Monday, 2 November 2009

A Chip Off the Old Block

My eldest has a presentation to do for his English class at school which I managed to catch him practising. It's about the history of video game consoles. Naturally he has most to say about Nintendo's recent output given that even the N64 was out before he was born! Still, he starts out with the Atari 2600 which is good to see as it's my spiritual starting point in this industry, and we have one of those in the house (a "Heavy Sixer" no less). Of course I waited until he had finished his research before pointing out the copy of High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games on the bookshelf upstairs.

So, does he display any other tendencies towards following in his old man's footsteps? Obviously he's aware of what I do for a living (to a certain degree) and has shown some interest in programming in the past, starting with the time they were playing around with Logo at school during KS2. Consequently I nudged him towards my Java JLogo applet, which was inspired by my somewhat older nephew when he was learning Logo at that age. The school also promotes applications like Scratch, which I think is pretty neat as it's visual programming with a real sense of fun. These days text I/O is pretty dull even to diehards like me so why expect a child to find it interesting?

I've also downloaded Microsoft SmallBasic, which is nothing like the BASIC I grew up with, but I thought that it might be much easier to do something interesting with. He found a Pong example program which he could play around with. I'm also aware of a book aimed at children that uses Python as a first language which seems to have favourable reviews. I might invest in that myself as I've been meaning to learn Python. I guess once he studies Computer Science proper at school, it'll either rekindle his interest in programming or just reinforce a view that videogames are the only aspect of computing worth investing time in :-)

I remember one day, when he was much younger, standing behind me watching me relentlessly debugging some tricky code in Visual C++. All he could see happening on screen though was the yellow bar that marks the 'current source line' jumping around the screen as I entered into and out of functions. He remarked to his mum that all I did all day was "make a yellow line move up and down the screen". I suppose that's not that different from playing the Atari 2600 really…

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