Ok, I’m probably older than you. Let’s just start there. If in the tradition of being young you want to toss out any stories I provide as lacking practical advice, then just stop reading now. That said, we’ll move on…

TimexSinclair1000When I was eight, my fourth grade teacher offered a computer club to his students as an after-school program. He had two computers in the back, both Timex Sinclair 1000’s. These were the kind of computers that had built-in BASIC and loaded saved programs (when this worked at all) from a cassette tape. That Christmas, my parents bought me a TS1000 of my own, and I’ve been hooked on coding ever since.

I distinctly remember later, copying code from a magazine into my Commodore 64. Hour upon hour of copying seemingly digits, and my cooperative parents always gently suggesting that I should learn how to type - since I made them dictate the numbers. My friends who also had computers were very much into playing commercial games, whereas I was hooked not just on understanding the code from the magazines, but on writing my own.

Write Your Own Adventure ProgramsI loved (and still do!) Infocom games, and when my family visited the Computer Museum in Boston (no longer there), I bought a book called “Write Your Own Adventure Programs” explaining how to write those kinds of games from scratch. Sadly, I had already progressed well beyond the level of the book in writing my own games, because I was driven to create better games of my own.

My mom used to take me grocery shopping with her, during which we’d stop in the small book and magazine section. There, they sold a handful of new Choose Your Own Adventure books most weeks. But they also sold a series of books called the Byte Brothers. Byte Brothers booksIn each book there were several short stories, each a mystery “requiring” (to use the term loosely) the writing of a short program to determine the solution.

I admit, these stories were pretty light on the plot. But there was a challenge in each to write a program that fulfilled the needs of the puzzle.

So where's all this headed?

In college I majored in Secondary Education. One of my first classes described different ways people learn. You can learn by someone telling you how to do something, by seeing someone do something, or by doing it yourself, in increasing order of retention.