Saturday, May 17, 2014

Magic and The 3rd Grade Girl Programmer

Somewhere along our path to adulthood, we stop believing in magic.  What would make us start believing again?

It seems improbable for a 9 year old girl to program.  Yet, I see it.  As she sits in front of a Linux computer slowly typing out code in PyCharm, I think that this tiny 3rd grade girl either represents the future of computer programming or a failed opportunity for everyone.

Adjust the y axis to move the character down the screen with keyboard input, I say.  I do not expect her to succeed.  She does it with the aid of PyCharm's fantastic code completion, happily typing in:

There's a moment of magic.  I imagine every girl in America, daintily typing out our future.  In her face, I see the things that adults would pay a fortune to capture, wonderment, belief, excitement in the aha instant of understanding.  The gears click in her head, she presses the Run button on PyCharm, a Pygame window starts up with a pink girl character in the center of the screen.  Then, the 3rd grade girl coder presses the down arrow key on her Logitech keyboard.  And, the girl on the screen moves down.

  First Hacker in History
She talks about Barbie, My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, and Ada Lovelace, creator of the world's first computer algorithm.  She knows about Ada Lovelace's work on the Babbage Analytical Engine, because girls talk in 3rd grade, letting the boys know that the world's first computer programmer was female.  I hope that their girl power feeling of superiority continues on through high school.

I let her know about the Top Secret Rosies documentary of the heroic women programmers during WW II.  She wasn't surprised.

Leading ENIAC hackers mid to late 1940s

Grace Hopper in 1952 with a UNIVAC 1

More links to great female programmers.

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