Author Topic: [article] Why Johnny can't code, BASIC used to be on every computer..  (Read 4618 times)

Offline BdR

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"Why Johnny can't code" by David Brin (Salon 14-09-2006)
Quote
BASIC used to be on every computer a child touched -- but today there's no easy way for kids to get hooked on programming.
An article from 2006 but still so true, computers today offer so much flashy stuff but no entry-level programming tools whatsoever.

Think about it, when you switched on a Commodore 64 or MSX you got a BASIC prompt. Now, switch on the PS3 or XBOX (or a macbook) and you get a flashy menu where you can play music, movies, photos or games. Essentially today's computers are teaching kids how to be media consumers. :rant:

Any thoughts on this?

Offline Slydog

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I thank my programming career to my Vic 20!
I couldn't afford even a tape drive (forget about the floppy drive!)!
I had to type everything into the computer each time I used it and couldn't load or save the results!
Armed with the Programmer's Guide, I went through EVERY example until I started to absorb the syntax.
Then I modified the examples to see (and understand) what changed.  This was very rewarding for a twelve year old, and I was hooked!  Basically I was forced to learn programming, or never use my new computer.  (3 months later I did buy a tape drive!).

Programming in GLB is perhaps even easier (although more commands maybe), so kids have no excuses imo, except initially discovering GLB.  When they really want to learn programming, however, a Google search returns 1000 different programming languages all boasting how great they are, now how do they decide?!  And only a few are really 'beginner' friendly.  I bet we loose half of the potential programmers at this point!

But it's easy to understand why the consoles (and every platform and OS) are pushing media content . . . they can sell media!  And everybody is a potential customer.  It's hard to sell the dream of being a programmer.
« Last Edit: 2011-Aug-09 by Slydog »
My current project (WIP) :: TwistedMaze <<  [Updated: 2015-11-25]

Offline Crivens

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ZX Spectrum here. My dad insisted I read the manual cover to cover before I played any games. It was mainly a big BASIC manual so I went through loads of examples over several days before my dad realised and let me break out Harrier attack and Horace and the spiders. But the damage was done. I've never been much of a gamer cos of that but you can never beat coding :)

You can argue that if you are that geeky you will find the tools but without it being shoved in my face maybe I wouldn't have realised. Upto that point I was going to be a writer. Fair enough would lose a nut still to get a published book, but I'd rather use the time coding...

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Offline okee

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If Microsoft included their SmallBasic with windows it would be a step in the right direction
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Offline BdR

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Wow, it says here that Small Basic was created as a direct consequence of that same Salon article. =D that is pretty cool.

For me, I also started programming with BASIC, my dad had a PC XT which had GW-BASIC. Recently I took a look at GW-BASIC again and noticed it had so much features I wasn't even aware of back then (logical MOD and AND operators, binary file reading etc.) It has always kind of bugged me that some people claim BASIC is not a real programming language (whatever that means).

Back in the 1980's there were actually some commercial games that were written in BASIC. And for example the Build-enginge by Ken Silverman started out in qbasic, which was then ported to C and evolved into the first Duke Nukem 3D game. Just goes to show, people who say BASIC is not a "real" programming language just don't know what they're talking about :D

Offline ampos

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Flight Simulator on the Spectrum was a BASIC one.

My Shop's Cashier-Program (TPV in Spain) was done in TurboBasic, then ported to Blitz3D, and so tyred to re-port again to GLB...

I call it KISS-TPV (Keep It Simple, Stupid-TPV) as most TPV commercial programs were so over-complicated and with sooo many options...
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Offline Minion

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I started out coding on the ZX-81. I remember getting up at 6am before school just so I could grab the telly and do some coding before everyone else got up (we only had 1 telly !)

After that I had a BBC micro, and I couldn`t afford the 14 quid for games at the time (hell, I even struggled to get 1.99 together to get the Mastertronic crap) so it was a case of writing my own stuff. And what ya know... some of it has survived to this day ;)

6 titles can be found here ... http://retroremakes.com/nostalgia/2010/05/27/minions-bbc-collection/ ... and be used on a BBC emulator ;)

I totally agree tho...computers aren`t proper computers anymore, theyre multimeda devices. And thanks to GLB in a year or 2 I shall be getting my daughters (6 and 3) started in coding ;)

Offline Crivens

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Nice. I had a 12" B&W effort. Used it from ZX Spectrum 48k (rubber keys), right upto my Atari ST. When I finally upgraded to a colour effort it was like an amazing experience. Although it trained me in identifying colours in black and white and was quite good at watch snooker on the TV in black and white for a while :)

Heh, I ditched the TV in the UK when I moved to Cyprus, a full 25+ years later. Wish I'd kept it now considering my parents (when they moved to Cyprus previously) chucked out all my old computers and games (well, they gave them to charity). Aaaarrggghhh!!!  :'(

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MrTAToad

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I started on a Casio calculator/computer thing before my father got a C64, at which pointer I properly started programming (my first attempt couldn't actually work as I used characters that didn't actually exist).

However, I did persist and eventually wrote a Mastermind quiz game, and a BASIC music playing program with a machine code IRQ driven music player, which I sold one copy...

Eventually I moved onto pure assembly programs.

I go a lot more into the details on my blog :)

Offline Sokurah

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"Why Johnny can't code" by David Brin (Salon 14-09-2006)

David Brin is my favourite author btw. One of my two all-time favourite books is called "The Uplift War" and is the sequel to the two books mentioned in that article - "Sundiver" and "Startide Rising" and I've read all of them 3-4 times. My other favourite book, "Glory Season" is also by him.  :)

But yeah, DIY and development has been abandoned for ease of use these days. It's too bad, and such a thing as Small Basic should be part of the Windows standard installation, but luckily the tools are out there. Just too bad they're not always so easy to find.
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Offline XanthorXIII

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Microsoft has been trying to fix this with the release of Express versions of the programming tools, but I agree, there needs to be something done about this. I wish I had picked up programming early on when I was a child but my parents, especially my Dad did nothing to encourage me programming even though I had expressed such desire. So I pretty much have had to do it on my own.
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MrTAToad

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The main cause is, of course, consoles - with the acception of the PS1 and a few early PS2's, Joe Blogs isn't allowed to program them.  In addition, Joe Blogs wouldn't usually have a PC as well as a console, mainly because of the price of the latter...

Offline shawnus

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I started on a SinclairQL- bad choice I know (should have got a BBC), still taught me a thing or 2.

Many years later I cam back to 'programming' using Asymetrix Multimedia PC Toolbook (instead of Shockwave, another mistake!). However as a rapid app development too, PC Toolbook enabled me to do other things (i.e. the multimedia) which were necessary to make a complete deliverable.

If I was starting again now I think I'd go for Unity3D (I have already had a little go with this) because it allows me to build an interactive 3D environment quickly, thereby allowing time to do the other very necessary things (graphics,  3D modelling, soundtrack) without getting completely immersed in 'hard coding', which to be honest I still find dificult, frustrating and very time consuming.

I guess another question is- can 1 person do it all, or do we still need one coder, one graphics artist, one musician and one marketing person / salesman to create good software within a reasonable timescale?

Offline Minion

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I guess another question is- can 1 person do it all, or do we still need one coder, one graphics artist, one musician and one marketing person / salesman to create good software within a reasonable timescale?

What do you mean by "Good Software" and "Reasonable timescale" ?

I wrote this in 3 months ...


And this in 2 months ...


Apart from the Music/SFX everything was done by me, and I know Im blowing my own trumpet, but I thing they are "Good Software" written in a "Reasonable timescale"

P.S. These weren`t written in GLB (But Im working on porting them ;) )

Offline shawnus

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Minion- those remakes are superb! I used to love playing those at the arcade and they more than count as 'good software' I really should clarify...

I 1st got interested in 3D back in the late 90's early 00's when 3D engines (Genesis, DarkBasic, Blitz) websites marketing strapline was something like "using this...you too can create and sell the next big FPS". The good FPSs around at the time were Doom (& later Quake), so I was hooked.

After playing Quake I quickly realised that given the sheer scale of the game, although 1 person could put together the technical framework to create a nice demo, it would take 1 person many years to 'scale up' that demo into a fully blown game that was selling for £20 ish at the time.

Looking at the forums at the time as well, it was clear that many people were working (individually) on the next big FPS, hoping to emulate the success of Quake.

I guess the point I was really trying to make is: is making 'good software in a reasonable timescale' a team effort or can it still be done by 1 person? I guess the Apps store has answered that one, but how many PC games can you buy now for, lets say £20-30, that have been developed by one person?

Acknowledged, there are plenty of apps like that at the moment but how long before the overall complexity and scale of apps within the lowest price band becomes so high that it subsequently becomes impossible for a single developer to 'compete'?