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I suppose I was about 10 when we got a TRS-80 (with chicklet keyboard and a casette recorder for storage). It was nice to have for what little word processing it could do and the games were passable.
The big thing for me was that the command line was a built-in BASIC interpreter. The manual was easy and there were only a couple dozen commands. Me, with time on my hands, started to see if I could use all the commands and what they could do. Wrote some simple things to print to the screen and do minor calculations like the good old biorythms.
It was when I found the commands that changed the video mode and drawing tools along with peek and poke that I really got interested in building a crude drawing program. Even took input from the pot-joystick. Biggest problem was printing and I poured over the manual for the Radio Shack printer to get the aspect ratio stuff just right.
I don't think I took a programming course until a couple of years later. There is something about trial and error that really makes you focus on the details of why something doesn't work and what you can do to change it. That was very much demonstrated with the PBJ and the professor story that brian_d_foy wrote. Having a 9 year old, I don't see much to do in 20 minutes though. Everything I can think of would take more time to get the point across. It gets even worse when there is a group of more than two kids of that age group.
It is amazing what a kid can do with too much time on his hands. I just wish my boys would put half the effort into learning things that me and my friends did when we were their age. Too many things are already built to a technological point that they can't see the bricks that put it together.
In reply to Re: How to introduce 8 year olds to (Perl) programming?