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    At that time, when you turned on your computer, you immediately had programming language available. Even in 90’s, there was QBasic installed on almost all PCs. Interpreter and editor in one, so it was very easy to enter the world of programming. Kids could learn it themselves with cheap books and magazines with lot of BASIC program listings. And I think the most important thing - kids were curious about computers. I can see that today, the role of BASIC is taken by Minecraft. I wouldn’t underestimate it as a trigger for a new generation of engineers and developers. Add more physics and more logic into it and it will be excellent playground like BASIC was in 80s.

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      Now we have the raspberry pi, arduino, python, scratch and so many other ways kids can get started.

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        Right, but at the beginning you have to spend a lot of time more to show kid how to setup everything properly. I admire that it itself is fun, but in 80’s you just turned computer on with one switch and environment was literally READY :)

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          I think the problem is that back then there was much less competition for kids attention. The biggest draw was TV. TV – that played certain shows on a particular schedule, with lots of re-runs. If there was nothing on, but you had a computer nearby, you could escape and unleash your creativity there.

          Today – there’s perpetual phones/tablets/computers and mega-society level connectivity. There’s no time during which they can’t find out what their friends are up to.

          Even for me – to immerse myself in a computer, exploring programming – it’s harder to do than it was ten years ago.

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            I admire that it itself is fun, but in 80’s you just turned computer on with one switch and environment was literally READY :)

            We must be using some fairly narrow definition of “the ‘80s”, because this is a seriously rose-tinted description of learning to program at the time. By the late 80’s, with the rise of the Mac and Windows, the only way to learn to program involved buying a commercial compiler.

            I had to beg for a copy of “Just Enough Pascal” in 1988, which came with a floppy containing a copy of Think’s Lightspeed Pascal compiler, and retailed for the equivalent of $155.

            Kids these days have it comparatively easy – all the tools are free.

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              Windows still shipped with QBasic well into the 90s, and Macs shipped with HyperCard. It wasn’t quite one-click hacking, but it was still far more accessible than today.

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              Just open the web-tools in your browser, you’ll have an already configured javascript development environment.

              I entirely agree with you on

              And I think the most important thing - kids were curious about computers.

              You don’t need to understand how a computer program is made to use it anymore; which is not necessary something bad.

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                That’s still not the same. kred is saying it was first thing you see with you immediately able to use it. It was also a simple language designed to be easy to learn. Whereas, you have to go out of your way to get to JS development environment on top of learning complex language and concepts. More complexity. More friction. Less uptake.

                The other issue that’s not addressed enough in these write-ups is that modern platforms have tons of games that treat people as consumers with psychological techniques to keep them addicted. They also build boxes around their mind where they can feel like they’re creating stuff without learning much in useful, reusable skill versus prior generation’s toys. Kids can get the consumer and creator high without doing real creation. So, now they have to ignore that to do the high-friction stuff above to get to the basics of creating that existed for old generation. Most won’t want to do it because it’s not as fun as their apps and games.

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                  There is no shortage of programmers now. We are not facing any issues with not enough kids learning programming.

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                    I didnt say there was a shortage of programmers. I said most kids were learning computers in a way that trained them to be consumers vs creators. You’d have to compare what people do in consumer platforms versus things like Scratch to get an idea of what we’re missing out on.

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              All of those require a lot more setup than older machines where you flipped a switch and got dropped into a dev environment.

              The Arduino is useless if you don’t have a project, a computer already configured for development, and electronics breadboarding to talk to it. The Raspberry pi is a weird little circuit board that, until you dismantle your existing computer and hook everything up, can’t do anything–and when you do get it hooked up, you’re greeted with Linux. Python is large and hard to put images to on the screen or make noises with in a few lines of code.

              Scratch is maybe the closest, but it still has the “what programmers doing education think is simple” problem instead of the “simple tools for programming in a barebones environment that learners can manage”.

              The field of programming education is broken in this way. It’s a systemic worldview problem.

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                Those aren’t even close in terms of ease of use.

                My elementary school circa 1988 had a lab full of these Apple IIe systems, and my recollection (I was about 6 years old at the time, so I may be misremembering) is that by default they booted into a BASIC REPL.

                Raspberry Pis and Arduinos are fun, but they’re a lot more complex and difficult to work with.

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                I don’t think kids are less curious today, but it’s important to notice that back then, making a really polished program that felt professional only needed a small amount of comparatively simple work - things like prompting for all your inputs explicitly rather than hard-coding them, and making sure your colored backgrounds were redrawn properly after editing.

                To make a polished GUI app today is prohibitive in terms of time expenditure and diversity of knowledge needed. The web is a little better, but not by much. So beginners are often left with a feeling that their work is inadequate and not worth sharing. The ones who decide to be okay with that and talk about what they’ve done anyway show remarkable courage - and they’re pretty rare.

                Also, of course, back then there was no choice of which of the many available on-ramps to start with. You learned the language that came with your computer, and if you got good enough maybe you learned assembly or asked your parents to save up and buy you a compiler. Today, as you say, things like Minecraft are among the options. As common starting points I’d also like to mention Node and PHP, both ecosystems which owe a lot of their popularity to their efforts to reduce the breadth of knowledge needed to build end-to-end systems.

                But in addition to being good starting points, those ecosystems have something else in common - there are lots of people who viscerally hate them and aren’t shy about saying so. A child just starting out is going to be highly intimidated by that, and feel that they have no way to navigate whether the technical considerations the adults are yelling about are really that important or not. In a past life, I taught middle-school, and it gave me an opportunity to watch young people being pushed away by cultural factors despite their determination to learn. It was really disheartening.

                Navigating the complicated choices of where to start learning is really challenging, no matter what age you are. But for children, it’s often impossible, or too frightening to try.

                I agree with what I took to be your main point, that if those of us who learned young care about helping the next generation to follow in our footsteps, we should meet them where they are and make sure to build playgrounds that they can enjoy with or without a technical understanding. But my real prediction is that the cultural factors are going to continue to be a blocker, and programming is unlikely to again be a thing that children have widespread mastery of in the way that it was in the 80s. It’s really very saddening.

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                Suggest education tag.

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                  my experience when I first got into computers around 1986-1992 really supports this, though possibly for a different reason. I got to play with a IIe after school and eventually a 386 at a family member’s work. while they all had a few apps on hand, those were not particularly interesting. but they all had a BASIC disc sitting around, and the promise of “oh, that lets you control the computer” lit my Trek-influenced brain on fire. I probably wrote a hundred variations of infinite loops that printed patterned garbage to screen that first two years, but they were novel and weird and mine to control. in this era of an app for everything, the most I could hope for a newcomer to want is to maybe tweak and alter an app they like. this has been how I have got at least three people into coding for the first time - we go on f-droid, find an app they like, and I ask what they might change.

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                    This is a very current issue. Even I.T. jobs will start to decline soon due to ML and here we are still trying to convince students and parents to focus on I.T. when this was important 30 years ago.

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                      I’ve been reading this sentiment quite often now, and it puzzles me. Even human level AI is going to create human level bugs. The problem with software has rarely been the implementation, but vague and shifting requirments.