[FoRK] Is old-school tech (ASCII, etc) for kids "tough love"?

Andy Armstrong <andy at hexten.net> on Fri May 11 15:51:13 PDT 2007

On 11 May 2007, at 23:35, Matt Jensen wrote:
> I have this feeling, rather than an argument, that it would be better*
> for a [future geek] kid to learn technology in a somewhat historical
> way, starting with ol2der tech and then moving on to newer tech. I'm
> very interested in forksters' thoughts.

I just recommended that a friend give his kids the BBC Micro[1] he found
in the loft so they can learn to program on.

Two reasons:

1. Tough love. That feeling that every generation gets when it reaches a
    certain age that youngsters need to understand how it was for us for
    their own psychic health. May be unfounded.

2. Practicality. You switch it on and within five seconds you can type
    in programs using a pretty decent dialect of Basic. You don't  
have to
    spend half a day installing an IDE. If you screw up just power cycle
    it and try again. You can't break it with your code. It's direct.

I recommended that he have them implement the animal guessing game. You
know the one:

   I'll try to guess the kind of animal you're thinking of.
   Are you thinking of a horse? (Y/N): N
   What animal are you thinking of?: cat
   Please enter a question that would distinguish a cat from a horse:
   Does it purr?
   Thanks. Let's try again.
   I'll try to guess the kind of animal you're thinking of.
   Does it purr? (Y/N): N
   Are you thinking of a horse? (Y/N): N
   What animal are you thinking of?: dog
   Please enter a question that would distinguish a dog from a horse:
   Does it have claws?
   Thanks. Let's try again.
   I'll try to guess the kind of animal you're thinking of.
   Does it purr? (Y/N): N
   Does it have claws? (Y/N): Y
   Is it a dog? (Y/N): Y
   Yay! I guessed.

It's reasonably easy to write but takes in data structures (it's a
binary tree), machine learning, data driven programming. Not to mention
literacy (they have to frame their questions well) and some useful
concepts about taxonomies.

[1] 2Mhz 6502, 32kb RAM.

-- 
Andy Armstrong, hexten.net


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