decisions are probably also somewhat random — I spent a lot of time in high school writing programs to make fractals in Pascal, a dead end of a language, just because I somehow had a Pascal compiler and I had some vague idea that Basic (which I knew) was too childish…

  2. I left university two decades ago, so I would be at best speculating as to why the up-tick in CS classes at the university of today. I was a maths major, so the reason I enrolled in an entry-level CS course a quarter of a century ago was to fulfil a distribution requirement. We were instructed in Pascal as well, I presume because it was a compiled language, but one with an approachable human interface (relatively, and unlike, say, COBOL or FORTRAN).

    Like Eric, I learnt 6502 assembly in the middle 1980s because my Apple II+ simply could not execute any of the tasks necessary to make music or animate cartoons using BASIC, which had to be interpreted line by line by the processor. Nothing as profound as “Space Cows” – I was trying to get my Apple to play Bruce Springsteen music.

    I agree to a point with the blog hose here – the most important thing one gleans in CS courses is not the language (PERL, or Pascal, or FORTRAN is a commodity skill IMHO), but rather, the means by which to approach (and solve) a problem.

    I was a grad student at Stanford, and unless the kids have changed, I suspect that a few of them enroll because they see all the money flying around them in the startups, and they see “computers” as an entree into the gravy train.

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