When I was in 7th or 8th grade, our science teacher pulled up this TV screen with green letters and numbers on it. He said, “This is a computer.”
We all stared and blinked. He continued, “No, look it’s really cool. You can make it do things for you, like count to infinity.”
We spent the next 20 minutes or so typing random letters and numbers into the black screen (or watching him do it anyway), and to our lack of amazement, the machine started to count. Over the course of the next week or months (I don’t remember), the machine counted on … and we went about our lives. It may still be counting; I’m not sure. But that was my introduction to code.
It took another decade and the invention of AOL chat rooms for me to get interested in computers, so I missed out on the evolution – the result of which a very slim screen is displaying in front of me now! Amazing (I wonder if this thing can count to infinity?). Anyway, that brief introduction to code always gave me an appreciation of what mysterious numbers were working in the background of my computer programs. I knew there was something more, and even as we’ve learned these new concepts in class, I appreciate how it all shares common ancestry.
The problem is, much like when I was 12 years old, my interest in learning to make computers do what they do is limited. I definitely enjoy knowing how things work, but just the wavetops. I like knowing just enough to be dangerous. The good news is I am confident this class will get me there. Despite all the frustration in trying to grasp the concepts, the worry about getting a low grade, and the reality that most of the details will be forgotten in a couple of months (let’s be honest, weeks), I think the exposure will leave me in a very similar state to my first code “exposure.” I’m sure the next time I see a web developer working on something, I browse through a site, or tweak my own, I’ll have a deep and healthy appreciation for what’s happening in the background. And after this class, it will be an appreciation for more than just the MS-DOS.
As for APIs, well I’m getting there. It seems most of the articles are written for people who have at least a little experience with web development. That makes it tougher for the beginners I think. I’m going to start cutting and pasting stuff into my site though, and see what happens. Maybe I’ll create a web page in my science teacher’s honor … one that just keeps on counting. He’d be so proud.