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.
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?
- I really like to learn and discover things – solving puzzles and figuring out how things work.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.