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Tom Briant

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Thoughts from an old man on kids learning how to code

I note that Apple will offer children an Hour of Code on December 11th. I have some thoughts on this whole push to expose kids to some computer program coding. 


First, I think in principle it’s a great idea. All of us in any size, sex, gender, age and computer proclivity in general have to deal with a lot of code in our lives as it is. From ATMs to Spotify to our damn cars, code is everywhere and we all should have some understanding of it. 

To quote a very smart person, Arthur C. Clarke, “Any form of science sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.”


So before we think it’s a bunch of nerds reciting spells, ala Harry Potter, we should all gain some exposure to coding. It’s a process of writing code, testing it, and seeing where it failed. Then you go back and try it again.

To quote another person, Thomas Edison, “It’s 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

But it would help a lot of people if they could understand loops and if/then/else statements. 

Second, no matter what  your mother thinks, it’s very unlikely that you will write the next version of Windows or Office. What’s more important is that you know how to write a macro for Office so that you or your boss don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over again.  For instance, learn  how to use the mail merge feature in Word. That will introduce you to variables.

I went to school to learn programming. The most involved programming I ever did professionally was to rewrite printer drivers in BASIC-80 so that the client’s printed checks and invoices looked acceptable. But I needed to understand a lot of principles in order to do that. 

So, by all means, learn how to code a simple program as a start.

Third, I would also suggest that if we teach girls to code, we should teach them the basics of accounting. Accounting and coding go way back together. Take an extension course in the basics of accounting. Seriously, you should know what an asset, liability, and owner’s equity are. You should know the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement. Don’t become the person on the sweat shirt: “How can I be out of money when I have all these checks left?”


Tom Briant, age 59

Editor MacValley Blog




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