Technology is such a huge part of our daily lives, it’s crazy to think back to a time when we didn’t always have it at our fingertips. For me, I’m very lucky in that it has literally been around my whole life. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a computer in the house, even back when that wasn’t the norm. And I know I’m very fortunate for that reason.
A lot of my exposure to computer science I owe to my Uncle Rich. He worked on huge mainframes in the 80s. I remember him bringing me pages of BASIC code to enter into the Texas Instruments computer we had. When I would finally finish and hit “run,” the program produced would be a cool game for me to play, or something similar. That was my first foray into the world of computer science, and I knew I loved it from the get-go. I always wanted to know what was going to happen when I finished entering that sixth or seventh page of code. It was like being a builder, only with different tools.
Thankfully, I had access to computers outside of our house as well. I’m local to the Boston area, I grew up in Saugus and because of some local champions for technology, each school had a handful of Apple IIe’s. I can remember “Computer Day” being one of my favorite days in class and always looked forward to the computer carts being wheeled in, and waiting for my turn to write programs that drew pictures with Logo Writer.
Sometimes, computer science advocates come from unexpected places as well. You would think it would have been math or science teachers pushing computer science but for me, it was Mr. Joyce – an English teacher. He made sure we had access to computer science courses in our school, and because of him I took my first crack at coding with Pascal, and other languages.
There are so many coding projects I remember from high school. Once during science class, we were tasked to measure the speed of a ball dropping from a hand on to the classroom floor. Gravity took care of the ball dropping part, but the data we collected was simply fed into a computer file and stored. That is until, our teacher challenged us to write a computer program to display the results. And we did. And it was awesome.
Another time, we created a MadLibs program for an English class project. And later we even developed a school-wide matchmaking program that served as a Valentine’s Day fundraiser to benefit our school. (This may have been when I caught the entrepreneurial bug as well)
I say “we” and I think that was also a huge part of why I fell in love with computer science. I had a great group of friends who shared my interest, and we could encourage each other and help each other out. But even when I wasn’t building projects with my friends, I was always trying to learn whatever I could. I like to equate it to learning a musical instrument. It’s challenging at first, but with enough practice and persistence, you get better. And then all of a sudden you can play a whole song.
So when we talk about how crazy it is to think of a time when we didn’t have computers that fit right in our back pocket to track our every run, it’s even crazier to think that there are students in this country who still don’t have access to basic computer science and coding education. That education is something I was fortunate to have twenty years ago, and the reason why I’m so passionate about initiatives like CSEd Week now.
If you want to check out an Hour of Code in your area, here’s a list of participating districts. You can also show your commitment to making sure every student in Massachusetts has the opportunity to learn computer science by signing the CXO pledge here.
Joe Bondi is co-founder and CTO at RunKeeper