[FoRK] Why Johnny Can't Code

Tom Higgins < tomhiggins at gmail.com > on > Thu Sep 14 10:02:18 PDT 2006

I many respects Brin is barking up the "Oh things were so much better
when I was learning life" but in some regards he is on to something

Basic as a starting point is nothing I would agree wit en toto h. It
was used because for many it was all there was.  We used it because
little else was there to be used but as soon as Bounty Bob came along
with Turbo Pascal a whole new crop of folks had that as their base.

Meanwhile while many of us were supping from the Basic trough the ones
who came before us jeered "Oh come on thats not assembler, how can you
really learn something if you dont get down into the guts. Basic is
for wusses and you will grow up not learning the true workings of a

Well of course I learned some assembler (z80 on my sinclair was boot
camp and battlefield , but that was me. I know many people who never
go into assmbler other than peeks  and pokes lifted form books to do
something quicker than basic would do it (like page flipping for
animation for instance). They were great programers.

In todays era I know folks who were rasied on PHP , Perl and even
javascript who have done some cool apps and who grok the workings of
the platforms they are using to express themselves or do a task.

Could it be the atomic of what Brin is getting at is not so much tied
to a language or a layer but to the understanding of interactions,
possibilities and of finding the right tool for the job?

Rather than solidifying on a particular app it would be the methods
and skills of system grokness Brin should be kvelling for. Basic is an
instance that works for some, it is not the grail and I think it would
be wrong to expect folks to run out and grab a ][ emu and some dsk
images from asimov. Rather there should be a way to get inquisitive
minds the tools that allow them to allow them to not only express
their creative urges but to allow them to explore the
possibilities(and thus the shortcomings as well) of the platforms they
are using to express it.

I have seen Perl used in the way, I have seen Python used this way and
yes I have seen folks take on assembler level methods to do it as

Nostalgia aside, basic was an instance to achieve, not the goal. Lets
uplift Brin to understand this:)-


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