My Own Story with Coding

In 1985, my parents spent a lot of money on a full system Commodore 128 (CPU, Monitor, printer, desk and chair, and a fair amount of software).  While I’m sure they knew it was a good buy for their kids, I don’t think they could have imagined the kind of impact it made for me.  That same year I took my first programming class.  It was offered at my school for only the GATE students, and I was one.

The circumstances of my early exposure to computers make me very lucky.  Few kids had computers at their school, only a select few of those were allowed to use them, and fewer still had computers at home.  But I was very lucky, so I learned to code.  First programming with the Apple computers at school, moving sprites across the screen, then learning there was a magazine I could subscribe to called RUN, dedicated to those with Commodore computers.

I would spend hours at the computer after school and during the summer (in addition to the miles and miles I rode my BMX, I’m a geek, not a shut-in).  I would copy code line by line from the pages of RUN into the Commodore to make happen what the article promised. It was never right the first time (foreshadowing to my current career both in the value of debugging and the perils of by-hand data entry).

I could play PONG on my computer!!!

Leap forward 10 years; I became a tutor in Computer Science at Community College.  Leap forward a few more; I’m designing software for Washington Mutual Bank even though I was just a staff accountant.

Where this leaves me, and collectively us; is in a world where knowing how to code really helps every career.  I was sitting down earlier this week with a young engineer who reflected on his job thus far and mentioned he isn’t doing a whole lot of ‘engineering’, but a lot of database analysis and SQL writing instead.  I commented: “You know:  you’re doing that because the other engineers can’t.”  He thought about my comment and realized coding was really a competitive edge.

“Yeah, I guess knowing this stuff is just modern engineering.”

“… and every profession in our age.”

According to a study by Leichtman Research Group, 59% of American Households with an income under $30,000 a year use a computer at home.  97% of American Households with an income over $50,000 do, and that percentage is exceeded by the number of classrooms with computers. The gap in computer use at home created by income must be addressed by our schools.  Knowing how to code should be treated today as a fundamental knowledge set, worthy of a section of class just like reading, writing, and arithmetic.



Gloria Tapp's picture

I agree Micah, knowing something about writing code would be beneficial to nearly everybody. In my IT career, I was stunned to learn how many people in the IT field have never written any code whatsoever. As one example, if IT project managers understand programming, they are in a better position to lead IT projects because they have an understanding of what software should be able to do easily and what might be more difficult to accomplish.

Robert Voelker's picture

Our stories are very similar. My parents bought a TRS-80 model III when I was in grade school. I was able to attend a programming class taught by the Radio Shack computer guys. By age 13 I’d written my parents an Accounts Recivable / Accounts Payable program for their Office Supply Business. I’m a System Administrator today and I agree that knowing code is a huge edge in todays market. It seems as if few are taking their skills to the next level by learning to Script or Code these days.

Micah A. Rousey's picture

Robert, good history to have, huh? To add a little more to the story: I started Law School at the same time my IT career really got started. For me, quitting Law School was a great decision. I got my degree’s in IT while working in the industry. It made practical application a lot easier.

Gloria, I’m shocked to hear that lack of coding experience is outside my organization as much as it is inside. I’m taking it upon myself to up the knowledge level of my organization. Coding knowledge is the first on the list.

Dalip Mahal's picture

Virtually everyone out there can learn, or be helped by anyone versed in software, how to write a "Hello, world!" program.

However, the ability to write a few lines of code will not help anyone understand the complexities of software development. Software development is about making decisions on how to structure hundreds if not thousands of pathways of execution. Simple programs rarely have more than a few pathways ("Hello, world!" only has 1).

Expecting people to understand the complexity of software development by learning to write a few lines of code is like trying to measure the width of the sky with a measuring tape. Non-developers that write simple program will not develop any appreciation for what developers have to deal with.

Micah A. Rousey's picture

I don't believe 'learning to code' means having 'the ability to write a few lines'.

Nor do I think someone who has learned even quite a bit of coding be able to understand all of the complexities of software development.

All education has a benefit. Accounting 101 might help you with your checkbook, and give some benefit to understanding accounting methods. The class has a benefit, but I don't it would qualify someone to be a CFO.

ryan adams's picture

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.

The words in your article seem to be running off
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Evan's picture

Hello there! This blog post couldn't be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a
great read. Many thanks for sharing!