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Re: Young people and computers

On 2013-01-26 14:40, Moray Allan wrote:
- The conversation wondered how much the number of younger people
coming to Debian might have reduced due to changes in wider computer
use/culture.  Certainly, programming languages used to be an
advertised part of the system, where now they are typically an
optional add-on, hidden, or effectively unavailable to the users of
certain types of device.

To add myself as an example for the point about programming:

My own programming experience started in the 1980s, on proprietary Acorn systems. I was perhaps influenced to think about programming because the earlier 8-bit systems booted straight into a BASIC interpreter by default, though it's hard to know -- I think I started programming in school classes, doing simple shape-drawing programs in Logo. Either way, programming was what the computers were presented as being primarily for. I got interested, and started to teach myself more, by experimentation and by reading books.

When the school moved to 32-bit machines that booted into a GUI, a BASIC interpreter was still part of the advertised system. Although even the software called "public domain" was under proprietary licences, a lot of it, as well as some commercial software, was written in BASIC and had source code that could easily be read and changed. Later on, I also disassembled parts of the base operating system, which could be followed more easily than otherwise because they had been hand-written rather compiled. (And, don't worry, I learnt more programming languages, including buying the expensive C compiler.)

Although I gained a lot of useless knowledge about now-irrelevant proprietary systems from all this, I also learnt a lot about computers and programming, and more fundamentally learnt to think about computers as something you used for programming, not just devices with a set of unchangeable tools provided.


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