Should kids learn programming as a language?


When I was a kid I read some science fiction about computer as a machine that produces copies of anything you can imagine. Super machine could make an ice cream cone or beautiful sail boat… Nice, isn’t it? The reality came way later, when I saw first device called computer. I wasn’t disappointed that this computer cannot produce any ice cream but I saw a long walk to freedom of conversation with computer. As computer is very obedient to you commands, the commands need to be very precise.

Modern kids are more and more involved in accomplishing various computer related tasks and simple knowledge of keyboard is definitely not enough. Even though programming languages are getting more and more simple, you still need to commit your time to learn basic rules of programming. You cannot speak the language of computer the same way as you speak human languages. The computer language doesn’t allow approximation and missing some precision in giving initial information may cause fatal error. Learning computer programming language is mostly learning keyword and structures. Structures of programming languages is the bunch of libraries that are pre-installed in certain language to accomplishing various, often used, tasks. So, as in English you can say to other human being that you want to eat, and your correspondent will reply with the dish he thinks you want to eat or suggest a few options from those available in his refrigerator. Computer will not understand this command at all, because you need to be more precise and call certain structures before you even make a general order of food. Other word you need to firstly create menu and then order from it.

So, the learning of programming language can be compared to learning physics or math but not language.

Future development of computer programming languages and computer hardware may allow some form of  pseudo intellect of machine and then machine can learn to accept approximate commands. But if and when this time comes surely programming will be not really something that only programmer can do, but normal user with basic knowledge of computer may create necessary program for current needs. However, there will still be professional engineers who will continue development of programming languages itself.

So, back to the question – should our kids learn programming as a language in schools. The answer is definitely YES, however,  programming language should not be learned the same way as human language but rather as math. ALSO, there can be computer literacy discipline that could be studied the same way as human language and this way new generation of people on our planet will have both: geek engineers who will be able to develop programming languages, and regular computer users who will be able to use all computer power.

Lets try to imagine future generation of computer :

1. it will be powerful machine that will not have processor clock measured by Hertz and will not have number of cores. Most likely processor speed will not be limited, the same way as human brain.

2. The size of memory will not be limited either. Most likely both of the above parameters, technologically will be relative to those biological analogues of human resources.

3. Most likely all computers will loose their individuality and information data will not be located on one machine but all machines will be connected together

4. There will be no applications or just one application – programming interface. User of computer will just describe to intellectual machine  their tasks and machine itself will make temporary application to accomplish the task.

5. Machine will use data available for all machines in the world and this data will be updated during work of other users, other words – machine will learn all the time, and will be smarter every second.

Well, those are still in science fiction stage, but remember I mentioned what was science fiction for me in 70-80th? Yes, computer itself was science fiction.

I am a web designer and a computer/CE technician. I am fluent in HTML and CSS, though not so much in PHP, JS, and traditional programming languages. I live in Maryland - you don't need to know anything more than that :) Feel free to contact me on Skype. It goes to my iPhone, so I usually respond fairly quickly unless I'm asleep. I have a backwards schedule, and do most of my work at night, however you can usually catch me in the morning or late evening.

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