20 GOTO 10

Just had a chat with friends about early computing, and reminded them of these classic lines of code:

20 GOTO 10

The first time I typed this was probably on my Dragon 32, but the same BASIC code would work on most home computers of the time. If my parents weren’t around, the code would be modified slightly and would result in a screen filled with profanity.

People with programming skills are in demand and there are many well-paid jobs available (some freelance programmers can earn £1000 a day). Why is there a shortage of young adults with the skills required? Is it because kids simply don’t have the opportunity to try things out like the simple “2-liner” above these days?

Unless you specifically download an IDE or programming compiler, most PCs or Macs don’t offer a code interface (I realise you can use bash or shell scripts if you know how, but they are hardly pushed to the novice user).

Those early home computers like the Dragon, Spectrum and C64 would all start up with the cursor ready to accept your attempts at writing code.  You couldn’t help but learn something.

Now that the web-browser is becoming more powerful, there are quite a few online development tools. The best I have seen so far is Code Academy. It allows you to code within the browser window, and immediately see your program running. They have lessons for HTML5, Javascript, JQuery, Ruby, PHP and Python – and the way they guide you through the process means anyone with a connection to the net can learn simple but effective programming.

Sites to try your hand at software development include:

Even with all these free tools, I’m not sure there is really anything out there that is as easy for kids to get to grips with as BASIC, running in a terminal, as soon as you switch your computer on!