Coder, It’s possibly the most accurate single word label you can apply to me, if you insist on applying labels. It’s something I’ve always loved doing and being, since before I was even old enough to know that coding was in fact what I was doing.
When I was very young, my brother had a Commodore 64, in the days before the internet connected devices and DLC and all those other great things. C64 had things like magazines that came with pages and pages of code written in some form of BASIC, that would manually type in (hopefully there was no typos) and then you had a new game or programs.
Then for Christmas maybe 1988 or 89 I received a V-Tech Precomputer 1000, It was designed to teach typing and basic programming concepts. I still didn’t really know what I was doing, but it kindled the coding spark inside me and kept it burning.
Many years later when I was around 16 I saved up all my money and purchased my first computer, then saved a little more and purchased my first programming book “C++ for Dummys” Don’t buy it, it’s not a great book or a great way to learn programming. But I stuck with it and got to the point where I could have an idea (albeit simples ones at the point) go to a blank screen and make the computer do what I needed it to. Simply put, it was Magic. I think writing software is one of the closest things to magic you can get. Taking a blank screen and typing your code (not unlike a magic spell) then what comes out the other side whether is a game, or the OS of what ever device you are reading this on, or the webserver that served this page to you or everything else around us that controlled by software.
Recently I was asked to teach a few classes at the first term of “Coder Dojo Letterfrack” It was a great experience. Coder Dojo is a global network of free programming clubs for young people. It’s a fantastic program that give young people access and introduces them to concepts that are getting more and more important everyday. From just learning the basics of programming which teaches much more than how to make a video game. It teaches problems solving techniques that can be applies to all aspects of their life going forward. It introduces them to new technology and concepts they might not be aware of. For example for one of the classes was taken to the local collage to see how their 3D printers worked. More importantly it gives a more social and community aspect to something that can be a solitary endeavour.
We use a piece of software called Scratch, that is used to teach the concepts of programming in a visual way. Instead of writing 5 lines of code for a for loop you simply drag and drop a “jigsaw” piece that is a for loop and drop it into your script. We used this to make a couple of games to learn the basics, we made a “Fish Tank”, a simple racing game and some variations on pong. By the end of it many kids had grasped the concepts and were steaming ahead with there own ideas.
If you have young people who you think might be interested I would definitely recommend for them to check out their local Coder Dojo. I found my way to coding on my own through sheer determination, but something like this can help people kindle the fire and discover the magic that is programming skills to improve there lives, even if they never pursue a career as a programmer.