Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Dying Language...

A father laments that his son's peers might never learn BASIC:

Microsoft and Apple and all the big-time education-computerizing reformers of the MIT Media Lab are failing, miserably. For all of their high-flown education initiatives (like the "$100 laptop"), they seem bent on providing information consumption devices, not tools that teach creative thinking and technological mastery.
David Brin
Why Johnny Can't Code

This article has many good points about the loss of under-the-GUI computer skills. Besides good old Logowriter on the elementary school's Apple IIe, I had at home an old Atari 400 with BASIC support. My dad would type in programs from preteen geek magazines, which would inevitably fail due to a typo somewhere. QBasic was a bit more productive for me. Then a few years later I was dumb enough to blow over $150 on Borland C++ 4.0 for Windows. Without any clue, I tried to learn the language by following a book. Ignorant of the included command-line interpreter, I tried to write DOS programs in a Windows environment. Ah, wasted youth. I was a little like the Koreans who first learned Christianity from books picked up in the Beijing court.

At last I got my hands on a DOS compiler, learning C alongside PASCAL. My one brief peak of high school popularity involved my near-exclusive ability to program games for the TI-85 calculator. I don't think many teachers ever realized that students weren't really "studying math."

Though I jumped the Computer Science boat to learn Latin and Greek, that hobby was certainly more productive than my videogaming, and the loss of BASIC-type programs is truly lamentable.

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