Programming computers is fun! Knowing how to program teaches you how to think about problems and the best ways to solve them; it teaches you how any problem, no matter how large, can be broken down into a smaller series of more easily manageable steps. It helps develop your imagination. More importantly, programming is knowledge, and knowledge is power.
The people at the non-profit organization Code.org believe that everyone should spend at least one hour learning how to program. Today, computers are everywhere; almost any job you do, you’re going to be using a computer. Learn more about them!
It is with this idea of spending an hour learning to program that Devember was created.
In Devember, you spend at least one hour every day for the whole of December either learning to program or programming something. You can be a complete newcomer learning to program for the first time, or an experienced developer just writing code or learning a new skill. Devember tasks you with not only spending that hour a day programming, but also keeping a public development log of your journey as well as sharing the produced code with the public.
Growing up in a small rural town in the mid 80’s, my family got our very first computer, a ColecoVision Adam. It had a built in word processor and came with two sets of software on tape: a Buck Rogers game and SmartBasic for writing your own programs. That computer sat in our den, and I would use it to play video games (the aforementioned Buck Rogers and also some ColecoVision games that I borrowed from friends), but that’s all I did with it. It never really occurred to me that I could do anything more with it.
As a child I was also a voracious reader, and so I was often at the library. The library had a couple of computers for a computer club, which were generally under lock and key. I happened to be in that area of the library one day and I saw someone using one of them. He was playing a sort of “racing” game. The road would scroll up the screen and you had to use keys on the keyboard to move your little box shaped car left or right to stay on the track.
He let me play a little bit, and when I kept crashing, he pressed some magic keys and suddenly the track got wider. He explained that the game was something that he had made himself. I still vividly remember how it totally blew my mind that you could make your OWN games and not just play the ones that other people had made. Honestly, I don’t think it ever really occurred to me that someone was making those games.
I went right home and dug out all of the manuals that had come with the computer and started to teach myself how to program. That was back in 1984, a lot of years and a lot of programming ago. I’ve never really looked back since that day; I’ve always enjoyed the notion of making the computer do the things that I want it to do.
So I will be participating in Devember this year. I’ll be teaching myself a new language that I’ve never used before, working on a game prototype, and sharing the code with the world, along with making daily posts in this blog. There will be another post with the Devember contract posted soon.
At the very least I hope to get a bit better with getting thoughts on development related topics to paper; I spend way more than an hour a day programming computers (it is my job, after all), but I’m terrible at that aspect.
Perhaps I will somehow be the inspiration that leads someone else down the road to being a software developer. That would be pretty cool, too.