I am a member of the last generation that remembers what it was like before the Internet took over nearly all aspects of our lives. I remember cassette players, the Walkman, 8-bit video games and going outside from early morning to after sundown without an electronic device anywhere. My kids — I have six — are growing up in a completely different world from the one my wife and I grew up in. I learned about computers in the very early 1990s, when a i386 40MHz processor was screaming fast and a 4 Mb of memory was enormous! Everything I’ve learned about computers has been self-taught, from manually building a computer, to writing a program in Pascal, to building large-scale private cloud infrastructures. I have wanted to pass on that same passion for computers and technology to my children, but it has been a challenge to find a way to do so.
My 12-year son is a Boy Scout and has recently asked me to help him with the Programming Merit Badge. Finally! As I went through the requirements, I quickly realized it was going to much more challenging than I anticipated. But I am determined to expose him to all the things I love about computers and my career.
Fortunately I found MIT’s OpenCourseWare program. They have over 2300 courses online to help anyone learn a new subject or expand their knowledge in one they already know. Specifically they have an introduction course to programming, which covers Python and is geared to those with no programming experience. I will be going through the course with my son (and daughter if I can convince her) to help them learn how to program. And when I say “with”, I mean that literally. The first programming language I was exposed to was Basic, with the first course I ever took in high school used Pascal — who else remembers learning Pascal? Anyway, I became a huge fan of Perl in the late 1990s and never looked back — sure, I’ve dabbled in Python and Ruby, but I never spent the time to seriously learn them. So I will be learning Python right alongside my kids and hopefully fostering a love of computer science at the same time.
Continual education is something all of us should be doing. Over the years we have all probably taken a certification or training class — maybe even finished up our Bachelor’s degree or Graduate degree. Whatever you interests are, I encourage you to constantly be learning, be reading and sharing that passion and love with those around you — especially your children.
Their generation has never known what it was like to use a rotary phone, or to dial 411 to look up a phone number. The things we had to learn and challenge ourselves with they often take for granted. We are the generation that had to write the programming languages the apps they install on their cell phones and tablets use!
May we remember that passion and may we help them to have the same passion that drove so many of us in this great community. God bless.