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How Are Students Learning Programming in a Post-Basic World?

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author David Brin

Science fiction writer David Brin laments the passing of Basic. "It was a primitive line-coding program," he says, "but everyone had it."

Credit: University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Since the Basic programming language has faded into obscurity, there is no single lingua franca across the entire PC user community to function as a default starter language, and among those distressed by Basic's passing is science fiction author David Brin. He laments that today the top one-tenth of 1 percent of students "will go to summer camp and learn programming, but the rest may never know that the dots comprising their screens are positioned by logic, math, and human-written code."

On the other hand, Tufts University professor Kathleen Fisher applauds the emergence of numerous programming languages. "Different languages are good for different things, each has its own domain of discourse, and it is best if the application is in the language's domain," she says. Fisher cites Python as a language that is taking a vanguard position for introducing programming to a new generation of students, noting that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University are using it.

Python developer Vern Ceder notes that Indiana's Canterbury college prep school teaches Python "because it is easier for kids to actually write productive code right away."

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