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Re: [olpc-software] Enabling the kids to become great and useful hackers



David Zeuthen wrote:
(somewhat off topic)

Yea. I often wonder how kids today get into programming; when I was a
child myself it was easy.. Back in the day... I could get manuals for
the 6510 on my C64 and 68000 processor on my Amiga and it was relatively
easy to write a program that did something useful and funny. Even
computer magazines in my own language (Danish) had articles that helped
me out (Most magazines today seem to be about pretty superficial
things.. how to write HTML pages... Or maybe they are useful, and I'm
just an old fart that haven't moved on) .. Anyway, for me the Amiga
Hardware reference manual was a god send.. I could actually get to the
metal of my computer. And I did. It was very inspiring and educational.
I learned about parallel programming that way by using the Copper and
the Blitter along the 68000 main CPU. Many others in my country did the
same. Those were the days. Maybe I should just let them go :-)

What do aspiring hackers in the first world do today? I suppose the
answer here partly involves getting involved in open source and partly
involves learning Java...

What do we want aspiring hackers using the $100 laptop to do? Personally
I guess answers like use Python and GTK+ is the answer here...
"Gaming, the gateway drug". I think that simple games with a convenient method of customizing and localizing (think "themes") would be an excellent first step toward hackerdom. It has the simplicity that doesn't require 68k assembler, and social currency in that it can be shared with friends or the whole world. Perhaps having an OLPC version of themes.org to give exposure to talents in unique places. Games like bejeweled or mahjjong that have a certain static stylistic component would be good candidates. Simple tutorials that would explain the process would be great.

At the risk of sounding like "I walked to school 5 miles, uphill both ways", I started with games in the MECC days on a teletype and quickly got hooked. It wasn't long until I was creating mischief with limited programming skills. I always wished to create my own games, but had other goals when it was actually practical as the Apple ][ arrived. I am attempting to infect my 11 yr old son the same way, but perhaps with a variation, namely machinima.

   -Dean


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