any good packages that teach basic programming skills?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by andrew markworthy, Apr 27, 2004.

  1. andrew markworthy

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    Please can anyone offer advice on the following?

    I'm utterly clueless about the workings of a computer beyond a really elementary level. However, my son (aged 10, but very very good at maths) wants to start learning how to programme computers. Are there any packages you could recommend to get him started? Both his machine and mine use XP, and he can very easily find his way round it.
     
  2. Dan Mercier

    Dan Mercier Stunt Coordinator

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    I believe a learn to program book from amazon will be a good choice.

    The only problem is you will need to decide which Programming language your son would like to learn?

    What types of things would he like to do?
    Program simple games? Are you willing to spend money on
    more than just a book?

    The best way to learn windows development is using Microsoft
    Visual Studio for .NET (about $1200 bucks for this software)

    You can still program games and stuff that will run in winXp
    using other languages like Java, Ruby, Perl ....

    I would recommend Java or C# as being good languages to learn that will be around a while and have broad industry applications. You can get free Java editors that are quite good. You can't get Good free C# editors unfortunately.

    So depending on your budget and what he is interested in I can give you a more specific recommendation.

    There are also things like Flash, and some game creation tools that don't require specific programming knowledge but allow you to create something simple but fun. (note: these types of tools are almost never used by people who get paid to program).
     
  3. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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    What are you wanting him to learn, Andrew? At that age, I imagine his interests would be to make some games, and that's easily achievable through tools like Flash or "Click'n'Play". Another alternative is the likes of BlitzBasic which provide an environment & tools to make anything from simple games upto sophisticated 3D games. Blitz is a very cool piece of software.

    None of those options will teach him "proper" languages, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing at that age.

    As for buying Visual Studio or other Microsoft products, you've got a definite advantage on price because of your educator status.
     
  4. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    I would strongly advise against starting him out on C++, C#, or Java. These are all great languages (I'm semi-"fluent" in them all), but they are not the best to start with. I started out with C++ being taught in a class. It wasn't easy to grasp at first. Start out with a scripting language like Perl or Python. These are great starter languages and lead very well into C++ and Java. If your son can learn the logic basics through Perl or Python then C++ and Java will be relatively easy to learn as it will only require learning a slightly new syntax.

    Do a google search for some good Perl and Python sources and you can probably find some good GNU open-source compilers as well.
     
  5. andrew markworthy

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    Thanks for the input, guys. I'll get back to you with more info a.s.a.p.
     
  6. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    I know nothing about your son, but maybe he'd enjoy some Lego Mindstorms? He would be using the computer to program whatever he built with the legos. I know many geeks that are really into the Mindstorms.
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I don't know the best choice, but I don't think learning an industry standard language at age 10 is important. I started programming in BASIC on a Timex Sinclair 2k about 20 years ago. Now I've got a Ph.D. in Optics and any programming I do is in ANSI C, Matlab, and Mathematica. Or for fun, I use PHP for web stuff.

    I'd think an interpreted language, like BASIC, is the best choice for starting out. Having to deal with a compiler just adds extra complexity without any benefit. That come later when he's ready for more power and sophistication.

    Unfortunately, it seems like it's harder to learn to program today than when I was a kid. Back then, you'd just turn on your Atari 800, type in a few lines of BASIC and the computer would spew forth text, graphics, and sounds! Now? I've no idea how to make a PC do anything fun at all. [​IMG]
     
  8. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    I see what you mean Dave. I started out with C64 Basic...

    10 PRINT "BLAH!"
    20 GOTO 10
    RUN

    Ah, simple programs...

    If you're looking for an introduction, there are books available for most languages that give you basic "here's how a program works" type introductions, so you're pretty clear there. As for languages, I'd say that C# is definitely attractive, since it's an Object oriented language that's still powerful enough to be useful. Unfortunately, it's also bogged down by using .NET, which is powerful, but a little daunting.

    Still, I'd say if you're looking for a book, try to find something with lots of examples. Running (and typing in) example programs is a great way to learn what's going on. Another option would be to see if there are classes or camps or something like that for kids who want to learn basic computer programming skills.

    Good luck!
     

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