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

I need to preface this by saying that I just turned 60 yesterday and got my first (official) job in 1973 as a field service tech working on equipment that used TTL. (Some of those 5v power supplies could double as arc welders.) I started programming in machine and assembly as the equipment I worked moved to micro-processors and have never looked back.

That said, I have to disagree somewhat with this statement by davido: "Nowadays the barrier to entry in programming is higher, I think, than it used to be."

My reason for doing so is that one can get a *nix box up and running for a relatively low cost, probably less than $150 or even lower. Such a box has a full-blown development environment that I would have killed for back in the day when I had to wire-wrap my first 8080 board.

Given the huge amount of information available for free today on the 'Net (remember how expensive it was to build a decent library?) I would argue that it is easier than ever before to learn how to program in any language one desires. Naturally, this only underscores the point that user groups (especially those for C and Perl) continue to play a vital role for those who wish to learn, either on their own or in a formal setting.

The short, simple answer to the OP question of where does one begin is the same as it was back then: Get your hands on a machine, read and play! (Then lie through your teeth to get that first gig and learn quickly enough to do the job that no one will care that you did so.)

On time, cheap, compliant with final specs. Pick two.
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Re^2: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?
by gloryhack (Deacon) on Oct 05, 2013 at 08:55 UTC
    Yes, that. (Greetings, old man, from a pup. I'll be 52 in a few weeks.) The barrier to entry has never been lower than it is now. It'll probably be lower next month. That's not necessarily a good thing.

    The big barrier, the one no one's yet solved, is that to be a programmer you must think like a programmer even before your first introduction to computers. Not only that, you have to have a passion for it, if you want to be really good or even great. That's a relatively rare combination of traits. One of the weakest programmers I've ever known had an MS in CS and a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Second to that guy was another with an MS and (then) 20+ years of experience. On the other hand, one of the finest programmers I've ever known was an autodidact with a sharp mind and great passion. I've encountered many great programmers over the course of my career, and a much greater number of weak or even completely unsuitable code monkeys.

    A person with a programmer's mind and a passion for it is going to become a programmer (and a very good or even great one) at just about any cost. One who doesn't have a programmer's mind is never going to become a programmer, and one with the mind for it but no passion is going to become mediocre at the very best. The "average user" will never become a programmer. Ever. Though PHP might try to convince them otherwise...

    The problem isn't technical barriers to entry, as they're steadily decreasing. Perl is easier to grok than C, which is easier than assembly, which is easier than machine, which is easier than brainfuck. The problem is that overall we can generate X% of the population as really good or great programmers, while the need is some multiple of X. We gotta figure out how to make smarter and more passionate humans, and that's a very tough nut to crack. And not in our bailiwick.