A reason why kids don’t do programming any more?


As I write this, in the next room my two daughters are playing with their Wii, with the eldest using her Andorid phone to provide incidental music. It’s a not untypical Saturday morning scene in millions of homes I imagine.

In here I am contemplating one of the legacies of my teenage years – the desire to write a computer program for no other reason than I enjoy it.

The immediate problem I face with the current piece of code is user interface related and that does make me wonder if one of the reasons kids have lost interest in programming is (alongside the awful way they are taught about computers) the sheer hideousness of UI code.

Back in the days of Sinclair (or BBC) BASIC things could be made to appear on the screen by simply specifying their cartesian co-ordinates and issuing a PLOT command or similar.

So, I could get back from my A level maths class and plot the graphs of the functions we’d been discussing in a few lines of code. I could write, and graphically represent, the behaviour of heat quanta in a molecular grid with just a few hours work.

Now I would have to set aside a day to do the graph from scratch or use somebody else’s code. The heat quanta representation boggles the mind.

I can understand why the makers of the Raspberry Pi seem to be recreating the BBC Micro environment alongside the electronics: all this UI code just gets in the way of helping kids build useful software.