Alton Central School (ACS), To Their Credit, And Amazingly, Taking Part In ‘Code Day’ To Expose Kids To The JOYS Of Programming.
.by Anura Guruge
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Yes, they had sent flyers home.
But, I only really heard about it last Tuesday at the ACS ‘junior school’ concert when the Principal spoke about it twice (one in each ‘half’). Since I had NOT read the flyer and I could only go by what the Principal was saying I had NO IDEA what this was all about. The Principal spoke MAINLY about all the FREE food that will be available and the local restaurants that are kindly donating that food. I am glad. But, I wished she had STRESSED, did a little jig, and explained that this was an initiative to expose kids to the unmitigated JOYS of programming. Yes, I appreciate, that the Principal, the Superintendent, William (Bill) Lander and the School Board are extremely ‘oral‘ — but a little bit of elucidation about the ‘code‘ aspect of the evening as opposed to the ‘gastronomic‘ would have been cool.
That ACS is taking part in ‘Code Day‘ is cool.
Not sure whether the kids will get a full, uninterrupted HOUR to write some code that evening — but this is a good start. I just hope the kids aren’t distracted by the food. Hopefully, and this is a BIG hope, some of the teachers will try and continue this program sans the free food. But, to be fair, Devanee was taught MIT’s SCRATCH ‘animated programming’ a couple of years ago at ACS. So, that was good.
See below, after the images as to why I am so gung ho about kids getting exposed to the JOYS of programming.
I got a chance, in 1969, yes 1969, to take weekly 90 minute Computer Programming classes in school, viz. Mill Hill School in North London (also attended by Denis Thatcher and where James Murray, the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary once taught).
It was every Thursday and the classes were sponsored by the British International Computers Limited (ICL). They provided each of us with a BIG light green binder about computers and programming. I had yet to see a computer! But, computer programming and I clicked. Duck to the water. Natural affinity.
In those days there were no PCs. We didn’t have any terminals at the school. We wrote our programs on coding sheets; a practice that I continued to use, off and on, even when I worked for IBM, 8 years later — though by the time I was at IBM, and writing microcode, for the 3270 display system, I was classed as a programmer who wrote his code in ink (which I often did do) as opposed to pencil (because I was sure of what I was coding).
Our coding sheets were sent by mail (which is always overnight in the U.K.) to ICL. They punched it onto paper tape and ran it. The next Thursday we would get back our original coding sheets, the paper tape and the computer output. If you made a mistake you program would not have done what you wanted. But, it took a week to find out.
The rest is history. I went to Swansea College, University of Wales, to ‘study’ a 3-year B. Sc. course in Computer Technology. I, for the first time in my life, had unlimited access to computer resources. I programmed like I was possessed (in between near non-stop fornication). I had a great 3 years at Swansea. By my 2nd year at Swansea Ph. D. students were coming to me for help with their programs! One of my lecturers told IBM about me. IBM hired me during my 2nd year, after getting me to sit three IQ tests (as is permissible in the U.K., one of them at 10 pm at night) and told me that I can start work whenever I wanted — with or without a degree. Since I was having so much fun and really didn’t want to work — I hung around Swansea for another year and did get my 1st degree. Yes, I also do have a M. Sc. in Computer Science from the University of London — paid for by IBM.
Programming has been good for me, though in reality I didn’t write that much code professionally! I was considered ‘too good’ to just write code! A sign of the time. IBM and others wanted me to do more ‘executive’ tasks or do much more technical tasks such as Systems Programming or crafting microcode. I was IBM youngest ‘Planner’ — essentially a Product Manager. But, I wrote code in my ‘spare’ time — a program that I wrote as such in my spare time, which I called ‘NDSIO’, ‘New Display System Input/Output‘, where the ‘NDS’ was the now legendary 3270 display system, became a primary testing tool within IBM in the U.K., U.S. and Germany.
So, I am all in favor of kids being taught to program early.