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Re: Small time coding [Was: Re: About Visual Basic [Was: Industryversus academia]]

> Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 16:13:42 -0500
> From: Daniel Weinreb <DLWeinreb@attbi.com>
> Michael Vanier wrote:
> > The notion of "end-user
> >programming" is talked about a lot in educational circles.  The implication
> >is that such coding can be done by "mere mortals" and not "coding gods",
> >which implies (but rarely states outright) that it requires neither a deep
> >knowledge of algorithms or of program design (you know, those things that
> >make programming *actually interesting* ;-)). 
> >
> I think most of the people programming in VB don't want programming to 
> be "really interesting"
> any more than I want  my toaster to be "really interesting".  I want my 
> toaster to get the job
> done and I do not want to hear about exciting new tungesten alloys in 
> the heating wires nor
> do I want to subscribe to Toaster Today magazine.

But your toaster is a closed, black box.  If your toaster toasts at 1/10
the speed at which toaster Foo toasts, you simply buy toaster Foo (if you
can afford it) and that's all.  A better analogy would be to toaster
engineers who are trying to build state-of-the-art toasters.  Such people
would be better off if they subscribed to Toaster Today magazine.  

Of course, I find it hard to imagine intense public demand that everyone be
able to design and implement a toaster, but that's the defining feature of
programming: it's an activity that is a prerequisite for a huge number of
other technical and business activities, much like reading, writing or
arithmetic.  But it's much harder than those activities for the average
person.  Also, those activities are usually "good enough" once a minimal
level of competence is reached; programming is more like learning to debate
correctly (critical thinking is required, and there is no short cut).

Maybe we need to start teaching programming in grade 1, like reading.