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Revisiting Why Johnny Can't Code: Have We "Made the Print Too Small"? 270

theodp writes: In What is Computer Science?, the kickoff video for Facebook's new TechPrep diversity initiative, FB product manager Adriel Frederick explains how he was hooked-on-coding after seeing the magic of a BASIC PRINT statement. His simple BASIC example is a nice contrast to the more complicated JavaScript and Ruby examples that were chosen to illustrate Mark Zuckerberg's what-is-coding video for schoolkids. In How to Teach Your Baby to Read, the authors explain, "It is safe to say that in particular very young children can read, provided that, in the beginning, you make the print very big." So, is introducing coding to schoolkids with modern programming languages instead of something like BASIC (2006) or even (gasp!) spreadsheets (2002) the coding equivalent of "making the print too small" for a child to see and understand?
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Revisiting Why Johnny Can't Code: Have We "Made the Print Too Small"?

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  • Dice, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @08:58AM (#50824171)

    Please stop shilling for Facebook. You do it endlessly. No one likes Facebook or its douchebag in chief.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:25AM (#50824351)

      I never hear of it. What's it? I even try go there today, but website is down. Maybe I tomorrow try again if it is good site.

      A Chinese

    • Re:Dice, (Score:4, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @11:09AM (#50825241)

      Please stop shilling for Facebook.

      The point made in the summary is stupid, so it is not effective shilling anyway. It was written by someone who has no idea what is actually happening in the schools. I am involved in teaching elementary school kids programming. None of the schools that I know of are starting with Ruby, or Python, or Java, or any other language being criticizing. They all use Scratch [], which is a much better introduction to programming than BASIC.

      The high schools tend to use Java, because that is what the AP-CS test uses, but high school students can handle small print.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:02AM (#50824187)

    The statements are too long.
    Writing a working program should be as easy as:


    Therefore I suggest we teach beginners assembly language and exchange the mnemonics for common texting short forms.

  • BASIC (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:09AM (#50824231)

    "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."

    -- Edsger W. Dijkstra

    • Re:BASIC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:13AM (#50824253) Journal
      "Dijkstra's a dick"

      -- 91degrees

      Influential and important to CompSci, certainly but that doesn't mean he wasn't a bit up himself at times. Not everything he says is gospel.
      • "Dijkstra's a dick"

        So that's how it's pronounced!
        Seems like a lot of unnecessary letters in there...
        did Congress have input on the spelling at some point?

      • Re:BASIC (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @10:11AM (#50824723)

        "Dijkstra's a dick"

        Yup. But the particular polarity of his dickishness helps to balance out its opposite--that is, all the millions of shitty programmers who hate rigor just because it's rigorous, and proselytize against it at every opportunity. He's a lot like Richard Stallman in this way--an impractical dick, to be sure, but a useful dick nontheless.

        Plus, Dijkstra had a sense of humor, which makes him more fun to quote.

      • And you are who exactly? Oh, that's right, nobody...
    • by Z80a ( 971949 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:27AM (#50824363)

      And what about people that were exposed to java?

    • Who Cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:38AM (#50824455)

      Johnny can't cook a souffle, Johnny can't make a dove joint, Johnny, can't fix a car, Johnny can't set a broken arm, Johnny can't balance and income statement, etc.

      But there is at least SOME people that can do it. These are all disciplines/careers that people elect to pursue. Not everyone needs to know how to code. That's stupid. Does everyone need to know how to design, cut, and sew together a pair of pants?

      Does knowing how to code make it any better when Windows or Windows apps go toe up? Really? Are you going to debug Windows or Mathematica because you took a coding class?

      • Sure, I hear you. But Johnny should at least be able to cook hamburger/tuna/chicken/mystery meat helper, sand away a rough chair surface, change an air filter, stop or slow minor to moderate bleeding, and do basic personal money management.
      • Johnny can't cook a souffle, Johnny can't make a dove joint, Johnny, can't fix a car, Johnny can't set a broken arm, Johnny can't balance and income statement, etc.

        But there is at least SOME people that can do it. These are all disciplines/careers that people elect to pursue. Not everyone needs to know how to code. That's stupid. Does everyone need to know how to design, cut, and sew together a pair of pants?

        Does knowing how to code make it any better when Windows or Windows apps go toe up? Really? Are you going to debug Windows or Mathematica because you took a coding class?

        Then johnny didn't earn many merrit badges in scouts did he.

        Mine included Welding, Survival Skills, Cooking, First Aid, Sewing, Computer (PC) repair, Barbering, and more, I never got the ones in automotive repair but learned some the skills (changing filters, spark plugs, fluids, lights, rotor, etc) elsewhere. And carpentry is something I did as a hobby with my dad growing up.

      • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

        Does knowing how to code make it any better when Windows or Windows apps go toe up? Really? Are you going to debug Windows or Mathematica because you took a coding class?


        But what you're going to do is whip up the quotes you got from car dealership into a spreadsheet and write a little macro that empowers you better. Or you'll read a news story about something political, use a tool that scrapes the relevant websites, and do something with the data. Or you'll have written a LOGO program in class and it shaped your mind just a little bit to understand algorithms better, i.e. procedural instructions, so that the next piece of technology you see you have a grasp of what's goi

      • Re:Who Cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @01:15PM (#50826501)
        Any job that involves sitting at a computer leads to days when knowing how to automate a simple task is beneficial. My big brother's doing data entry, and he's been battering together VBA scripts (VBA because Excel is the nearest thing to a programming environment on his client's computers) to generate search strings that account for common mistypings of address formats etc, making him one of the quickest on his team. I did a 3-day data filtering job in 1 day because I scripted in in Windows .BAT rather than manually searching through the data. I'm now training to be a school teacher, and I'm programming my own web-pages to make use of the interactive whiteboard in a way that's natural to me and keeps me in control of everything happening in the class. Everyone can use some programming now and again.
    • Re:BASIC (Score:5, Informative)

      by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@ g m a i> on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:58AM (#50824613) Journal

      "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."

      -- Edsger W. Dijkstra

      Knock it all you want, but it's simply not true. And it wasn't true 30 years ago either. One of the lessons BASIC teaches is that you better be rigorous about what you type in - even a small error will screw you. Especially the buggy code that actually runs but doesn't do what you think it does.

      The "B" in BASIC stands for "Beginners" for a reason. It was never supposed to be the be-all and end-all of languages, just a way to get your feet wet (and addicted) to making a computer do what we tell it to.

      • Re:BASIC (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @10:38AM (#50824953) Homepage

        That is indeed the point that is often forgotten.

        I've long been an advocate of using BASIC (or a more forgiving variant) for the first two weeks of a programming curriculum... ...and no more.

        To use the analogy of TFS, BASIC has big text, and is useful for illustrating the alphabet of programming. Students should understand a few key concepts from the exercise, the misunderstanding of which often leads to difficulty following later classes.

        I've seen countless students who missed the core concepts that statements run in order (some language exceptions apply), variables change, and that every step of the process has to be listed.

        Frankly, I think those concepts are more important than learning how to build a class or compile a binary. BASIC was a good place to start.

      • Not if you want structured programming....
        • Never heard of Borland's good old Turbo Basic and it's successors, PowerBASIC, PBDos, PBCC, and PBWin? They all create stand-alone executables without needing a runtime or an interpreter. Makes it easy to distribute finished programs.
    • by Brannon ( 221550 )

      "If exposure to C++ hasn't destroyed your ability to think logically, ..."

      -- Leslie Lamport

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:15AM (#50824263)

    Kids should be introduced to programming using marble runs and physical switches or conditionals. Get them interested in the toy aspect, introduce rewards for working out how to achieve goals, and gradually introduce virtual modelling of the physical layout as complexity increases - they will gradually move completely to the virtual model, and then you can introduce the next stage of exposing the code when managing click and drag objects becomes a hassle.

    Baby steps. Literally.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:25AM (#50824347) Homepage Journal

      Lightbot is the phone app version of this. My boy loves it - it's roughly LOGO for 2015, and he's working on subroutines that call other subroutines now. Except he doesn't know that (we did basic IO and loops, verbally with pseudocode, on a long car ride prior to getting Lightbot). It's more fun than the VIC-20 assembly that was my only option at his age.

      Academic: does this theoretical problem exist?
      Market: download the free app.

      • Thanks for the recommendation. I had looked at this app awhile back for my boys (12 and 8 years old). Given their love of playing games on their tablets, this could be a good tool to get them learning about programming while they are playing games.

    • DigiComp I was my first computer! []

    • by plover ( 150551 )

      I remember learning a bit about state toggles on Dr. NIM, a marble game in the 1960s, but didn't yet have the basic skills to come up with a state table for the full game. (Hey, I was 4 years old.) Unfortunately, Dr. NIM passed away like so many other toys from the era -- tossed by parents in one of those terrible cleanings.

      About 25 years ago, when my son was 3, I gave him a binary based marble color sorting game, and we played with that for a long time. It had no internal toggles or states other than the

    • I had a BigTrak tank toy with a programmable keypad when I was a wee lad. This was the physical version of using Logo, a programming language I would use on the Apple ][ in the seventh grade. I used to write out the instructions on paper, keyed them in, and let BigTrak do its thing.
    • Holy shit that's a great idea! I loved playing with marble runs when I was a kid. I think they fueled my interest in trains and other discrete logical constructs, which eventually led to my interest in programming.
  • COBOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    COBOL would be a good use for something that's extremely easy to read and understand and can do powerful things.

    • >can do powerful things.
      But do you really want to give the big red "End of civilization" button to a 4 year old ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        On second thought... apparently a helluva lot of people want to give that power to Donald Trump... I'd trust the average 4 year old more with it.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:16AM (#50824269)

    Maybe Johnny wants to choose his own fucking interests, instead of having them imposed by a corporate oligarchy only interested in cheap labor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe Johnny wants to choose his own fucking interests.

      It's video games. Johnny wants to play video games. Leave him alone and let him play video games.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I knew this would be among the first posts, and it is of course complete rubbish.

      Have you ever looking at how babies and young children play? They are easily led by what toys are available and what adults lead them to. That's why they tell parents to read to their children - not to torture kids by forcing them to endure things they hate, but because educators understand that leading children to learn through play is better than leaving them to their own devices.

      I remember when I was very young, maybe 3, my

    • Nobody wants that. If they have to think about the corporate oligarchy trying to get cheap labor, they have to realize that public-access college (free or federally-supported tuition) is just a way to get cheap labor at the expense of the individual. Whenever I explain this, people say that businesses would *never* respond to a labor shortage by *training* new employees; they'd just not hire anyone. They can't understand "Education" as K-12 and "Workforce Development" as college.
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Primary education isn't about Johnny's "own fucking interests". It's about trying to give all kids the same basic knowledge that they can use to get by in the world at a minimum, and as a stepping stone to more advanced education if they so choose. They are already learning basic math, science, language, geography, history, etc. Like it or not, simple programming concepts are now a pretty fundamental part of basic math/science education.

      Does that mean Johnny is being coerced to get a BS in Computer Scie

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:17AM (#50824277)
    I have seen a lot of programmers who are totally dependent on the IDE to develop the code. They have no idea how it works or where it runs from once it deploys.
    • I'm pretty sure the word "programmer" should always be in quotes when describing those...

    • It really depends on the language.
      VIM is more than enough for Python and Ruby, but completely inadequate for Java.
      You need to write so much boilerplate code and redundant shit with Java that it's a torture to write it without Eclipse or Netbeans.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:55AM (#50824581) Homepage

      I have seen a lot of programmers who are totally dependent on the IDE to develop the code. They have no idea how it works or where it runs from once it deploys.

      But is it part of what they need to know? A brick-layer needs to know how to use his tools to build a wall, he doesn't necessarily need to know how to make a brick or brick-laying tools from assembler. Nor is he the architect or the structural engineer who says what the wall is for or if it's thick enough to be a load bearing structure. But he does need to know enough to make a structurally sound wall. Sure, it wouldn't hurt him to know all these other things. But it might be more important for a GUI developer to understand the difference between a modal and non-modal dialog than learning all the plumbing to display a dialog. I'd say the most important part is being good enough at what you're good at, not necessarily what you're bad at. As long as you don't deploy straight to production, or rather if you do then you won't have that permission for very long.

      • Yes, but a brick layer needs to know where the wall goes. It is also really helpful if he knows what it's used for. I have had programmers write out files and then wonder why they don't show up on the customer's desktop computer. It worked in their IDE. They don't comprehend that they just wrote it out to the application server, and they need to use the web server to display it.
    • by plover ( 150551 )

      IDEs like Eclipse and Visual Studio are not rubber safety bumpers for beginners. They're productivity enhancers for professional developers. But because they have 'icons' and 'wizards', people often equate them with "no training required" programming tools like Lego brick language.

      Of course, many of these people can't tell the difference between "scripting if statements 'til it works" and software engineering, either.

  • by gb7djk ( 857694 ) * on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:20AM (#50824299) Homepage
    Forty five years ago, I started with some BASIC. But the thing that really got me hooked was that I had a simple problem, that mattered to me, that needed solving.

    The need to solve a problem, being presented with a tool simple enough to understand and some help to get started seems to me to be the true trigger that can start someone off down the programming track.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:21AM (#50824307)

    Of course we have made the print too small. I recall attempting to 'grok' Fortran and Algol as a teenager and having difficulty understanding the difference between reserved words and variables and so forth.

    BASIC is a brilliantly-designed language for the beginner because the concepts you need to understand are so simple. Even the much-maligned line numbers are important in the learning curve. When you start, a variable, a reserved word and a label are all concepts you have real difficulty separating. BASIC line numbers, though, you can immediately map to the idea of a sequence of control. Once you have mastered this you can then absorb the more advanced concepts gradually.

    For those who take a snobbish attitude to BASIC I still feel that Kemeny and Kurtz understood absolutely how to create a language that simplified programming to its essence. As such, it really should be the starting point - it's easy to teach students better techniques once they have written some simple BASIC programs and hit issues like running out of places to insert a line, etc, because they can SEE why better techniques make their lives easier.

  • Simplicity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:22AM (#50824311)

    I think there's something to be said for learning programming on a very simple machine.

    First, you need to keep in mind that kids have absolutely no idea how a computer works, at even the most basic of levels. It's a box with a keyboard and stuff happens on the screen. You need to cement the idea that you have to tell the computer to do stuff, and link the idea of coding to that stuff.

    This is much easier to do when you have a computer that does pretty much nothing when you turn it on. A flashing cursor comes up and it's waiting for you to tell it what to do. 10 PRINT "HELLO" RUN and it does something. 20 GOTO 10 RUN and it does something else. You get the link between what you're telling the computer to do and what the computer is actually doing pretty quickly.

    Compare that with booting up Windows/MacOSX/Linux, getting into your desktop environment, loading up a browser or IDE, creating a new project, explaining the UI of the IDE, making sure you have the right includes to do IO, directing your output to console or a UI object, etc...

    • by saider ( 177166 )

      Like a shell prompt?

      You could use BAT files or shell scripts to do this.

      They can test each command individually, and then learn how to link them together.

      • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        You loose the immediacy - now you have to explain what an editor is, what a file is, why one file will execute and another will not, etc..

        It's not a huge hurdle, and would be a great second step, but you are adding additional layers to the "type this - computer does that" connection.

    • I think there's something to be said for learning programming on a very simple machine.

      Well, not too simple. The computer I learned to program on didn't have external storage. I had to type in the programs again by hand every time I turned the computer off and back on. Course that's a lot easier when the computer only has 2kB of RAM...

      Compare that with booting up Windows/MacOSX/Linux, getting into your desktop environment, loading up a browser or IDE, creating a new project, explaining the UI of the IDE

  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:22AM (#50824317)

    I learned to program in 4th grade, and yes the INPUT, PRINT and IF THEN ELSE statements made up the first tutorial I went through. But as soon as I got to the section of the tutorial on PSET, LINE, etc. is when I really got interested.

    I may have eventually had fun writing MUD-like text based games, I first got hooked writing games like Tic-Tac-Toe and space invaders.

    • Logo, and a moving turtle for the win.

      Tools such as Arduinos and gShields and inexpensive stepper motors (to say nothing of Grbl which is one of the most amazing programs I've ever seen in terms of memory efficiency and compactness) make this far more affordable than it was.

      Still kind of surprised no one has done a Logo to G-Code translator.

  • Way too small (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:23AM (#50824329)

    When I was a kid getting into programming, I constantly ran into a wall. The basics, like hello world, and command line input->output programs that can do an enormous variety of calculations, background work, execute even big and fun commands were always easy, instructions prevalent, how to's everywhere and easy to understand.

    Then you want to actually move from moderately complicated programs that are useless to real ones that do something, and I hit a wall. How to make a GUI work, how to make graphics appear, how to do anything useful at all in any kind of app, desktop program, etc, and the tutorials jumped from 5 easy to understand lines to 50 page books on how to get a single line to appear, much less do anything else.

    Excessively complicated syntax, and extremely difficult, complicated programming required for even simple programs in a useable context make it opaque, that is the small print. The resources are plentiful for the most basic coding, plentiful on algorithms and how they work, but the second you get to a moderately complex topic of actually making applications you can double click and use, I might as well be trying to learn how to do complex multivariable calculus in a non-euclidean geometry based on a few comments on a thread on a help page that was posted and died 8 years ago.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:24AM (#50824335)

    So...this is part of Facebook's "please don't class action us" effort and a product manager goes on video to say that the current batch of entry level languages and examples (which my kids mastered in middle school) are too hard for his target audience (women) so we need to step back to a simpler language with fewer moving parts? OK Facebook, do you really want to own that, "women are dumb so we'll come down to their level" (as long as you don't sue us) message?

  • Scratch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:29AM (#50824381)

    Here in Australia, a TV show called "Good Game SP" (which does gaming news, game reviews and other gaming related stuff aimed at kids) did a series of segments using the Scratch environment to build a game. I thought it was a great way to introduce kids to programming in a simple way (with things like if statements, loops etc) but without (as far as I can tell) teaching any of the bad habits you might get from something like BASIC.

    The LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit also seems like a great way to teach the simpler programming concepts without teaching bad habits (coincidentally both LEGO Mindstorms and Scratch came out of the MIT Media Lab)

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:30AM (#50824387)

    for decades. I learned it when I was 7, learned basic when I was 9 and was using proper programming languages within 2 years of that.

    Give them LOGO and turtle graphics.

    It was the best tool for the job in 1967. It's still the best tool for the job today.

    The reason is because nobody has tried to build a better one. You don't teach 7 year olds ruby or javascript or python but FFS you don't teach them BASIC either - give them LOGO, and when they mastered that, they will be able to grasp any modern language you throw at them.
    And if you want something new and shiny, then design that something FOR CHILDREN. That's why LOGO remains the best for the job - because it was designed specifically for children by a team that included a behavioral child psychologist.

  • Strawman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NewWorldDan ( 899800 ) <> on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:43AM (#50824503) Homepage Journal

    As the parent of a 12 year old girl, I can assure you all, kids today are not having trouble learning to code. They have resources today that I couldn't have dreamed of when I was their age, and they are using them. There are two major problems that I see happening: there are too many languages out there and no one works in text/console mode anymore.

    Computers were text based when I was learning basic 3 decades ago. As such, BASIC made a perfectly sensible starting point. Instead, today, a web or mobile app requires knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, some backend language such as C# or Java, SQL, and probably some other things AI haven't thought of.

    Really, if you want to bring back a version of BASIC that was reasonably accessible but could still write something resembling a modern app, bring back Visual BASIC 6.

    But like I said, kids today aren't really having much of a problem. My kid and her friends are learning JavaScript and C# and C++ and I have no idea what else. There are lots of resources out there and kids are taking advantage of them.

  • facebook.each do |user|
        user.send_message "Happy Birthday"

    So facebook is just an Array of Users?
    And every User has his birthday today?

  • Answer is no.

    I was learning to code by doing POKEs into graphic memory, by first drawing sprites on grid paper and translating it into binary. Not the most efficient way to be honest, but there was nobody to tell me right one and I have found a newspaper article about screen memory layout.
    Problem is short attention span and instant gratification mindset, not programming language change.

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @09:55AM (#50824579)

    Johnny (and Jane) can code. They just don't want to. Back in the 80s and 90s, computers were new and cool and if you could code, you could even make the computer do what you wanted it to do. Back then coding was freedom. It's like hot rods in the 50s. If you could soup up a car and make it run fast, others looked up to you. Now, fast cars, like computers, are common place and the "skill" isn't needed or valued like it was.

    In the future, today's hot fields will be asking the same question. Once the newness and prestige wear off, the Johnny's and Jane's of the world move on to something else.

  • If I remember the baby book correctly - kids focus on the Largest thing they see. Their brain processes items in a priority order - big first, small last. (hmm.... now wondering if small print in Ads is related to this and not space limitations) So big text allows them to "see" the text over any pictures on the page. Of course - this is for small kids. Old people it's because they need a new prescription for glasses.

    Aside from that - conceptually the JS example is certainly "small print" or too busy.

    • My first computer was a TRS-80 color edition.

      At the time I got it, I spent a large part of my time finding and making materials to build tree houses. The best part of the computer was I didn't need physical materials to build something. I could type up a set of materials and use them. This really satisfied my need to invent and build stuff.

      I have just started showing my daughter, age 7, how she can build stuff on a computer using the Unreal Engine. Sh

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @10:18AM (#50824779)

    The reason Johnny (and Jenny) can't code is simple: coding is not easy. Most kids hate math word problems. Yet, that's what coding is. You're given a math word problem with all these variables and facts and rules, and you have to come up with a solution, that is translated into a foreign language of simple instructions for a very dumb machine that is fussy about how you talk to it. If you can't stand problems that start out, "A train leaves Chicago traveling 42 miles per hour...", then you are not ever going to like coding, and you most likely will never be very good at it.

  • If the print is too small try increasing the font size.

  • by cnaumann ( 466328 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @10:28AM (#50824845)

    The first programming language I learned was BASIC.

    I had to unlearn BASIC to learn FORTRAN.

    I had to unlearn FORTRAN to learn C.

    My brain is at its erase cycle limit.

    Now I basically program in FORTRAN using C.

  • I learned coding using the unholy duo of COBOL and FORTRAN, written out by hand on coding forms and then hand-punched on an IBM 029 card punch machine from hell. It was goddamn hard and we liked it that way! Now, get the fuck off my lawn.

    Programming is an abstract concept. It's not like hammering nails into a board, it's all done in your head. You have to visualize, organize and convert all those bytes flowing around in your head into cognizable, workable code. It takes a certain type of person with a

  • Bring back the dot matrix printers! You're not a real programmer until you printed your code in eight-bit block letters on green-and-white bar continuous paper and ripped it off the printer. Now get off my lawn!
  • Teach that, far more important that programming.
  • ...grok programming more quickly and easily.

    This all comes down to what one has to know in order to attempt some programming. BASIC requires one know very little to get something useful done. They try the PRINT statement, and that's cool. GOTO, INPUT, strings, numbers, basic math follow.

    From there, you can do pretty useful programs!

    EXCEL works a similar way. You see what cells do, then you find things like autosum, then you put a little bit of math in a cell, and suddenly, you can make some really usefu

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @03:26PM (#50827529) Journal

    I generally agree. When I went to teach one my children programming, I chose BASIC over newer alternatives. There's too many features and abstraction for newbies in say Python.

    I can explain BASIC in simple English: "A GOSUB statement allows you to reuse the same lines of code from different spots in the program. It's like our little "execution guy" [already explained to kid] has a rule: when he sees GOSUB X, he writes down the line number of the next statement after that GOSUB in the "Return List". He then jumps to the given destination (line # X) and keeps executing until he sees a RETURN statement. When he sees that, he then checks the Return List we talked about to see where to go back to, crosses it out, and goes back."

    It's simple "mechanical" rules of the form: if the "execution guy" sees such and such, he does this and that.

    No crazy abstraction speech that goes over a kid's head, just easy step by step rules and clear-cut "parts". Statements have a clear-cut reference ID (line numbers) that can be written down per our model's "rules". You can check their work to see the line numbers.

    (I don't need to get into stacks yet when starting out, but when the time comes, it's merely a clarification on how multiple items on the Return List are written and used by the Execution Guy. One can build on existing explanation idioms.)

    If you think otherwise, I challenge you to present a simpler, more approachable way to explain function or sub-routine calls in say Python...

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