I started coding on a Vic-20 they had just gotten in at my Elementary school.
I stayed after school and played with it. I remember it being in a small room, a teacher’s prep room. The letters were big and blocky, the colours bright but limited. There were programs to teach me how to spell, how to do math, even tell a little story.
I’ve never stopped loving to code.
I don’t do as much of it as I used to — ironically, doing research in computer science often means that coding for the love of it is secondary to frustratingly long hours debugging some theory. I’m going to start coding again soon — I can feel that itch.
It’s a creative itch, an urge to turn thoughts into action, to refine them and structure them, to build castles in my mind that the computer turns into screens and activity.
I loved puzzles as a kid, figuring out how things are put together, seeing the structures and the patterns and the rhythms. Once I discovered computers, I believe I had found the ultimate puzzle: the one that I could reconfigure myself, that I could create as well as figure out.
And then I noticed that in everything else, too: the fact that you can transform the world by finding ways to manipulate it, attach one thing to another and to another. Rube Goldberg machines are expressions of the art of code, although expressed as much for the whimsy of design as for the end product.
Good code is beautiful, like the internals of a fine mechanical watch, the layout, structure and detail of a fine painting, like the complexities of a well-made meal.
It’s one of the fundamentals, I agree: reading, writing, arithmetic — and coding. Just like the others, you don’t need to be an expert to have an entire world of possibilities open up to you. You don’t have to make a living at writing to recognize the importance of a good base of writing skill. You don’t have to be a professional programmer to gain enormous benefit from knowing the basics of coding.
I remember a friend of mine marvelling once when I took a plain text document, ran in through a few lines of code, and then re-imported it back into the document I was editing, all now perfectly sorted and formatted. To me, it was a natural use of a tool; to her, it was pretty amazing.
And when I thought it about afterward, I agreed: it was pretty amazing. And relatively simple.
And demonstrated how even a little bit of coding skill goes a long way.