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How To Encourage a Young Teen To Learn Programming? 1095

Posted by Soulskill
from the electroshock dept.
Anonymous Hacker writes "I'm in a bit of a bind. My young teenage son is starting to get curious about computers, and in particular, programming. Now, I'm a long time kernel hacker (Linux, BSD and UNIX). I have no trouble handling some of the more obscure things in the kernel. But teaching is not something that I'm good at, by any means. Heck, I can't even write useful documentation for non-techies. So my question is: what's the best way to encourage his curiosity and enable him to learn? Now, I know there are folks out there with far better experience in this area than myself. I'd really appreciate any wisdom you can offer. I'd also be especially interested in what younger people think, in particular those who are currently in college or high school. I've shown my son some of the basics of the shell, the filesystem, and even how to do a 'Hello World' program in C. Yet, I have to wonder if this is the really the right approach. This was great when I was first learning things. And it still is for kernel hacking, and other things. But I'm concerned whether this will bore him, now that there's so much more available and much of this world is oriented towards point-n-click. What's the best way to for a young teen to get started in exploring this wonderful world of computers and learning how to program? In a *NIX environment, preferably." Whether or not you have suggestions for generating interest or teaching methods, there was probably something that first piqued your curiosity. It seems like a lot of people get into programming by just wondering how something works or what they can make it do. So, what caught your eye?
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How To Encourage a Young Teen To Learn Programming?

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  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Slimda (1329895) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:16AM (#24286165)

    I thought geeks didn't have sex ...

    Geeks clone themselves, it provides the same benefits without all the hassle with bodily fluids.

  • Re:Son? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:23AM (#24286201)

    Just because you're a loser doesn't mean we all are, I hate to tell you.

  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:43AM (#24286311) Homepage

    The best language to teach him is $trendy_language_of_the_moment. If you don't teach him that then he'll never get anywhere. How can people hope to encourage people to learn when they're using $formerly_trendy_language? It's just so horrible that I'd rather gouge someone else's eyes out with a spoon that use it instead of $trendy_language_of_the_moment!

  • Re:Son? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Darfeld (1147131) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:59AM (#24286429)

    I know you're lying : you actually enjoy telling him.

  • by jeevesbond (1066726) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:00AM (#24286441) Homepage

    Draw upon the extensive knowledge of the GNU/Linux community, for example:

    • whenever he asks a question, reply with either: 'OMG RTFM!!!11!One' or 'man *question*'. The shortest and most arrogant answer is always most helpful.
    • if there's a piece of hardware not supported, the best way of helping a newbie is by shouting, as loudly as possible, 'IT IS THE MANUFACTURERS FAULT!' Calmly explaining the situation with hardware support in GNU/Linux is not a good idea. It only leads to further questions (to which the answer is 'OMG it's Free software, code the driver yourself you n00b!');
    • if he finds any shortcomings in the software, ensure you encourage him by assuming the problem is his fault. Make certain to chortle condescendingly whenever he points anything out to you. If it is at all possible to blame the shortcoming on him, ensure that as you wander off -- chortling as before -- say, just audibly, 'luser error';
    • newbies feel most secure when their mentors display their superiority, always make sure your boy is aware of your vast knowledge and epic intellect;
    • loudly proclaiming that, 'next year will be the year of the Linux desktop' makes GNU/Linux newbies feel secure about the platform's future;

    If he actually does find a bug, here are some of the basics you should tell him about bug reporting:

    • keep it vague - developers don't want your life story, don't bother with debug traces and all that guff;
    • always gush - the ideal bug report is at least half gushing about how he loves the software;
    • demand developers contact him personally - this is very important, developers prefer communicating privately, private e-mail is best;
    • always raise new reports - it's never worth the bother of checking whether your bug has already been reported;
    • bug reports aren't just for bugs! - feel free to use bug reports for idle chat about the issue, or related things, even for just storing your shopping lists, tricking people into viewing goatse, or even rickrolling the devs;
    • most bug reports are the highest priority - if you're raising a bug report, it's of the highest priority to you, right? So generally, enter bugs with the highest priority possible.

    Now this post may seem like a troll, but if you do exactly the opposite of what I advise, he should do well.

  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:12AM (#24286545)

    10 print "No Freaking Way"
    20 print "Who starts on C?"
    30 print "Seriously!"
    40 goto 10

  • Re:python (Score:5, Funny)

    by Malekin (1079147) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:12AM (#24286549)

    Forbid him to learn python. Then he'll do it himself to spite you.

  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by pclinger (114364) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:17AM (#24286587) Homepage Journal

    Geeks clone themselves, it provides the same benefits without all the hassle with women.

    It seems you made a mistake in your post, I've gone ahead and fixed it though.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:31AM (#24286687)

    (or Forth if you had a Jupiter Ace... you lonely lonely soul...)

    I had a Jupiter Ace, you insensitive clod!

    (No kidding. I did. And a crappy little machine it was too. Think "ZX spectrum without the software library").

  • Re:python (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:34AM (#24286723)

    From the summary: 'My young teenage son is starting to ...'

    > Let the kid figure out his (oops, presume it's a he)

    There are mighty few female sons, so it's a fairly safe presumption.

  • Re:Son? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:36AM (#24286729)

    Yeah, especially if you're aware of this rusky plot to corrupt our precious bodily fluids!
    That's why I only drink rain water, and don't allow women my natural essence...

  • by drx (123393) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:43AM (#24286775) Homepage

    Right, and let it save him on cassette tape, that, if it doesn't get corrupted by itself, you should demagnetize in random intervals. Just like we learned the true stuff!

  • Re:Games (Score:3, Funny)

    by irtza (893217) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:45AM (#24286789) Homepage
    3 months? I lose interest after just a couple of sec
  • by Orkie (899576) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:46AM (#24286805)
    Nice way to write off everybody between the ages 13 and 19 there.
  • by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:59AM (#24286915) Homepage

    So no, if he doesn't have the drive to learn and problem solve he's better off outside playing with a ball ... or girls since he's a teen.

    In that case just lock him in behind a card locked door with a blank card and a card writer. Leave the ball and girls outside and he'll learn eventually (you might want to prepare some flat food in case he doesn't figure stuff out fast enough).

  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:03AM (#24286937)
    More than half of the a woman's body is water. So without loss of generality, he could just have written "without all the hassle with opinionated bodily fluids".
  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:26AM (#24287099)

    ...the hassle with women.

    It seems you made a mistake in your post, I've gone ahead and fixed it though.

    Why don't you two just stop complaining and fix the problem once and for all by writing a proper manpage on women?

  • by Asgerix (1035824) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:17AM (#24287511) Homepage

    I'll feed the troll today.

    Considering your nickname, I would have thought that you had learned to stay away from trolls - or would that be orcs?

  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:31AM (#24287657) Homepage Journal

    Just show your son these comments. It'll convince him to learn to play the violin or become a social worker instead.

    Can he sing? Tell him to get three of his friends and start a boy band. Then you can retire and hack your kernel in style.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:47AM (#24287805)

    Hey, I learned PHP as a first language you insensiti-Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/a9286564/public_html/x/forum/bb-settings.php:169) in /home/a9286564/public_html/x/forum/bb-admin/install.php on line 10

  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:58AM (#24287913) Journal

    If he enjoys python, he'll move on to more powerful and commonly used languages lick Java, C++, and how could I not mention Fortran.

    Note to submitter: If python leads to licking Java, just imagine what's next! It's a gateway drug, I tell you!

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:17AM (#24288101)
    If you're going to pursue this dream for your son, I suggest the "stage mother" approach. Force him to program, drag him to computer conventions and force him to take computer classes, and when he starts to cry tell him you're going to put his dog to sleep if he doesn't perform. It may sound harsh, but if you're ever going to exploit and live vicariously through your kid. It's the time-tested way.

    Granted, to date, it's mostly been used for singers and actors. But there is no reason it couldn't work for other professions as well. Just be careful to dodge the whiskey bottles when he gets older.
  • I was going to suggest dressing him in unmatching polyester outfits and knocking his books out of his hands and telling him to "pick it up, faggot." Maybe find a pretty girl to laugh at this occasionally. In my experience, this is almost certain to drive someone to program.

    Maybe combining the two would create the perfect uber-coder.

  • Re:Son? (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Great Pretender (975978) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:25AM (#24289007)
    If this thread can even touch on how to encourage a young teen to do anything, I'll be impressed and grateful. My current strategy is to let mine be and hope that when he screws up he doesn't die. If he can make it to the end of the adolescent years, with all limbs and senses, then he may be able to achieve something.
  • Re:Son? (Score:3, Funny)

    by mweather (1089505) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:15PM (#24290475)
    I fail to see how procreation without mean will make bugs squish themselves.
  • Re:Son? (Score:2, Funny)

    by TheoMurpse (729043) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:00PM (#24291223) Homepage

    I started programming in BASIC when I was after my dad taught me
    1 CLS
    10 PRINT "My brother smells",
    20 GOTO 10

    I later improved after getting AOL in elementary school and picking apart Pong Kombat, a Pong-Mortal Kombat hybrid. I learned the fatalities by reading the source.

  • Re:Son? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Who235 (959706) <> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:06PM (#24294259)

    My dad always told me, "Women are like martinis for lunch. One is never enough, but two is just too goddamned many."

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