I have all boys who do like computer programming.  My oldest is now a computer programmer and going back to school soon for a PhD in Computer Science and my middle son thought majoring in Physics is writing computer games all the time. While in grade school the kids were involved in programming robots and competing in robotics tournaments – FIRST LEGO League.

I started programming in high school when my aunt and grandmother got me a Commodore 64.  The school had a TRS 80 and my senior year I was able to take a class in basic to go with what I was doing at home.  The TRS 80 was a little different than my C64.  The TRS 80s were hooked together in a change with the operating system coming from one main computer in the middle. I still remember one day when the whole system locked up and the teacher wasn’t in the room.  I said, hey we can just pull out the disk and reboot not knowing that that every computer would need to be restarted – they were all hooked together!  I finally learned how a dumb terminal worked.

There was one computer that had modem. The internet wasn’t the way it is now and bulletin board systems were the way to connect. One computer would connect at a time through a dial up modem – the BBS was on an Apple IIe computer.  You could connect and leave message, kind of like a forum is now.  Then hang up and later you would connect again to see if you had any messages.  Our sign in was our phone number (it’s funny the things I remember)…. mine on my C64 operated at 800 bps.  You could read the screen as it scrolled in new information.  With the Apple IIe break keys you could even get out to the system.  There was a code to page the operator too.  The operator was a college student at the local community college and we would spend some time talking to the magical person once in a while also.

In class we would learn the BASIC language with the TRS80.  I remember writing a program to put up a picture of a house with snow falling on the screen.  Each pixel had to be turned off and on individually, so to set the screen up we used graph paper.  Anymore everything is WYSIWYG.  At the time though I loved that class. I went on to write a program in my first year of college for a small business to use as an inventory program on the C64.  My first paid job on the computer and it was C64 in BASIC (1986)!

I still remember in High School at my senior prom being embarrassed though by the insulting speech that made it sound like I was only doing programming because of a boy in the class and was following around after him.  At that time hardly anyone else had a computer…. I went on to be a computer programmer and he is now working at another job. It made that prom memorable for all the wrong reasons. Game consoles were the Atari 2600 and ET, space invaders, and Pacman were big games at the time…. Think monochrome screens.  Not every boy or girl needs to learn to program, but every boy and girl needs to be allowed the opportunity to learn if they are inclined.  They also deserve to not be discouraged.  

Think of how often you hear or have even seen on TV the idea that math is tough.   Math and Computer people are strange.  I noticed a shirt I’m a Nerd.  I thought the shirt was cool, but I remember nerds and geeks having a bad connotation.  Anyone remember Revenge of the Nerds?  How back thinking instead of Danica McKellar  –    from Wonder Years!  Danica McKellar not only is a really cool TV star, mom, but also a Math star!  She has a channel on Nerdist with “Math Bites”, her new book is “Goodnight Math”, and her previous book including things like “Kiss my Math”.  She’s a great roll model for young girls.  Encourage don’t Discourage!