It all began with a BASIC program…

Back in college (1980s) I took a programming class in BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). This was not my first attempt at learning to program.

Some years earlier, at another college, I had taken a programming class and flunked it. Most likely the language of study was APL (A Programming Language), at least my memory is alighting on that language, probably because my *boyfriend’s brother, who was a student at the same college, was an APL programmer. In any case, whatever the programming language, it annoyed me to not be able to write a computer program. True, math and logic were not my strong interests, but still it seemed I should be able to write a computer program.

Some years later, I took that class in BASIC and aced the course. I loved being able to write programs that controlled what the computer did. I loved even more being presented with a program that did not work as planned, and having to debug it. I felt like a detective, sleuthing through code to find the reason for and location of that errant logic or typo. My programs were often lengthier than necessary because I filled them with comments to explain what the code was intended to do. Each time I wrote a program and picked up the pages of output (we would be given the code as well as the results), my brain lit up with glee, sending me bursts that said “A regular (i.e. non-math) person like me can **program!” I felt “smart”.

Soon afterwards, the professor who taught me BASIC guided me to, and recommended me for my first teaching job. She had taught at St Ann’s School and knew they were looking to hire a computer teacher. I had gone to her with my wide-eyed question: What should I do upon graduating college? She replied with the most important question of all, “What do you like to do?”  My response was: I like kids and I like computers. The rest is history.

And so, when I received an email describing Ben Chun’s “How did you learn to program?” project, a wave of memories cascaded through my mind, and I had no choice but to respond to his prompt of “I learned to program…


* My boyfriend has been my husband for the past 33 years. :-)
** The languages, and applications with their own programming language, that I went on to teach include: BASIC, Logo, Pascal, HyperCard, MicroWorlds, ActionScript in Flash, and most recently Scratch, plus a brief stint studying (but not teaching) a little bit of JAVA .

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