Learn to program – Code Year

Computers are the most flexible tool in the engineers toolbox. When I grew up I think I was lucky to be born into the start of the home computer boom of the 80s. Computers like the BBC micro and spectrum were very easy to program, and because computers were so novel, our expectations of what could be achieved were easily within the reach of single programmer. Now were in the millennium, and PCs do so much more, the methods we use to program them are much more complicated. Learning to program has become very difficult on standard computing kit found in the home. So how should the next generation learn how to program?

One option I recommend to people who want to learn to program is developing on micro-controllers like the Arduino or Mbed platform. Those computers are of similar power to those in the 80s. While they are somewhat easier to grasp than PCs, you have to do the electronics yourself and you don’t really have a screen. You naturally end up being part programmer, part electronic engineer, which does Martin well but might not be exactly what you want to learn.

The other option I discovered a few weeks ago was code academy. This is a programming environment served up over the internet (no installs required!) that lets you program in javascript and run your code right infront of you. Javascript is an interpreted language, much like BASIC was on the BBC. Javascript is aimed at web programming, but again due to technical limitations of the web, expectations are lowered and what can be achieved as an individual is that much nearer what a consumer would expect.

I was very happy to read that code academy has joined forces with various tech groups to develop learning-to-program package that will run across 2012. 2012 is code year, apparently. I have signed up even though I know to program, because the course will revolve around web languages and technologies like javascript and ruby-on-rails which are all weak areas for me. I’ll see what the course is like once it begins, but perhaps this is a good opportunity to build a programming class at the hacklab using code academy’s platform. Comments?

3 thoughts on “Learn to program – Code Year

  • Code Academy seems to be really useful! I have a graphic design background and have just started a course at uni which demands the knowledge of basic coding (Iv’e never done coding before) and this really seems to help, thanks!

  • Code academy sounds like a good idea. I’m currently a full-time .net developer but I also first learned to program on old home-micro systems, the first was a VIC-20 and I still have it! I’ve even been recently playing around with machine-code programming for my MB Vectrex games console!

    Because the technology is so advanced now it is much less common for young people to start programming for fun. And they aren’t taught much more that basic principles at school, some aren’t even taught that much in ITC, which has lead to a lack of people going into computing at a higher post-school level.
    So with programmed products being increasingly more interwoven with our lives, where are the next generation of programmers going to come from.

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