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Computer Programming for Kids: Help Needed
Free Republic ^ | 10/13/02 | self

Posted on 10/13/2002 6:18:31 AM PDT by MoralSense

My eight-year-old son is interested in computer programming. We went to Barnes & Noble yesterday, looking for some book (perhaps including CD or disk) written at his level, maybe a Basic book and compiler, something like that. And there really was nothing. We came home with a large book that shows how to create Lego robots with Mindstorm, but it really doesn't fill the bill.

What he needs is just some introduction to writing code, seeing how it works, line by line, getting some quick results. Any ideas or resources? Thanks.


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: computerprogramming; kids; techindex

1 posted on 10/13/2002 6:18:31 AM PDT by MoralSense
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To: MoralSense
My daughter has had very good luck with the dummy-type books. That and using very basic editors like arachnophilia and then viewing the source code.
2 posted on 10/13/2002 6:35:16 AM PDT by doodad
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To: MoralSense
I started with Turbo Pascal 6 or 7 on my own when I was 12.
3 posted on 10/13/2002 6:36:29 AM PDT by CanadianFella
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To: MoralSense
Barnes & Noble is pretty much useless in that category. Borders is a little better, but if you have a MicroCenter in your area, they have tons of programming books, but I don't know about books for children. Anyway, I'd suggest searching Amazon. I suggest something about Visual Basic; there used to be a book aimed at students which included a copy of VB.

Good luck!

4 posted on 10/13/2002 6:40:50 AM PDT by wysiwyg
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To: MoralSense
They had no "Dummy's" type of beginner programming books? Did you ask the store clerks for help? As an idea, get an old Commodore64 system off of ebay and a Basic programming book.
5 posted on 10/13/2002 6:42:28 AM PDT by Cultural Jihad
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To: MoralSense
May I offer a suggestion? Try Java. It's not a bad language, there is a lot of material on it, and it's getting hotter in both the commercial and academic arenas.

Borland turns out a first rate compiler, and it's a free download! You can get it HERE

Also, there are lots of good books - and many free resources on the web.

6 posted on 10/13/2002 6:43:10 AM PDT by neutrino
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To: MoralSense
This is difficult because things have changed so much. Most modern programming relies on library code to do the dirty work. This makes it easier for beginners, but doesn't teach you as much.

The standard and universal 'teaching' language nowadays is Java. It teaches you the principles, but protects you and helps you at the same time. But a child could get simple looping and calculating to work pretty quickly. However, the object model may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to children, compared to the old days of procedural Basic.

You can just download the standard edition Java SDK from Sun and start coding with notepad. For beginner-level stuff, do everything on the command line.
7 posted on 10/13/2002 6:45:35 AM PDT by proxy_user
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To: MoralSense
You could try Logo. It was designed for teaching kids programming. The syntax is very basic, and you can do things one line at a time and see results.

Check out MSWLogo

8 posted on 10/13/2002 6:45:38 AM PDT by Lorenb420
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To: MoralSense
Good choice on the Lego Mindstorms but be warned that they are not cheap. To get the whole setup you will need to drop a couple of hundred dollars! The projects can be instructive too but be prepared to work along with your child since they are not always the simplest things to complete. My 5 and 7 year old want to work on the Mindstorms project everyday so there is a motivated interest to learn. Just be prepared to take control of the situation for a while until things are understood otherwise you will have a very expensive toy on your hands and no learning experience.

There is an old programing language called "Logo" that might be a good choice for you. I'm looking at using it myself, on my list of todo's. Check out http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/sbarnett/IThistory.html for more information and/or search on google.
9 posted on 10/13/2002 6:47:05 AM PDT by VoteHarryBrowne2000
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To: MoralSense
Check out this site:

http://www.resourcefulhomeschooler.com/files/ProgArticleIntro.html

She talks about how her 7 year old was interested in programming and the resources they used.
10 posted on 10/13/2002 6:49:21 AM PDT by dawn53
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To: MoralSense

Beginning Programming For Dummies at Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble usually has rows of computer books, even whole stacks on Programming. Are you sure you went through the entire Computer section?
11 posted on 10/13/2002 6:52:50 AM PDT by Unknown Freeper
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To: MoralSense
Java is an OK language to learn. A procedural language like Pascal might be easier for him to start with, however, the dearth of Pascal tools will make it difficult to get started.

If you do decide to teach him Java, you might find this link useful:

http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/robocode?Open&t=0226,l=awb

It's a product (free) from IBM called "Robocode". It teaches Java in a fun way; the programmer writes code to control a virtual robot, which then battles other virtual robots in a virtual arena.
12 posted on 10/13/2002 6:53:00 AM PDT by Scutter
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To: MoralSense
You might try to find an old computer (Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Radio Shack Color Computer etc.) that has a BASIC ROM chip built in. You can usually get these at yard sales for $20 - $50, sometimes with accessories and books. Or you can look on eBay.

In the late '80s, computer makers quit supplying products with built-in languages, apparently on the theory that they could make more money selling the languages separately. Probably true, but it means we have now raised a generation of code consumers, not producers, and the code-writing packages that are available tend to be a little too 'professional' for young kids.

13 posted on 10/13/2002 6:53:06 AM PDT by Grut
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To: MoralSense
Have your child try Visual Basic. It is fun to use, interesting for beginners because they can build a GUI, and the student will learn basic coding.
14 posted on 10/13/2002 6:55:26 AM PDT by MissHardihood
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To: MoralSense
One more thing I forgot to mention in my last post: you might consider teaching him Python. It is a very syntactically clean scripting language. I think it will be much easier for him to get started with for a number of reasons: the simple, clean syntax, no seperate compile step, and no need to get into "object oriented" concepts until he is ready for it. The tools are also free.

http://www.python.org/
15 posted on 10/13/2002 6:57:20 AM PDT by Scutter
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To: MoralSense
It sounds like your son is a little more advanced (in education) than most 8-year-olds. Good for you. Believe it or not, Visual Basic for Dummies IS a pretty good book to start out with. The reading is easy (and sometimes humorous)and should be suitable for your son.

I started out as a pre-teen with the old GWBASIC back in the MSDOS days. My father worked for Sperry-Univac (now Unisys) and he used to bring home alot of stuff for me to "play" with (early Unisys PC's, we had a Timex Sinclair 1000, a Commadore-64, and a Tandy 1000) . It was pretty cool because by starting out that early, alot of the hands-on/trial and error/early PC programming stuff has helped me out in the workplace presently.

16 posted on 10/13/2002 7:06:49 AM PDT by BureaucratusMaximus
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To: MoralSense
I see some here recommending Visual Basic. In my opinion that is far too much for an 8 year old to start with. I would recommend something far simpler and easier to understand like MS Quick Basic or even QBasic. If he likes that and does well then moving on to Visual Basic and/or Borland's Delphi would be a great next step.

If he does well there and he is considering a career in programming then Java and C will be required.

If he's interested in hardware then learning assembly language programming for various controllers and CPUs would be a big plus as well. If he loves complex math and complex programming then programming DSP's would be a great specialty area.
17 posted on 10/13/2002 7:20:49 AM PDT by DB
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To: MoralSense
You should try Toontalk. It is a delightful, game-like program, that teaches the concepts of programming. It is very fun for children and is similar to logo. There are a series of lessons to work through, and an robot assistant to give hints. My kids love it! It also let's the child create real working programs as they develop more skills. Check it out here ---> ToonTalk
18 posted on 10/13/2002 7:23:13 AM PDT by UnsinkableMollyBrown
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To: MoralSense
There are some good recommendations here. Keep away from the twaddle and use something that is fairly up to date.
19 posted on 10/13/2002 7:31:29 AM PDT by mlmr
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To: mlmr
Yes, and beware - I started on Qbasic & other linear forms and had a hard time with Java. It's not so much that it was difficult but that I just 'resisted.' Kind of like driving an automatic all your life then suddenly having to drive a stick shift.

I'm no expert, but I think that as soon as we of the linear programming generation fade away, everyone will be using object oriented programming like Java.
20 posted on 10/13/2002 8:10:50 AM PDT by itzmygun
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To: wysiwyg
Amazon promotes pedophilia, even against it's own financial interests. We don't recommend it around here.
21 posted on 10/13/2002 8:12:59 AM PDT by Abcdefg
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To: MoralSense
There's a freebie out there called LCC-Win32 and a newsgroup that has an excellent tutorial on the C language and excellent documentation. It has a wizard for creating Windows GUI based applications.
22 posted on 10/13/2002 8:18:59 AM PDT by Abcdefg
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To: Abcdefg
Sorry, the docs and tutorial are available on the web site AND there is a newsgroup with lots of support.
23 posted on 10/13/2002 8:21:00 AM PDT by Abcdefg
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To: MoralSense
Look for books on Liberty Basic. You can download the software for about 30 bucks on the internet. Works great. Good for beginners.
24 posted on 10/13/2002 8:23:30 AM PDT by meia
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To: *tech_index; Ernest_at_the_Beach
FR Topic Bump List (Scroll down to tech index and click)
25 posted on 10/13/2002 8:35:27 AM PDT by American Preservative
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To: MoralSense
If your son was older (late teens) I would say start with Java as its The Programming Language of The Future (tm), but its object oriented concepts can be hard to grasp.
I would recommend perl as you can either do procedural (ie run code from top to bottom of the page) or OO.
Plus there are a ton of books on it it B&N, even a learning one too.
26 posted on 10/13/2002 8:38:41 AM PDT by lelio
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To: MoralSense
Don't be afraid to let him be heavily challenged. OTH, don't force him where he really doesn't want to go.

Rigor is good

27 posted on 10/13/2002 8:41:59 AM PDT by bert
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To: DB
In my opinion that is far too much for an 8 year old to start with. I would recommend something far simpler and easier to understand like MS Quick Basic or even QBasic.

I agree. An 8 year old can easily learn simple programming ---make a program that asks questions and does different things with different answers. My kids learn that stuff early and it might seem too easy but it gives them an idea of the basic idea behind computer programming.

28 posted on 10/13/2002 8:50:23 AM PDT by FITZ
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To: MoralSense
Suggest you go (don't call) to your local JUNIOR / COMMUNITY College and talk to the senior computer instructor. Don't go to a 4 year college, as they normally don't have the time (or ambition) to help with a "local" problem, like this.
29 posted on 10/13/2002 8:53:29 AM PDT by jmax
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To: MoralSense
The important part of learning computer programming isn't the language or the syntax, it's the logic behind it. Having a child understand preconditions, assertions, and conditional statements is invaluable to him, and will probably put him in a league above most of his teachers.

Personally, I'd say VB is the easiest language to work with for a youngster. The biggest pro is the easy to use form objects. Drag and drop is fun (even for us bigger kids), it's almost like painting. The code syntax is also pretty straightforward (code is pretty easy to read by people who don't know programming)

In fact, I've more than once looked at some consultant written VB code that I swear was written by an 8-year-old child, but ugly as it was, much of it did work. Whatever language your son ends up with, make sure it can be fun. The frustration factor is the biggest reason that most people quit trying to learn computer programming.

30 posted on 10/13/2002 9:08:39 AM PDT by jz638
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To: MoralSense
well, i dont know where you are starting from, but as a very beginning type of activity, you can start with plain ol' HTML.. have a page open in explorer and have the source open in notepad.. you can change and save the code and see the results immediately when you refresh the page.. and html is very basic.. i started with Quick Basic myself.. i would also recommend that as a starter, although kids today probably want some fancy windows bells-and-whistles type stuff.. you could probably find Qbasic somewhere to download.. i know i have a copy of it somewhere..
31 posted on 10/13/2002 9:13:09 AM PDT by wafflehouse
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To: MoralSense
Squeak is a Smalltalk language environment designed to teach children programming. It is much easier to learn than Java, Pascal, or any of the other languages mentioned. It is free, you can download it here:

Squeak

32 posted on 10/13/2002 9:18:14 AM PDT by Vince Ferrer
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To: Cultural Jihad; Unknown Freeper
This particular B & N had several "Dummies" books, but certainly did not have the one on Basic (thank you). The ones in stock were mostly how-to's for using various applications.
33 posted on 10/13/2002 9:19:41 AM PDT by MoralSense
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To: MoralSense
Below there's a link to a book at amazon.com to get you started.

The nice features at amazon.com are the links to other books from each book's page -- so you can browse -- as well as the customer reviews.

Beginning Programming for Dummies

34 posted on 10/13/2002 9:20:53 AM PDT by oct11
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To: MoralSense
as pointed out by another poster, HTML is good too. Cheap (I'd bet you could find a HTML book at a yardsale for a quarter), fast and easy. If he wanted to, he could get a geocities or tripod page and show his work off to his friends.
35 posted on 10/13/2002 9:25:00 AM PDT by jz638
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To: American Preservative
Thanks for the ping!

Good list of resources here!

36 posted on 10/13/2002 9:31:00 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
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To: lelio
But there's no need to start with OO; one can dump everything into main, if they wish. Then, after they learn seqential coding, they can address objects.

PERL is nice, and it's certainly popular in CGI scripts - and for hacking - but Java really does have a lot of merit IMO.

Here's a super-simple program; the part I wrote is in blue.

public class Sample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

        for(int i = 0;i<5;i++){
        System.out.println("This is loop " + i);
        }

    }
}

This one prints a message 5 times; with a little work, one could have it read from or write to a file. Don't let him create an endless loop that writes to a file - that's A Very Bad Thing! (Grin)

I'm sure he could handle that, with no problem at all!

37 posted on 10/13/2002 10:50:54 AM PDT by neutrino
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To: MoralSense
bump for future read
38 posted on 10/13/2002 11:03:28 AM PDT by VOA
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To: Lorenb420; MoralSense; VoteHarryBrowne2000
Speaking of LOGO, thinking Lego stumbled onto this:

Unbelievable ---With the exception of the wire strings, this instrument is entirely constructed out of LEGO parts

39 posted on 10/13/2002 11:12:55 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
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To: MoralSense
'What he needs is just some introduction to writing code, seeing how it works, line by line, getting some quick results. Any ideas or resources? Thanks."

As a 35+yr programmer I would say. Let him study HTML, many sources on the net. Studing what a webssite is and playing with HTML instuctions. Easy to do, and will give you and him the ability to determine whether its just a whim or not... Would for YOU and him... If hes stable and still interested studying Java and/or Perl (after an appropriate learning curve) would be good for you both..

After that a version of "C" would start him out...to real programming...

40 posted on 10/13/2002 1:16:56 PM PDT by hosepipe
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To: MoralSense
Thanks for posting the question, I'm sure I'm not the only other parent who got a few bookmarks from some of the replies here. My boys may be ready to look at programming. Then they can help ME! LOL!
41 posted on 10/14/2002 3:04:07 PM PDT by Marie Antoinette
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