Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Programming Computers

Today I spoke to some of my mom's computer students about programming at the school where she teaches. What a change from last week where I'm teaching other developers advanced programming topics at DevTeach. Today I'm encouraging 14 year olds to get into the field and demo-ing Visual Basic 2005 Express and the starter kits. We had a blast poking around the black jack starter kit.

I started the presentation by introducing myself and telling them the kind of software products we write at GiftRAP Corporation. I told them that I worked at Microsoft a couple years ago on the Visual FoxPro team in the developer division. Then I explained what a Microsoft MVP is and that I still get to contribute ideas to Microsoft even though I don't work there.

Since I wanted to encourage them to start programming, I went through some of my history as a kid learning to program. I showed them my first computer, the Atari 400, and my first programming language; it was 1980 and I was 8 years old. I got some bright eyes in a couple kids when I said that. I got some gasps when I told them it retailed for $595.00. I realize now that my parents really sacrificed to buy that computer for me; they didn't spend that type of money back then. Then I skipped to 1986, the year I was in 8th grade and showed them the Amiga 2000 HD. I think HD meant that you got a hard drive, something I didn't have on my Franklin "IBM PC clone". I wanted to draw all day when I was a young teen but I loved computers, so I begged my mom for an Amiga; the best in computer graphics at the time. And as a bonus, it came with an 8086 motherboard so I could run MS-BASIC. With 1MB RAM I was cooking with gas. Finally I showed them a picture of a few of the machines I have today including my 2 year old SmartPhone. I waved it in the air and told them it had 32 times more memory than my Amiga 2000. A couple kids laughed and a couple wanted me to cut to the chase -- let's program already!

I opened up VS and selected the card game starter kit template and we started tweaking it. I changed the card skins to a snoopy face and made Player 1 a picture of the president. They laughed, they stared, they asked questions. I'd say they seemed pretty darn interested (for teenagers). I pointed them to a VS Express Edition game programming site that looked pretty fun. I think I proved to them that programming is not only a scientific process but also a creative one. Mom said to save the presentation and she wants me back earlier in the year next year. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to do this with the kids today, it's almost harder to do these types of lessons than the professional sessions I do. It's cool, I think some things I was saying to them sunk in and hopefully will make a tiny impression on their future career choices. It was a very rewarding talk for me.

Here's the links I gave them. This is VB Express free edition:
These are the starter kits:
Here's the sweepstakes and more games:
Links to beginer videos and learning links:
Here's the community forum:

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