Basic

Found this picture while cleaning the other day.

So here’s the start of my amazing career as a computer programmer. You can see most of a latch-hook duck that I was working on in the foreground; that’s not so much different than making pixel art, when you think about it.

This picture is kind of freaking me out. Sure, everything is so horribly dated, with an awful 70s couch in one corner and a barely visible open-reel player in the other. And I don’t see old pictures of myself often; I didn’t think we had any at all around here.

But mostly, I’m thinking about the Basic programming book that came with the computer I’m sitting in front of. It’s sitting on top of the grey box behind me; you can see the blue spine with white and black stripes on top. Presumably, I had been reading this book around the time this picture was taken. Given the position of the television and non-avocado carpet, I actually suspect I had gone through it or had already finished it a year or three before the picture was taken. I’m not a good judge of age; I was 6 or 7 when I started and I’m not sure how old I am in the picture.

I can’t believe I read that book. No, really. I don’t mean, I think it’s incredible that I read it. I mean, I’m doubting that I did. It’s almost 150 pages long. It’s written for people completely unfamiliar with programming, but it’s not exactly written for kids. While illustrated, it’s got fewer pictures than the programming book I’m reading now.

But I did learn Basic around this time, John has no memory of teaching it to me, my parents didn’t know how to program this particular computer, and I can’t find any evidence out there of a different, more beginner-y type book that would have come with the computer. Though I do remember typing in programs verbatim from computer magazines, which itself was a good way to learn.

So most of my knowledge must have come from that book.

In many ways, that’s kind of an anachronism. I’m having trouble imagining what the modern equivalent of that would be. Computers don’t come with programming books anymore, much less languages to program in. I suppose a motivated kindergartner could do HTML & Javascript, but they’d have to go looking for instructional material. That’s really different than stumbling across a book that was bundled with the computer you’ve got, a machine that wasn’t really bought so anybody in the house could learn programming.

Though I guess I can’t really complain that modern kindergartners don’t have access to spontaneous, unexpected avenues to learn new things. That’s what web surfing is for. :)

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