Yes, it can be said that I learned to program at the community college – at least my first computer classroom experience that is. It was one of those enrichment-style classes that colleges at the time were offering to help make the most of their expensive computer labs – keep them going 24/7/365 if possible. They invited 6-12 graders who were interested in learning computer programming to come to the classes. These were green-screen terminals using a book from Radio Shack. We couldn’t save any work each session – typed it in every time, and were considered lucky a few times to work on the machine that could output to a green-bar dot-matrix printer.

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I wanted a computer really badly but they were very expensive ($1200 or so in 1979 money – which is probably close to $4000 now). My parents offered to let me take this course to see how well I fared. I ended up taking the exact same class twice just to get the computer time in the lab. My dad was (is) a professor at a local college and was able to bring home an Apple ][ computer over the summer. He got to learn VisiCalc, I got to program on my own time. When the Apple ][+ came out we were able to get it at about half price through the school. I was in the third year of my paper route which helped buy all the extras (e.g. cables, media, game controllers, etc.)

So what did I learn here?

  1. I really like to learn and discover things – solving puzzles and figuring out how things work.
  2. People will misspell my name for the rest of my life – A B E R N E T H Y (see Wikipedia if you don’t believe me – several times).  I don’t know where the AbernAthy people came from.  Even Microsoft Word wants me to change the spelling of my name.  Luckily the misspellings (as Albernethy above) have never been a problem cashing checks, so at least that is something.
  3. Kids can learn to program at an early age – sure they might not be able to spell or comprehend polymorphism, but basic variables, loops and structures are pretty easy to pick up and have some fun with.
  4. My parents were really supportive of my interests – this always helped, even when they didn’t understand what I was talking about, they encouraged me.
  5. People learn differently – I really don’t like classroom experiences (never have).  I’d much rather learn on my own or with a small group of people – at my own pace, to my own depth, etc.  Other people really enjoy a structured classroom experience.  We have to make it so all kinds of people can learn.