“Hello world” is a not-so-secret phrase used by people who’ve learned to read and write computer code and generated that phrase as their first achievement. “Coding” is the term used by people who really do it and anyone using the phrase “computer programming” probably has no idea what it really involves.
My coding experience started in high school, way back in Silver Creek, New York. The school bought a Commodore PET that sat on an AV cart and was pushed from room to room (what else do you do with a computer, after all?). A friend and I dug into the limited manual that came with it, taught ourselves BASIC and designed a randomized blackjack game. We were hooked.
School hours weren’t enough to satisfy my coding desires, so I bought a Commodore VIC-20 and connected it to my home television. It wasn’t easy to compete with Hee Haw and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
From there, I was fortunate to enter college at the tail end of the punch card generation and was able to run FORTRAN and COBOL applications on the mainframe. It was an ugly, relatively slow green screen and it was wonderful. It was the Commodore without the cassette tape storage.
After flying for the Navy, I was hired into Perot Systems as part of their Engineer Development Program. The idea was to hire leaders who could learn to code, but I had a serious head start and had been moonlighting working with VisualBasic and SQL for several years. I aced the program and was running systems for the California Power Exchange in two years. Coding changed my life.
Even when you no longer code
Since the early 2000′s, I’ve moved into roles that don’t require coding but the skill set is still one of the most valuable things I have in my head. Even blogging is easier with a coding background. It is probably the one thing I would tell every high school and college student to learn. It should be a core course for graduation.
Even if you never touch code after learning how, you’ll never regret that glimpse into how our technology world works. You’ll understand databases and cache memory. Web services and log files will make sense. You’ll be better at anything that’s computer related, which is…everything.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all learned how to code before they ever entered business. It doesn’t stop there, either. Many of the senior executives in Silicon Valley and beyond were once coders. In the video, below, you’ll see their personal statements about the value of coding and I can say that my experience and sentiments are exactly the same.
The video is about a new non-profit that was recently launched, code.org that encourages computer science education. The founders recognize that we can’t have enough coders to fill the needs of the coming years. Remember this: There may be an unemployment issue in the developed world, but there’s no shortage of coding jobs.