When I was young, personal computers were not very common, but they still managed to pique my curiosity. My uncle, who had noticed my new interest, invited me to spend a few evenings at his office to allow me to experiment with one of his machines. My mission was simple: entering sports data in one of the computers. So I spent a few nights capturing data with the only reward of sitting in front of this machine and believing I was being useful to my uncle. Quickly, I asked myself how I could create something new instead of being a simple user.
Not having access to the Internet (there was no public Internet provider in Quebec at the time), I did what we did back then when looking for information: I went to the library. There I found a very interesting Math book… At the end of each chapter, there was a program written in Basic that enabled the reader to apply the new mathematical concepts he had learned. When the code was completed, the user only had to enter the data and the program displayed the results of the calculations. It was genius! Once the programs were written, I had a specialized calculator for my mathematical problems.
Of course, it required a computer. My parents were not very wealthy, but still made the effort of buying me an Osbourne 1 at an auction in my school. A funny machine, precursor to the laptop computer. The keyboard could be closed and there was a handle on the other side. Yes, this thing transformed into a big 25 pounds suitcase!
So I ripped my eyes off typing programs on this 5-inch screen that could only support about 52 by 24 characters in a yellow-green shade and a terrible resolution.
At first, I was only typing the code in my Math book without understanding. After, I started making small changes to see their effect. Later on, I was finally writing my own programs, and even games, on this computer that now looks like it’s out of a black and white movie.
Nearly thirty years later, I still write programs just for the fun of doing it, simply because I had an idea and I would like to see it work. And I have come to question myself about succession. Young people are flooded with technology, toddlers already know how to use a tablet, a cell phone, the Wi-Fi. They are born super-users. But do they know how to create?
From my point of view, not knowing how to code is like not knowing how to write, but on the technological level. So we have a whole generation of technological illiterates. Of course, when they are older, they will learn in college if they have an interest. But it seems to me that it’s very late to teach them the language of computers.
More and more countries choose to offer programming classes in public schools, sometimes even starting with elementary grades. Unfortunately, here in Canada we don’t have any program of that type for our kids that would help them become creators and use the power of computers as they please.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands and offer programming classes to interested youths. Instead of playing games, they can discover how to create them. Instead of waiting for the next cool app, they’ll be able to develop it themselves. Instead of trying to learn alone, they’ll be able to benefit from other people’s experiences and share with a group. The project is called KodeAcademie.com and we want to recruit tomorrow’s programmers!
We will have them carry out motivating projects, attended by professionals able to guide them through this adventure. Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has learned Basic programming just before getting into High School? His father had also paid for a private teacher. I wonder if he would be worth 63 billion dollars had he not have access to these programming classes…