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The Future of Programming

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by 10101010, Apr 14, 2008.

  1. The way forward is dump the ****, teach some interesting stuff. Like wot RubikWizard is doing. (Not totally sure about the choice of the C64.... but the basic ideas are sound).

    The big lie is that all this rubbish done at KS4 (of which DiDA is an example) will somehow help people get a job in "Computers". It barely helps people get a job on Tesco's shop floor. It's also really really dull ; it's partly propped up by "pretty things" like (say) the animation paths in Powerpoint but even that will bore the children after a while. "Oh GAAAAAWDDDD sir, not another (expletive) Poster/Website/Presentation ...... PLEEEEASE can I stab myself with a compass instead ?".

    My ten year old (who admittedly is a smart alec like his Dad) mastered Powerpoint years ago and now wants a go at programming Super Mario. Good for him. My thirteen year old probably could do it easily on leaving school. *** are we going to do with them for 5 years in High School ?

    I am amazed how tolerant the children are when faced with ******** drivel about 5-a-day websites or Rock Bands in ******* Shropshire towns. I think they'd be justified in rioting.

    But what other subject limits itself to what supposedly will help employment. I don't see the English department refusing to read Shakespeare, or the Mathematics department abandoning trignometry ?

    What does Alice, or indeed C64 coding, do for pupils ? Well, it teaches them useful analytical skills (not moronic spin skills "Oh look we can make a presentation" - who gives a damn ?) it teaches them to think about how things are constructed, how they operate in sequence, how parts can go together to make something bigger. It opens up a whole new world that simply doesn't exist if you go the Information **** Technology route. Some won't get beyond the basics, or sticking premade bits together, but then that's true of "ICT" and more or less any other subject as well.

    For those that want to take their C64 and write 6502 Assembler good luck to them. You will get some tw@ts saying that it's a dead skill. Well, literally, it probably is *but* how do these tw@ts think control works ? Do people sit and point with pretty-little-flowcharts and light up lighthouses ? No, they write code in stuff that pretty much either looks like 'C' or 6502 Assembler. If you code 6502 assembler you have a handle on C ; then you have a handle on everything else, and you write better code 'cos you know what's going on.

    The down side is, of course, the inability of people to teach the subject. There's (yet another) poster who 'struggles' with Flowol here.

    Unless he's press-ganged into it from another subject (most likely D&T) then what sort of frapping degree is this ?

    How can you do a degree in computery things and *not* be able to use Flowol ? There's absolutely s*d all to it. It didn't take long to *rewrite* it let alone learn how to use it.

    We all know we're pressganged into teaching this drivel by micromanaging ****** who think "M" and "F" are boolean values.

    Let's face it, we could come up with a better syllabus in twenty minutes in the pub. But to satisfy inept numpties, we're stuck with it, just nibbling at the edges. AARGH !

    I'm biased, Coronel. I have zero ability to tell people whether something looks well designed or not. I have zero sense of style (ask the Missus). Nor do I care about having no taste in clothes, worrying about whether my shirt and trousers match etc etc etc, a source of amusement to every child I worked with (they have a point :))

    I don't really give a toss. What this "well designed" means is actually *look pretty*. I'm far more bothered about stupid websites that make you sit through four hours of flash, or have zero content, than whether blue and green make a pretty colour combination.
     
  2. I don't have happy memories of 6502 Assembler language.

    Anyway, it's a dead language.

    Oh ****, I'm an official ****, now.

     
  3. Yes, it is, but the skills in it aren't.
     
  4. rubikwizard

    rubikwizard New commenter

  5. rubikwizard

    rubikwizard New commenter

    I agree that learning 6502 or Z80 assembler etc. has little use in the workplace, but so what? As said in a previous post what use is calculus or trigonometry to the majority of people? I have a maths degree and have hardly ever used any of it except for tiny bits in A level maths lessons, but I don't regret doing it and I learnt superb analytical skills from it.

    Learning any programming language is in my opinion a useful exercise. Understanding how to break down a problem is a key skill and then use your language of choice to implement it. Once a particular language is mastered (whether it is ancient or modern) it is much easier to then learn a different one.

    I happen to have a passion for 8-bit processors (which I know is sad!!!) but that is rubbing off on the kids and I actually believe that what they learn in the process about logical operators and bitwise operations is highly useful even in today's modern languages. Understanding bits and bytes and how to manipulate them can lead to efficient storage methods in modern databases - being able to use a single byte to store information about 8 boolean choices is a highly efficient method (rather than having 8 separate fields), and bitwise operations are then required to extract that data.

    @johnbrown - I have a nice 6502 cross assembler package if you would like a copy ;-) It will give you hours of fun!
     
  6. I agree with most of what you say rubikwizard. My concerns for the C64 are around the non-integration of the sound and graphics in CBM Basic (my first non machine code language, on the Commodore PET). Having said that, there were ROM carts which provided this stuff which you would run under emulation. Must get VICE going and have a look at your stuff :)

    Could you start with something like SEUCK or 3DCK ?

    Might be worth considering stuff like STOS or AMOS ; you get something more like a proper GUI with some of those.

    I would advise JB to practice his 6502 coding on an Atari VCS, as it doesn't have very much hardware compared to a C64


     
  7. rubikwizard

    rubikwizard New commenter

    @autismuk

    Yes CBM BASIC is rather limited when it comes to graphics and sound. Lots of POKES etc. I never really bothered much with BASIC, preferring machine code for the speed when writing games. Interestingly the PET had a better BASIC than the C64 (we used PETs at school and until a few years ago I owned one).

    I've never used SEUCK but have played a lot of games made with it. Many new SEUCK games are made to this day.

    VICE is good but CCS64 V2 (not the later versions) is better at emulating things like smooth scrolling without breaking up too much (due to screen synch speeds not being exact, I believe).

    If you want to power-up your VICE then you can get most of my stuff at http://www.logan-5.co.uk/qls (I still have things I made that are 'lost' - but I keep coming across them on old disks and the internet!)

    I have never programmed for the Atari 2600 VCS, but I have looked into it in recent years - I was very impressed with the recent(ish) release of "Thrust" for that platform - it is fantastic!

    Talking of ROM carts - I have just received in the post the brand new 1541 Ultimate http://www.1541ultimate.net/content/index.php - this is a new C64 cartridge with a slot for a modern SD card - the C64 sees it as a regular disk drive - but with massive storage (and fast loading!) - it is superb and gives a rest to my ageing and failing floppy drives!!!!

    My soon wife-to-be finds my obsession with 'junk' as very strange! Today a girl in my tutor group told me her dad has a fully working C64 system with disk drive and wants to throw it out - needless to say I have made an offer and am picking it up on Friday :D :D :D

     
  8. The point I was making, autismuk, is that the **** isn't even taught properly. There are principles that need to be followed that have been developed over centuries but are a mystery to the people who teach ICT.

    My reference to upper and lower case wasn't a trivial point. To create a document takes real skill, not just copy and paste.

    I have a DIDA textbook here that was put together by someone who has no understanding of them. A bloody incompetent who is telling people that a mess is acceptable. You know as well as I do that anything goes when it's ICT

    Even the PowerPoint for year 7 that everyone seems to struggle with has only a bare minimum of that sort of understanding,

    You designed computer games. Over the years, general design principles grew up alongside the programming styles and skills. Well designed doesn't mean 'look pretty'. It means that it conforms to certain principles and parameters. Looking pretty is the shoddy cop out that passes **** instead of binning it.

    Yes, I'd like to see some real skills taught in ICT lessons, but there really is no demand. These idiots really believe that somebody out in something called 'the real world' needs people who can make a poster after a fashion, can use a spreadsheet to add a column of numbers, use an if statement and create a bar chart without understanding why a line graph would be better.

    I've spent my teaching 'career' watching it. I was supporting an ICT teacher today who demonstrated how to make a flyer. WordArt for year 10.

    The problem is that the output from what you teach in programming is not immediately obvious. Being able to think doesn't show like WordArt does.

    You're mistaken about English. They reduce it to a comic book and teach two scenes. They mark things as correct that clearly aren't. Kids say, "reading is ****". Who managed to knock a serious source of knowledge, entertainment and joy out of them so they reject it so comprehensively? They don't teach them Shakespeare, they get them making posters about `Macbeth' or something that vaguely resembles it. Half the teachers don't understand how the thing works anyway so reduce it to a soap.

    I take the **** because I care about what I teach. I see the requests for help with Flowol - yes I could write something similar too - but it isn't just Flowol. They don't understand the ****.

    I know from bitter experience that the sort of person who asks about how to teach a PowerPoint lesson to year 7 has serious advantages at interview because their level is at the level of the people interviewing them. Higher level skills in ICT? Does that mean saving a PowerPont as a web page?
     
  9. "My reference to upper and lower case wasn't a trivial point. To create a document takes real skill, not just copy and paste."

    I agree ; it's perhaps more of an Art/Design skill than an ICT one. The world is littered with examples of inept design - using every colour and font and stacks of WordArt when it might look better entirely in Monochrome Arial.

    "Well designed doesn't mean 'look pretty'. It means that it conforms to certain principles and parameters. Looking pretty is the shoddy cop out that passes **** instead of binning it."

    I agree that "well designed" shouldn't mean "look pretty", but more that it does, or perhaps even less usefully "uses lots of pointless gimmickry". We have WordArt so therefore we must repeatedly use it.

    "Yes, I'd like to see some real skills taught in ICT lessons, but there really is no demand. These idiots really believe that somebody out in something called 'the real world' needs people who can make a poster after a fashion, can use a spreadsheet to add a column of numbers, use an if statement and create a bar chart without understanding why a line graph would be better."

    It maybe depends what you mean by "no demand" ; there is no intrinsic demand because of the limitations of ICT teachers and the demands of the various assessments. I think the pupils would rather enjoy it, and would benefit from a structural division between "techy" computing and Design.

    "WordArt for year 10."

    Probably a worse punishment than the birch. It's just gotta be time filling.

    "You're mistaken about English. They reduce it to a comic book and teach two scenes. They mark things as correct that clearly aren't. (snip)"

    I'll take your word for it. Doesn't surprise me, it's the same "thought processes" applied again.

    "I know from bitter experience that the sort of person who asks about how to teach a PowerPoint lesson to year 7 has serious advantages at interview because their level is at the level of the people interviewing them. Higher level skills in ICT? Does that mean saving a PowerPont as a web page?"

    I don't really know. If you do ICT from Yrs 7-13 in schools what actually is there ? The core playing about with web design/powerpoint/publisher doesn't take long and many have done it in Primary anyway.

    There's no advanced stuff in most of it, there's no "there" there. What is advanced Powerpoint, advanced Publisher ? Surely no-one seriously suggests VBA - why not teach them something usable if you are going to code (even if it is VB6).

    Yes, for sure, there is advanced work in Spreadsheets and Databases that doesn't involve (much) coding but nothing much else.

    I don't see how the curriculum will pad out ; I see schools where years 7 through 9 and often 10 and 11 are doing the exact same things. Literally.
     
  10. Assembly on a C64 would go down brilliantly with our kids. They love those lessons where you take things apart and show them what's inside/how things work. Old computers and peripherals get them asking some really interesting questions and show GENUINE interest!

    I'd like to show them a ZX80 or ZX81 - you can explain and demonstrate so much a simple computer, there's less to break down into chunks.

    p.s. Don't write 6502 assembly for a Commodore 64... it had a 6510 processor. Does anyone have one of the thick, spiral bound Commodore "Programmers Reference Manuals"? They were fantastic. You could buy them in high street shops like Boots and WH Smith for the astronomical price of £9.99 (first you had to deliver a lot of newspapers.)
     
  11. cj3

    cj3

    OK - so given many ICT teachers lack of programming skills, assuming that they want to begin to deliver some basic programming to extend their skills and pupils enjoyment, how shall we proceed? Which modern program? What would a SOW for programming years 7 - 9 look like?
     
  12. What's the difference between the 6502 and 6510 ? I know the Atari 2600/VCS had a 6507 but the only real difference was there was only a 13 bit external address bus (less pins hence cheaper construction costs I think)

     
  13. Don't know. Am inclined to think open sources cross platform, but how about either Dark Basic or Blitz Basic ? Or alternatively, a rubik-style approach, STOS or AMOS running on Atari ST/Amiga emulators respectively.

    I think the downside to almost all the older machines is the line number Basic (especially those of us who have used the Camputers Lynx, ahem 13.5232 goto 14.207) ; most of these drop the line numbers and goto in favour of something more like BBC Basic.

    However, I also like the interactivity of the old BASICs. It would be nice to have an environment whereby you could type instructions into the system directly which could affect sprite graphics so they could whiz about the screen on top of the program, and something like a scrolling tile system (like on the NES) underneath.

    It would also be quite nice to be able to have objects and libraries, simply for providing scaffolding if not for more 'difficult' programming.
     
  14. Please don't be offended by this remark but I think a couple of contributors have veered off Reality Street into Nerd Alley and are accelerating hard, not knowing it is a dead end.

    As I said before, those of us interested in this area really need to decide which language gives us the right combination of FUN, nice IDE and open-endedness.

    These languages are dead for a reason - they fall short in some of those areas.

    I can't 'sell' this old-fashioned stuff to my kids in school - they would want something 'up-to-date' and in use. The much maligned VB6 is in a different league to some of the things I have been reading about here.
     
  15. Well, notwithstanding that VB6 is neither up to date (in any sense of the word) and is only "in use" in the same way that COBOL is, the problem with VB6 is that however good the IDE is for Windows Forms apps the linkage to anything else - sound, sprite graphics, 3D graphics - *anything* which isn't old style Win16/32 GUI through the message pump stuff - is hopeless.

    Whilst there certainly are many deficiencies with CBM Basic, Visual Basic 6 is equally awful. No sane person would choose it as a "good programming language". It's certainly no better than Blitz Basic.

    I appreciate its strengths for getting low achievers to knock out simple GUI stuff and bash them through exams, and we all know how important such is.

    However, it is not "fun" to use, the IDE is ordinary at best (it shows that it's 10 years old) and it's useless for anything beyond Windows Forms. Microsoft aren't dumping it purely to flog dotNet. It's a dead end.

    I think we (I am anyway) am fully aware of the problems with anything along this line (viz. issues to do with curricula) and yes there is a dreamland element to it.

    Maybe the XGameStation .....

    Incidentally, if you think *this* is Nerd Alley .... you haven't lived.
     
  16. Thousands of people making a living out of VB6 at the moment - I would venture far more than are doing so from COBOL, at least here in London. Probably the best supported language on the web.

    Graphics - yes its limited unless you are very clever - and not apporpriate for kids because of that. There again, the sheer ubiquity of this language means you can find graphical games written in Excel VBA (Pacman, space Invaders etc) let alone VB itself.

    It's not my choice for rebuilding an interest in programming in schools and that's what I asked about earlier.

    Commodore emulators etc - talk about a 'dead end'. No, no, no - it won't wash in my school or others like it except for an elite minority and maybe not even then.
     
  17. Hi there,

    not getting into any arguments here, but I do teach programming, as said on herfe many times before. I deliver the BTEC first diploma (software development route) and the BTEC National Diploma (software development route).......you can see the common theme!

    I teach VB to Year 11's (first diploma), where they create who wants to be a millionaire.

    I teach VB, Visual C++, Java and just staring dark basic for designing platform games with year 12's

    Kids love it, the EV reported the programmes were the best he had seen in a school and I love teaching it (my FE background coming out)

    I 100% think there should be more programming in school and after reading some of the other discussions i shall be looking at scratch and alice for KS3

    thanks
     
  18. Btec,

    Have only glanced at Dark Basic but it is interesting.

    Do you have it on your network? If it is, how much did it cost and what other complications are there?

    Scratch and alice do look like fun don't they?
     
  19. rubikwizard

    rubikwizard New commenter

    I haven't used Dark Basic but I believe it is similar to Blitz Basic. I have used Blitz with a few G&T kids and they love it, although we only have three licenses. It is certainly an interesting language and the Blitz Max varient is cross platform (Windows/Mac/Linux).

    As for VB6 I haven't used it for about 5 years, but I did enjoy using it and think it would be more suitable for kids than the .net version. I keep meaning to have a proper go at http://www.kidsprogramminglanguage.com/ which looks quite interesting and its bigger brother http://phrogram.com/ .

    Just to veer off down Nerd Alley again, I have been using Blitz since it was created on the Amiga (I believe the original Worms was written in Blitz) and have contemplated getting my Amiga collection out in school (I'll send you an invite johnbrown ;-) )

    On the subject of 6502 I am aware the C64 actually had a 6510 but it was programmed identically - I believe the difference was extra I/O lines to allow addressing of more than 64K of memory through bank switching. When using machine code you could switch off the 8Kb Basic/Kernal and replace it with 8Kb RAM.

    Someone mentioned the C64 Programmer's Reference Guide - I have a couple of those - an extremely good bedtime read! One of my students has one of them on permanent loan.
     
  20. It's ok to be a geek, nerd, dweeb, dork etc.

    Just need a nice, simple programming language for my inner-city animals.

    6502/6510 whatever would get me stabbed!
     

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