I retweeted a story from the BBC this week: Are children becoming ‘digitally illiterate’?

I became a father not two weeks ago, and seeing this story made me think back to my own childhood. So I retweeted it and was surprised at the response.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k

From memory the first gaming consoles really started to appear when I was 10 or 11 in the  form of the NES (there were earlier consoles but games were severely restricted). We never bothered with consoles, I had a ZX Spectrum 48k, we connected it up to the TV, loaded a game from tape (and hoped we’d got the volume setting correct) and played.

Except I didn’t play for long, I got bored. Paperboy, Pac Man, Horace Goes Skiing, Chess, I eventually got fed up with all of them, then I found out you could actually make this little black box of tricks do what you told it to!

I’d spend hours copying lines of code from a magazine, only to find it missing a statement somewhere that I’d somehow missed and doing my earliest debugging to get it working, learning a lot along the way! Yes I got frustrated, but I still got that thrill when it worked (the same thrill I still get today when code works – it doesn’t change).

What struck a chord with myself and my other followers is that children today are learning how to waggle a joystick/wiimote (that’s all well and good for leisure time), before being taught more about computers. The problem is that they’re being taught they learn how to use Excel and Word!

We didn’t have Excel and Word, we wrote our own word processing packages to print off on our tiny thermal printer rolls!

Where is the next generation of programmers going to come from?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Quenerapú