Why should I learn to program?
A waffle iron can make waffles, a computer can run programs. But why are we in the computer age and not in the waffle iron age? The question is only apparently stupid, because the answer reveals a lot: a computer can do almost anything that is asked of it, it can forge images in the Gaza conflict, it can make secret government documents available to the public and it can buy a ticket for the journey print out from Marienplatz to Stachus. There is no longer a single part of life in industrialized nations that is no longer connected to computers.
The only thing that matters is that the person using the computer can understand the machine. This requires a common language. Those who master them are masters of the machine, just like someone who speaks Japanese finds their way in Tokyo. But the computer network is now not only bigger than Tokyo or Japan. It encompasses the present and, beyond what is stored, also large parts of the past. It also includes the future, because it can - within limits - be calculated. It also means that the technology, while potentially very powerful, is inherently value-neutral. It depends on what the programmer makes of it.
And that's why we not only live in the age of the computer, but also in the age of the programmer. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a programmer himself, defeated his co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss in court, two elite students and world-class rowers, and yet only heroes of the last century. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page - they all made their billions thanks to their programming skills.
Companies protect code as a trade secret
Even those who are really good at using their computer do not know how to program. What the average user sees on the screen are already assembled programs such as Microsoft Word or the Firefox browser, the code of which remains hidden from him. It's hard, almost impossible, to disassemble programs you've already put together to glimpse the code. Especially since many companies like Microsoft protect the code of their programs as a trade secret.
What's inside doesn't always have to be highly complex: Algorithms are procedural rules that have existed for thousands of years, and not just in mathematics: They formulate the steps that are necessary to solve a problem. That can be a mathematical problem or the question of how to cook Königsberger Klopse. In the first case the algorithm would consist of a calculation, in the second case of a cooking recipe. If algorithms are implemented with the help of a programming language, program code, also called source text, is created.
The modern hero type of the programmer is not just a child's dream, especially in the USA, but a career dream all over the world. More and more people are learning to program, many of them alongside their daily work. They benefit from the fact that virtual art can also be taught virtually. At Codecademy, 24 million people have completed online courses since 2011, producing over a billion lines of code.
Programming is on the curriculum in the UK
Tuition at Codecademy is free, and the company is funded as a start-up with $ 12.5 million in venture capital. In the future, the site will probably ask for money for additional services in addition to the lessons, such as personal support for the student via email. Variants of this model are Team Treehouse or Udacity, the online university of the former Google manager Sebastian Thrun. Both programs cost money, the lessons - with a little more intensive supervision - also take place on the computer, depending on how fast the student wants to learn.
Meanwhile, governments and education experts are trying to make programming a school subject. In Germany there are always pilot projects - for example, teaching programming at grammar schools from the fifth grade onwards. In Great Britain and Lithuania, things have already progressed: on the island, the subject Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which primarily taught office skills, is being abolished; instead, programming will be on the curriculum from September onwards, starting with the first grade; In Estonia, a model country in terms of digital innovation, where, for example, the widespread software Skype was developed, even first graders are learning to write code. The next multi-million dollar start-up is not always the ultimate goal; it is more about the fact that all citizens should speak the languages that are changing their lives so much.
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