[Chicago-talk] Teaching kids perl

Sean Blanton sean at blanton.com
Tue Sep 13 19:20:08 PDT 2016

Richard, I'll find the code - it's on the wife's Mac.

Games were also a primary incentive for me to learn to code. My Dad, for
some unknown reason, decided not to be cheap as usual, but to splurge and
get an Apple II+ when all the other kids were getting Comodore 64's.

I typed in the Apple BASIC games from magazines, but they always had some
sprites or sounds that required you to enter hex into the 'monitor'.
<learned hex>. Then somehow, probably the games had some assembly code, I
learned 6502 assembly language. I've never reached those heights of
intelligence since, I'm pretty sure.

The love of games continued to push me to learn C, because the Mac game
books were in C, but early mac OS graphics and memcopy routines were in
PASCAL, so I learned to call PASCAL libraries from C. So I learned
libraries and interfaces and differences between C and Pascal strings.

(Coincidentally my first part time job in college was working in climate
research and coding in C, but calling FORTRAN libs from C. Hmmm, like
calling PASCAL libs from C but different, etc. etc.)

Just a story, but it's great to recall how we learned coding when
considering how to teach our kids.

Great thread!


Sean Blanton
sean at blanton.com

On Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 3:04 PM, Alan Mead <amead2 at alanmead.org> wrote:

> Richard,
> FWIW, I second Andy's suggestion that you start with a project that the
> kids want to do. I think that's more important than the language,
> although the argument for Perl (or Python etc.) is the same for BASIC;
> you avoid the need to teach about compilers, etc. I think having
> 10-year-olds debug linking errors or inheritance issues probably
> complicates trying to learn to code.
> I learned to program because I wanted to play games and the only
> software I had was the BASIC interpreter built into the OS.  In
> contrast, my kids never had much interest in trying to write games
> because they have endless software entertainment options (all far better
> than they were likely to produce).  One of them showed an interest in
> scripting to make cool things happen in Never Winter Nights. My students
> who have learned to program were always motivated by a specific project.
> I also second Andy's suggestion that web-based projects are a good fit
> for Perl and attractive to kids. I may yet hook my daughter with this
> kind of project.
> Another area would be phone/tablet apps. I did a very quick google
> search and I don't know how possible it is to use Perl to make apps.
> This site, for example, looks dormant:
> https://code.google.com/archive/p/perl-android-apk/ .
> Pi projects might also be a good "hook." Most of the published projects
> you'll find don't use Perl, but it is present by default on "Raspbian."
> A lot of the "Saturday afternoon 'Learn to code!' classes at the civic
> center" use something like Tynker.com. Or Scratch. I'm not very familiar
> and certainly visual coding is mainstream for applications, but in
> teaching statistics, I notice that my students are scared of syntax
> (they're fine so long as something can be accomplished using wizards and
> dialogs).  I don't think you're "really" learning to code unless at some
> point you have to fire up emacs/vi or the equivalent.
> -Alan
> --
> Alan D. Mead, Ph.D.
> President, Talent Algorithms Inc.
> science + technology = better workers
> +815.588.3846 (Office)
> +267.334.4143 (Mobile)
> http://www.alanmead.org
> I've... seen things you people wouldn't believe...
> functions on fire in a copy of Orion.
> I watched C-Sharp glitter in the dark near a programmable gate.
> All those moments will be lost in time, like Ruby... on... Rails... Time
> for Pi.
>           --"The Register" user Alister, applying the famous
>             "Blade Runner" speech to software development
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