Friday, June 17, 2011

Scratch and Squeak

Some of my first programming experiences were typing BASIC programs into my TI-99/4A home computer copied from computer magazines. The whole process was madly frustrating. There was no editor, you had to exactly copy the lines into the console and then you could save the program to an analog cassette. If you were lucky you could reload your program from the cassette at a later date. I remember trying to create a Star Trek game and gave up after taking 2 weeks just to create the logo screen. Despite all of this there was something about programming and I was hooked.

Now many years later I am a father of three and hoping to pass along some of that love of programming to my kids. Looking around its amazing the options out there to get them started . When I was starting out the options were either BASIC or Logo. Logo had some neat ideas and I played with it a bit, but moving the turtle around never got me hooked. Now this Wikipedia page lists 71 educational programming languages.

As a past Smalltalker, the most interesting to me of these appear to be Squeak and Scratch. Squeak is a modern, open source implementation of the Smalltalk programming language and environment. Scratch is built using Squeak under the covers but is a visual programming language where programs are built by snapping together blocks. I think my daughters will like the ability to quickly create an animated story and control the action. I also have a first generation Lego Mindstorms kit but I think Scratch will be a good starting point.

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