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Re: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?

by davido (Archbishop)
on Oct 05, 2013 at 16:35 UTC ( #1057047=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Where does the new generation of programmers begin?

There have been some excellent comments, and one point taken is that everyone else is right; the barrier to entry into programming both as a hobby and as a profession is lower in 2013 than in 1983. Everyone has a computer, anyone can do a little research online, anyone can download free compilers/interpreters/IDEs, etc. I, too, remember paying $300 for Borland C++ 2.0, $100 for a Pascal compiler, $39 for "Extended BASIC", etc. I never really considered the monetary aspect, but it certainly is relevant too.

I think that what can be said is that a much higher percentage of individuals with TRS-80's, TI99/4A's, Commodore 64, Vic20, IBM-PC original, Apple 2, and other 1980-1983 computers dove into programming, at least as a hobby, than owners of computers nowadays. And that's a no-brainer; In 1983 IBM may have advertised with Charlie Chaplin that there were 10,000 software packages available. But early adopters were often people who took an interest in programming. Now there are more programmers than ever. But of the 700 million Facebook users, a miniscule percentage are also programmers. There is not a higher barrier to entry, but there are more paths that a computer user might take, programming being only one of them. And computers have proliferated society to the point that programming has become one of the less common usages of the technology.

Still, I find it hard to understand how someone shows up on his first day of class at a university or community college, taking his first ever programming class, with virtually no previous experience programming. It's as though CS is attracts some people due to its applicability to the job market rather than for the love of programming. I think we see that a lot with professions such as nursing, law, "business"... it's just strange to me to see it happening with CS.

One person mentioned that those who love it and have a mind for it will become programmers. Clearly not everyone loves it, and clearly not everyone has the aptitude for it. I tend to think that the love for it, and the aptitude for it sort of go hand in hand, usually; one is not likely to love something he can't do. That would be quite frustrating. On the other hand, a lot of people end up doing things they don't love. I think it would be awful being stuck in programming for someone who doesn't enjoy it. It's one of those things that if you love it you can't get enough, and if you don't, you would have to be crazy to do it. ;)


Dave


Comment on Re: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?
Re^2: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?
by talexb (Canon) on Oct 05, 2013 at 19:16 UTC
      Still, I find it hard to understand how someone shows up on his first day of class at a university or community college, taking his first ever programming class, with virtually no previous experience programming. It's as though CS is attracts some people due to its applicability to the job market rather than for the love of programming. I think we see that a lot with professions such as nursing, law, "business"..

    I'm not so sure that someone going into 1L or first-year nursing knows much about their field, unless they've been doing a ton of subject matter reading. Those students get into their programs because their aptitude has suggested they'll do well in that field. As far as that goes, I would suggest that it's way easier for someone to arrive at first-year CS already intimately familiar with database arcana, all kinds of networking information, and deep knowledge of one or more languages. They'd be the ones fiddling over cleaning up their program output and making the source code squeaky clean instead of walking that cute blue-eyed girl home (guilty!).

    I would say that the barrier's a little higher for those on Windows-based systems, because the simplest 'Hello, World!' program means creating a window and writing text into it. However, I haven't used an VB or C++ IDEs -- perhaps writing something like that's trivial -- but getting that done in a command line environment like the one that Linux provides is way easier.

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    Thanks PJ. We owe you so much. Groklaw -- RIP -- 2003 to 2013.

      In the Visual Studio (VB, C++,etc) IDE the hardest part is figuring out how to use it the first time. The simplest program in a Windows environment is still a "console" application, but to create one you need to start a project with some settings that are different from the defaults. I can't remember them offhand, but if I booted to Windows and fired up VS I'm sure I could walk through them again.

      Once someone finally gets a project set up that can do console apps, "Hello World" in C++ is pretty much the same under VS as anywhere else, though a common mistake is to not notice the console pop up with output, and disappear in the blink of an eye.

      If you don't blink, you'll see it. Or compile and run it in debug mode so the console stays open, or just get out of the IDE and run it from a console window.

      Of course doing that as a "windows" app (native MFC, or managed/.NET) is much, much more intimidating. :)


      Dave

Re^2: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?
by Laurent_R (Vicar) on Oct 05, 2013 at 19:35 UTC

    I definitely agree with everything you said, Dave, in this last post. I graduated with an MS in CS 18 years ago (at an age of more than 35) and ever since, in my professional IT career, I have seen so many young fresh IT people just out of college and/or university really hating programming that I also wonder how this is possible. Admittedly, CS jobs are not only about programming, but programming should still be a common knowledge of anyone embracing an IT career, and I wonder how it is possible that so many people get into that profession without any inclination for programming. I find this puzzling.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to help another team of my company. A group of about 20 persons in charge of producing reference data for a very large business application. Most of them (perhaps 60 to 70%) with IT background, the others with a business studies background. They needed some programs to compare data between different systems. They did not have one single person able to develop the comparison programs, something quite simple that I developed in two Perl programs, one with about 200 lines of code and the other with less than 70 lines of code.

    As far as I am concerned, I am really happy that I was able about 3 years ago to find a job where most of my work is software development, this is really what I like to do (and I also do it as a hobby, for that matter). When I am developing a Perl program at work, I have the feeling that this is no real work, that I get paid for doing my favorite hobby.

    A final point though. My son will be completing this year his MS in CS. He loves programming and started writing some programs when he was about 12 and has been programming in various languages ever since. I surely helped him a bit to debug his programs when he was young, but I certainly did not push him to chose this profession, he decided by himself what he wanted to do. This was just to say that you can still find today people who embrace this activity because they like programming. This is probably obvious, but I just wanted to report a case that I know first hand.

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