About last night

Posted on Wed 07 October 2009 in geek

Last night's Electric Dreams moved into the far more memorable territory of the 80's. While I slowly wound Fliss up with statements like "we had one of those.. and those! ... " I had a flood of nostalgia for birth of the home computer. I was surprised the family chose the BBC Model B over the more games orientated ZX Spectrum which was the first real computer games platform in our house. However what was heartening was to see the kids (Dad and Son anyway, the gender gap was very evident) breaking out the manual and playing with the inbuilt BASIC interpreter to write some simple programs. I think it's something we've lost since the advent of the PC age, new computers don't come with anything like a built in interpreter for budding programmers to play with. While computers are far more powerful than the micros of the 80's (hell, my phone is more powerful than anything I owned back then) the opportunities to tinker have disappeared.

According to the program the thought was that everyone in the future would need to learn to program to get on in the digital age. I still think it's true although a lot of people write programs without realising they are doing so. What is a spreadsheet other than a structured numerical recipe?

However I can't predict a point where we won't require people who understand what a computer is and how it works under the hood. My question is where these people will come from? Will the first time the engineers of tomorrow come across concepts like registers, interpreters and compilers be when they start their Computer Science GCSE's? Am I being overly nostalgic for my primary school after hours computer club when we used to lug a random assortment of hardware to school and compare capabilities with our peers?

I'm obviously further along the old curmudgeon path than I realised....