Sunday, July 26, 2009

Programmer.Grrl: The Prequel

As I mentioned before, back in high school, I was pre-med. The interesting thing is, when I was about 15, I actually did take a programming class and really enjoyed it. It was BASIC on Apple IIe computers. I remember one of the projects being to code a dice game. What could be more fun that that? Not just playing a computer game—but creating one?

It didn't feel like school, it felt like play. And because it felt like play, and because I didn't know that programming was a real profession, when it came time to sign up for the next semester of classes, I decided I didn't have space in my schedule for Programming II. I needed to take more biology or chemistry or some such thing.

The problem was, where and when I grew up, in a small town out in the country and before the Internet, I didn't have any concept that what I'd done in the programming class was at all useful. I didn't make any connection between it and the software my family bought for our own PC clone—things like WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.

I don't know that it's true, but I hope so, that the Internet has opened childrens' horizons, so that when they think about what they want to be when they grow up, they understand there is more available than the professions they see in their everyday lives. Because when I think about that programming class I took when I was 15, I always wonder what a better programmer I might be if I'd kept with it from way back then.

It also makes me think more about how people end up as programmers in general. One of the original joys of programming when I was 15 was that I was making something. Most of my life, especially my school life, didn't produce anything remotely tangible or useful. It was about completing assignments or studying for tests, where once the assignment was done or the test taken, it was over, and the graded paper or test wasn't useful in any way.

But programming was different. You could tinker around and write some code and have something useful when you were done. Making something—something that other people might even really like—it's a rush. I'm sure there are other programmers out there who got interested in programming because of that. And for us, that's one of the frustrations with Big Design Up Front or with other processes where it's difficult to link end-user value back to our own work. Even if the process works for the organization, it can be tough for the individual.

No comments:

Post a Comment