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Programming Education

More Students Learn CS In 3 Days Than Past 100 Years 287

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-forth-and-write-half-of-a-hangman-clone dept.
theodp writes "Code.org, backed by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, boasts in a blog post that thanks to this week's Hour of Code, which featured a Blockly tutorial narrated by Gates and Zuckerberg, 'More students have participated in computer science in U.S. schools in the last three days than in the last 100 years.' Taking note of the impressive numbers being put up on the Hour of Code Leaderboards ('12,522,015 students have done the Hour of Code and written 406,022,512 lines of code'), the Seattle Times adds that 'More African American and Hispanic kids learned about the subject in two days than in the entire history of computer science,' and reports that the cities of Chicago and New York have engaged Code.org to offer CS classes in their schools. So, isn't it a tad hyperbolic to get so excited over kids programming with blocks? 'Yes, we can all agree that this week's big Hour of Code initiative is a publicity stunt,' writes the Mercury News' Mike Cassidy, 'but you know what? A publicity stunt is exactly what we need.'"
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More Students Learn CS In 3 Days Than Past 100 Years

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:38AM (#45679815) Homepage Journal

    I'm pretty sure that the last 3 days are contained within the last 100 years.

  • by NeverWorker1 (1686452) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:41AM (#45679839)
    Hour of code is not a bad thing, but this didn't create 12M programmers, much less 12M people who know computer science. They averaged 32.4 lines each.
    • by yahwotqa (817672) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:50AM (#45679939)

      Indeed, but what it _did_ do is expose them to the idea that computers can be tools that do what we tell them to do, and not just magic black boxes for mindless content consumption. Even though 90% of the kids will completely forget about it tomorrow.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:53AM (#45679993)

      'More African American and Hispanic kids learned about the subject in two days than in the entire history of computer science.'

      So all it takes is 3 days to learn all of computer science? The universities and colleges have been forcing a 4-year curriculum upon students and employers have been demanding applicants have a doctorate degree plus 100 years experience for years. By the standards set by Hour od Code I would have learned everything there is to know about computer science after a month programming my Commodore VIC-20 (Commodore PET BASIC and 6502 machine language - there was no assembler at the time so every instruction had to be POKEd into memory). Zuckerberg and Gates want to commoditize computer programming, software enigeering, and software development so wages drop to less than minimum wage.

    • by QilessQi (2044624) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:54AM (#45679995)

      Thank you. The BS quotient in that headline was alarmingly high. Or are we now just publishing Microsoft and Facebook press releases verbatim?

      • by theodp (442580)

        The original submission [slashdot.org] was a little less wide-eyed. Guess the editor cut the Harold Hill reference (that's Lyle Lanley [wikia.com], for you Simpsons fans!) in the interest of objectivity (or perhaps it was just too obcure!) :-)

        • by QilessQi (2044624)

          Nice. :-) But for scansion, might I suggest: ...with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Code!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I got all the way to college without any interest in CS (1980-ish). My older sister insisted "you need to take a programming class" so I added it to my schedule. 30+ years later I'm still programming.
      Sometimes the most important thing making someone realize "I can DO that?" I like the idea that kids from "educational averse" cultures are being exposed to CS.

      • My older sister insisted "you need to take a programming class" so I added it to my schedule. 30+ years later I'm still programming.

        After 30 years you should stop blaming your sister.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But programming is not computer science. You can program for fun and still have no interest in computer science.

    • Hour of code is not a bad thing, but this didn't create 12M programmers, much less 12M people who know computer science. They averaged 32.4 lines each.

      It's about as valid as saying 12M students "learned" neurosurgery in 3 days.

      I'm bloody brilliant, but I didn't learn what I know in 3 days. I only learned a small fraction of what I know in 3 days.

    • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:31AM (#45680377)

      The unintended consequence of this is the creation of as many as 12 million people who now THINK they know something about computer science. Those people may be likely to engage in policy-making or support policies created by other low-information people. It's no different than someone watching Dr. Oz suddenly declaring themselves to be experts on healthcare.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      OMG 12 Million "Hello World" programs written in VB? Oh the Humanity!!!!!

    • by Minwee (522556)
      Also, you can learn to be a Professional Structural Engineer in just three days by pounding some nails into a board.
  • D'oh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    And to think I wasted all those years of college courses to learn CS. Who knew I could have just done it in 3 days!?

  • by GrBear (63712)

    Words.. the summary is missing some.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:46AM (#45679897)

    I work on web apps, with DB back ends. I need to be able to set up the DB structure, create the queries, set the indexes, schedule the DB backups, then set up the web server, code the back end to get the data, write a frontend in javascript using knockout and ajax to make it responsive and usable. Since we have a small development team each of the three of us has to be able to do all of these steps. This is in addition to the ERP programming and interfaces I also do for this.

    Is it even possible for new people to come along and learn all of this? I am able just because I learned as it came out piece by piece, but I keep wondering if new people will ever be able to do the full range of things. With a larger team you can split it up, but rarely do you get a team were each person is fully competent and unless there is someone who can call BS on any part of it there is potential for problems.

    I also wonder if anyone in their right mind would bother learning all of this. When we interview people under 30 they are saying stuff like "I do Apple IOS programming and nothing else". I know there is a lot of ageism anti-old people sentiment expressed here on /., but when you actually need something done and can't hire 10 people to do it you can't hire these younger people.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I need to be able to set up the DB structure, create the queries, set the indexes, schedule the DB backups, then set up the web server, code the back end to get the data, write a frontend in javascript using knockout and ajax to make it responsive and usable. Since we have a small development team each of the three of us has to be able to do all of these steps.

      OK. First if you are looking for someone with that experience, you will be one of those employers "who can't find anyone qualified". All that stuff was required for your job and your job only - so of course you learned all that. Your competitors may have their development team structured differrently; so poaching may not work.

      I am able just because I learned as it came out piece by piece, but I keep wondering if new people will ever be able to do the full range of things.

      They could if given the chance. Unfortunately, I am almost completely certain that if your employer needed to replace you or a member of your team, they would demand ALL of the skill

      • If they are programming iOS stand alone apps, why would they need to do anything else?

        Because *poof* the next big thing came along. Sometimes you can earn more money by developing both an iOS version of an application and an Android version of an application. On the other hand, if every company you plan to work for is big enough to have a separate Android specialist, there's less of a urgent need to broaden your skill set.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:33AM (#45680401) Homepage

      I work on automated servers, doing various things with Windows and Powershell that Microsoft doesn't even think are possible. I could bore you with the list of components I have detailed knowledge of, but that'd make this post too long to bother reading.

      I knew none of it when I started this job. In a few weeks, I'd picked up enough of the system knowledge to start leading my own projects, and within six months I was teaching my almost-boss how the components work.

      Nobody else has your exact skill set, that's true, but ultimately your skill set doesn't actually matter when looking for a replacement. What matters is whether the person you bring in can do the job. That might mean they have to learn your skills quickly, or maybe they just have to learn how to copy an existing setup, or perhaps they just have to learn how to properly panic when a status light turns red.

      As business changes, the required skill set will change, as well. The people who will survive are the ones who learn, not the ones who know.

    • Is it even possible for new people to come along and learn all of this?

      Yes, they can, will, and have. I'm also sure there was someone asking the same question a decade, two decades, a century ago. We have great capacity for learning and adapting. Almost all of the successful people I work with are constantly going back to school, are brushing up on subjects with a new book, or attending training seminars even the ones close to retirement. {random photography classes are fairly common too especially if they just bought an expensive and nifty camera}

      When we interview people under 30 they are saying stuff like "I do Apple IOS programming and nothing else".

      The question isn't what they

  • Wow.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by blackbeak (1227080) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:46AM (#45679899)
    That's an awful lot of "Hello World"!
    • You forgot about calling all the factory methods and creating the graphic contexts and message queues and new whatnot.whatever.initialize() - you know: the computer sciencey stuff.
  • Yeah, no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:49AM (#45679927) Homepage

    Learning a little about programming and computers is not "CS".

    A high-level tutorial is just that, and this is just marketing spin on teaching some computer literacy. It's admirable, but it isn't what they're claiming it is.

    • Re:Yeah, no ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by neorush (1103917) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:09AM (#45680151) Homepage
      This is a pretty academic way of looking at it. You have to start some where. When you were learning to add single digit numbers no one said "Learning a little bit about adding numbers is not Calculus." While in a literal sense it is not, you simply can not proceed without the latter.
      • Re:Yeah, no ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by QilessQi (2044624) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:50AM (#45680587)

        I don't think anyone is saying that the time was ill-spent. The objection is to the hyperbole, especially in the headline. If I said, "My children learned how to drive, you would assume that they now know how to drive. While learning how to read a speedometer and turn the key in the ignition are components of that, I would hardly say that they "learned driving".

        But then, I don't work in PR.

    • Personally, I think that they're building onto the ideology that 'knowing how to use a computer' makes you smart. In an effort to guide more youth into wasting their lives in cubicles, and all that comes with that - in order to support the lifestyles enjoyed by both Gates and Shmuckerberg. What these 2 shit-heads should be teaching is how to fuck over others in order to be one of the richest guys in the world.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Personally, I think that they're building onto the ideology that 'knowing how to use a computer' makes you smart.

        I agree that learning how to use computers gives you an important skillset and more advantages than if you don't.

        But saying they "learned CS" is like saying learning how to apply a bandaid means you've "learned medicine", or hammering a nail means you've "learned carpentry" -- it's completely over-stating what you've done, and has no bearing on what you're claiming.

        Learning a few computer concept

    • But people need the high-level tutorial in order to get over the notion that apps are "something someone else makes in some mysterious way". Perhaps if more people had gone through such a tutorial, they might not flock to locked-down Apple/Microsoft devices as easily.
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Exactly.

        I'm involved in a Venture [scouting.org] program emphasizing STEM careers. A major focus of our program is "thinking like an engineer". We want the kids to realize that everything complicated is just a collection of simpler parts (until you get small enough), and those simpler parts are generally designed by humans, so there's no good reason why they can't be the ones designing in the future.

        • We want the kids to realize that everything complicated is just a collection of simpler parts (until you get small enough), and those simpler parts are generally designed by humans, so there's no good reason why they can't be the ones designing in the future.

          Other than they happen to live several states away from the established companies that do such designing. If you want to act in a Broadway play, you have to move to New York [slashdot.org]. If you want to act in a Hollywood film, you have to move to Los Angeles. I can think of a few Slashdot users who would claim that people who have no way to move to where a trade is practiced shouldn't even bother learning the trade.

    • by s.petry (762400)

      I think it's a bit worse than that

      The "Hour of Code" and all of this alleged programing was not programming. It's a drag and drop "tutorial" of high level concepts, and the user interface is what writes all the code. Think of the old "Turtle" program where you give the user interface some basic instructions "move left 1", "move forward 2", etc... The hour of code was a fancier version of this, and changed to Angry Birds.

      From what I read and saw in Youtube videos of this, it teaches the concepts at a very

      • Re:Yeah, no ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:50PM (#45682103) Homepage Journal

        You couldn't be more wrong.

        Disclaimer: I helped with an Hour of Code session in a public highschool this morning. And I've been teaching "block based programming" all semester in this same highschool as part of the "Teals" program (http://www.tealsk12.org)

        Go here. Do it. Then do it with kids you know.

        http://learn.code.org/hoc/1 [code.org]

        The Blockly stuff is _Exactly_ how I figured I would teach my own kids about programming years ago. I had planned to make something like blockly at some point, and I was thrilled when I saw that someone else had done so.

        Go through the hour of code blockly sample. It is simple enough that my 6 year old got through all 20 exercizes. He needed a little help on a few of them.

        But ask yourself - what is the hardest part of programming? It is typing in the code?

        I contend that it isn't.

        IMO, the interesting stuff is decomposing the problem, and then finding out ways to solve each step of the problem. If you want to be elegant, you figure out which sub-problems are similar to other sub-problems, and you can make your code more efficient; you can increase re-use, etc.

        Making kids figure out the instructions to solve a maze is EXACTLY how I'd teach young people about CS. A maze is a problem every child understands. What they may not understand is how to write precise instructions to implement what they already know.

        The language and the tooling are irrelevant. Some programming paradigms are more mind-bending than others for a given problem, but fundamentally, if you know how to break down problems, and you know the context/paradigms of a particular language or tool set, you can do whatever you need to do.

        We've been teaching highschoolers using "BYOB". Sure, they aren't about where to put the asterisk on a function decl. But all of these kids have been successful at implementing a variety of simple sprite based games -- galaga, hangman, a scrolling Mario, etc.

        Don't you dare say its not programming just because they're not typing the code.

        I've seen some real ingenuity out of our highschoolers. The tools allow them to be productive quickly; they do a better job of holding their interest than a text editor.

        • by s.petry (762400)

          I'm not wrong, sorry. I ran the little editor you provided the link to and tried to "write code" but could not do so. Dragging and dropping a "move forward" icon is not writing code. When I do it two or three times it's still not writing "code". I can't edit the code, but the interface shows me the code it will write if I click a button. Yet it keeps telling me "you wrote N lines of code" but I have no opportunity to write anything! I drag and drop icons and an interface writes.

          This is not at all like

    • It's admirable, but it isn't what they're claiming it is.

      You're dealing with Silicon Valley types here, hype and hyperbole are second nature to these people. Most of these guys have their heads so far up in the clouds that they forget what they sound like when talking to ordinary people who live outside their bubble world. Mostly, they're full of shit but the average person doesn't seem to recognize this and so the public eats their crap up because they don't know any better.

    • It's not just Computer Science that they are doing this to, a lot of American high schools are teaching kids welding and calling it Structural Engineering. All they are doing is lying to kids by showing them the high salaries of the top men in these fields, and then teaching them to be peasants. They used to show us how to get into Engineering while in high school, we called it Calculus.
  • They had computer 100 years ago ?
  • All the mistakes those guys taught them. I figure it will take at least 10 hours.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:59AM (#45680059)

    'Yes, we can all agree that this week's big Hour of Code initiative is a publicity stunt,' writes the Mercury News' Mike Cassidy, 'but you know what? A publicity stunt is exactly what we need.'

    Need for what? It's just a way to deflect attention from the real agenda of h1bsrus.org. No, even worse, to convince people that there really is a shortage of programmers, and gosh we're trying to get more Americans to learn it (bonus points for your propaganda if they're minorities), but it takes time, and so we really really need to up the H-1B quota (temporarily, of course) by a million or whatever they want (ask for a million - settle for a half).

    I can understand Zuck, et al, spouting propaganda to get out of their personally horrid underprivileged conditions, but what annoys me is the media buying into this crap. How about a little counterpoint that the only indications of a programmer shortage are the testimonials of people with a serious vested interest, and not any of those silly objective facts. Forget programming - what they really need to teach in schools is critical thinking.

    • Forget programming - what they really need to teach in schools is critical thinking.

      Programming is one way of building the logic skills that one needs in order to learn critical thinking.

      • Programming is one way of building the logic skills that one needs in order to learn critical thinking.

        Yes, and also very good at teaching people to define things precisely (what you want a program to do, etc.). I think that's a useful skill - I especially think that after dealing with people who can't do it to save their lives (I'm sure many programmers share that frustration).

        I've no objection to teaching kids how to program. It's not a fundamental skill or subject, but it can still be useful. My problem is with the fact that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt to give a positive image to the real

    • I can understand Zuck, et al, spouting propaganda to get out of their personally horrid underprivileged conditions

      Underprivileged? Zuck was the very definition of privilege and advantage when growing up. His background was upper middle class at the very least.

      what they really need to teach in schools is critical thinking.

      That doesn't suit the purposes of the ruling class and so is not taught. The last thing they want is for the future peons of America to think for themselves critically instead of believing all of the marketing, advertising and bullshit that the elite and their corporations plan to dump in their laps.

      • Underprivileged? Zuck was the very definition of privilege and advantage when growing up. His background was upper middle class at the very least.

        One word: sarcasm.

        And, even if he was born and raised the poorest of the poor, I dare say he's doing well enough now not to have to make a few bucks more by screwing his fellow citizens.

  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:00AM (#45680071) Homepage Journal

    I went to high school between 1987-91, and somewhere in there (I think it was my softmore year?) there was a computer class. We learned BASIC on computers which had green characters on a black screen (no windows), and if I recall used 8.5" floppies. There were also some TRS-80s there, but I didn't use them there.

    Now personally, since my father owned a VAR that sold minis and mains by IBM, I had already had experience with PCs for many years by then. But that was literally over 20 years ago, in a mandatory high school class.

    Was that really that unusual? 20 years later has the rest of the US not caught up with where my high school - in a town of 40k (at the time) - was? If so, then I have a new appreciation for the place...

  • Computers have not been ubiquitous enough to warrant any kind of mainstream interest since about the past 20 years. Besides that, Gates and Zuckerberg (et al) have been pimping "hour of code" like a 2bit whore for the past few weeks. Dunno what their agenda is but I don't really trust either of them all that much.

  • Math the media like to show that really doesn't mean much.
    1. Well not too many people were studying computer science back in 1913.
    2. Computer Science didn't really become a popular major until the 1980's
    3. General Population growth and increase in literacy world wide.
    4. Growth to IT Demand in large countries India and China.

    So yes, while the number is right, it isn't really that useful.
    I much rather see the breakdown of demographics of those three days and track their professional changes over a period of t

  • I remember covering BASIC in multiple subjects, during multiple years, in elementary school...and that was a pretty common occurrence. If the "hour of code" counts...I'm not sure how it you be anything more than 1.5-2x larger than US education's sustained BASIC pitch in the 1980s.

  • I wish they'd teach most people Software Engineering techniques instead. Basically I mean write code that is maintainable. IE actually write functions, use templates/generics, don't use magic numbers, don't have pieces of code for object A in object B, ETC.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:28AM (#45680345) Homepage Journal

    Just what we need. More people putting out more crappy code. As if a large segment of programmers aren't already overpaid for the spaghetti they produce.

    We don't need MORE programmers, we need BETTER programmers. There are enough programmers in existence (contrary to what those in the industry will claim) yet the abysmal state of software shows how poorly these people perform.

    I would have no problem with a company paying a programmer $250K IF that programmer could produce good code on a daily basis. Instead, we have hordes of overpriced, egotistical, self-important hacks who believe they're worth more than they're paid and the shit we are forced to put up with every day proves it.

    • Re:Oh joy (Score:4, Funny)

      by freeze128 (544774) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:36AM (#45680425)

      I would have no problem with a company paying a programmer $250K IF that programmer could produce good code on a daily basis.

      I'm curious... Are you a CTO, or a programmer?

      I, too, would have no problem with a company paying a programmer $250K *IF* that programmer was ME.

      • Neither. I'm the guy who gets called on to fix the problems created by CTOs and programmers or find ways around the problems created by CTOs and programmers.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:29AM (#45680365)
    Apart from the fact that this whole thing is a horseshit, cynical gimmick designed to drum up public support for big IT corporations - especially in light of all the recent privacy and NSA scandals - under the guise of teaching inner-city yoots (because, gosh darnit, they CARE ) , there is also the entirely unforeseen side benefit of potentially creating a massive influx of new coders into the job market who will serve to fill the ranks of existing code monkeys who provide the sort of cheap and easily fireable labor that American corporations seems to crave so much..
  • I showed this to 4 kids, 2 girls and 2 boys aged 6 to 12. They all had a great time with it and one girl is already doing the extended lessons drawing geometrical figures.

    Maybe none of them will become programmers but they all got that exposure and have the seed planted that they COULD if they worked at it. More importantly, they were motivated to learn something on their own.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:36AM (#45680423)
    1) If CS is so easy to learn, then why are software projects so hard? Like the crapwre that comes out of FB and healthware.gov?
    2) If CS so easy easy to learn and so lucrative, why is there a so-called shorter of software engineers?
    • by bunratty (545641)
      Messing around with model rockets is easy. Actually getting a rocket to the moon is hard.
  • Hmmm...the #1 city in the world on the leader board is Pompano Beach (FL), and Everett (WA?) is beating NYC, according to the Leaderboard.

  • by AftanGustur (7715) on Friday December 13, 2013 @10:42AM (#45680491) Homepage
    Now give them all work at Microsoft as programmers!
  • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday December 13, 2013 @11:05AM (#45680713)

    Wow, so you hold a seminar to show people what it's like. You give them a few tools, show them a couple of things and that immediately makes them Senior Software Engineers ready to tackle any business problem? No, it's more propaganda from two chodes who want to cheapen the profession. Software Development and Engineering takes years of practice to get right, sure you can teach mechanics in a few months and some would argue you can learn language X in 30 days but it's the application and knowing to use what tool at what time. Here's what's missing in this, did Gates and Fuckerberg hire any of these whiz kids after the class? Not one huh? Well Billy Bob and Fuckerberg put your money where your mouth is! If you think you can teach somebody in a few hours to be a developer, hire them give them a salary, benefits and a cube and give them a chance to prove themselves.

    • by kjshark (312401)

      That's like criticizing a music teacher because his student doesn't sound like Eric Clapton after one lesson. You're not expected to become proficient after one lesson, however the lesson was indeed a small step towards that goal. What's wrong with that ?

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        that's my point. After all of this bullshit about how there aren't enough software developers in this country you now have two huge H1B trolls out there banging the drum to get more people to write code. Most people wouldn't want to write code, they'd rather play XBOX or bet on the stock market or do something else. That's the whole point, not everybody is good at a particular field of study or chooses it as a career. What Fuckerberg [visaplace.com] and Billy Bob [motherjones.com] want is to say "Hey look, we tried here and well nobody

  • More is not better, when every new comp sci kid comes out thinking that Java is the best thing ever, 64GB of RAM is a minimum, and worrying about scalability is for nerds. Programming != Computer Science.

  • by bhlowe (1803290) on Friday December 13, 2013 @11:49AM (#45681233)
    I can report that my wife's 7th and 8th grade science classes LOVED the day of code program. Many started out thinking it was impossible to do any coding.. and ended up making some great discoveries. All the kids wanted to stay in the class and "code" rather than go out an play and eat lunch. At least for my wife's school, it was a huge success and hopefully some of the kids will be drawn into a profession they love...
  • Imagine all those pointy haired bosses who always felt they are far too smart and Dilberts are just coding monkeys typing gibberish and getting paid for it. Now they will go through this one hour of coding, fancy themselves to be "code warriors", demand password and fix web sites and data bases. What could go wrong?

    Boss: What is the spec on the site?

    Code Monkey: 7 million users, spending about 6000$ each of their own money or governments subsidy. About 42 billion dollars in transactions. That is not count

  • Did we have computers 100 years ago? Perhaps a better headline would have been more students learn cs in 3 days than past 1000 years OR more students learn cs in 3 days than since the dawn of mankind.
  • Some points to be made:

    1. Zuckerburg and Gates only "back" this code.org, they didn't write the hyperbole in the story copy.
    2. This was a publicity stunt for sure, but it was targeted for young school aged kids to get exposure to how a computer really works. I wish my kids had it at their school but apparently they did not. 99% will forget it in a week, but it may spark some deeper interests later in life. This is always a good thing
    3. The slashdot summary is not "Pollyanna" on the topic; just reportin
  • People who think you can learn CS in a few days should be punished by giving the same kids two days of music, and then having their playback devices loaded with nothing but the resulting tunes.

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