Electron Dance
10Dec/1716

Discussion: Tooled Up

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  1. I remember trying to get into AMOS on my Amiga 500 but it was just impenetrable to me. On the other hand Deluxe Paint III was pure kiddie crack.

    Years later when we got our first PC I remember getting The Games Factory and trying to create things with that. It was a really good entry for me because it was more visual but obviously more limiting. I managed to make a really crappy platformer ‘vignette’ with some frame-by-frame animation. I was too young to understand copy and paste to save myself time. It was painful doing all the animation in one direction then realising I had to do the same with my character facing the other way. My character looked slightly different left to right as a result.

    I also made a Bomberman kind of game but I couldn’t work out the code or logic to make the bombs chain react (I wanted it to be really chaotic and destructive). I don’t think I worked out how to add another player either. God, I wasn’t very good. The problem solving aspect of creation was quite fun at times though, even if some problems never got solved! I didn’t know anyone who was able to help.

    At university I did interactive media so was learning Flash and Director with their GUI-driven scripting and code chunks (you could hand code too) and I was pretty decent at it compared to the rest of the folk on my course. It was mostly menus and transitions though so still basic stuff.

    I still have a hankering to make a modest local multiplayer game using something like Construct or Game Maker but it’s finding the time between work and play. One day…

    Couple of things:

    You’re the third person to recommend Dark. It’s already at the top of our watchlist so I can’t make it go any higher I’m afraid, Joel.

    I’d not heard of Brutalism until a week or two ago and now I’ve seen it pop up in a few places. It’s a weirdly beautiful and ugly aesthetic.

  2. Some of the smallest issues become a titanic struggle because you just don’t have the mental language to understand them yet. But once they’re cracked they’re cracked for good. I’m constantly hitting big problems with my video production work but usually once I’ve solved a problem, it’s permanently solved and won’t bother me again in the same way. In your case, it was learning copy-and-paste :) But I’m sure I had similar fundamental molehill->mountain problems.

    It takes forever to become reasonably proficient. And that’s not considering how long it takes to become “good”. But giving up, of course, means you never get there.

    I still haven’t finished Dark – I’m around episode six. It’s a lot more complicated and dense than it looks at the outset. Holy crap.

    (I used to work near the Barbican which is a well-known Brutalist work, that was how the term entered my personal lexicon.)

  3. I remember decades ago learning Basic and not understanding the utility of arrays… until I had to make the player shoot an unpredictable number of bullets :)

  4. I know, as always out of the topic, but:

    I’m overwhelmed right now by “DOKIDOKI Literature Club”. Since I haven’t found any traces of this game in your portal I just HAVE to write about it here. What begins as a just another manga date simulator freaks out into a Hitchcockian insantity with metafictional twists à la Borges or Cortazar. You have to struggle through across the first 1-2 hours of kawaii dialogues about poems, cupcakes and girl-boy talks – and at one moment you will be just flashed and overwhelmed by some twists in a freakingly way ever. On of the most intelligent storylines I’ve ever played. And very very disturbing. Try it out at Steam – it’s free.

  5. Waaay off topic, but I looked at this and it looks like Nikki Haley has managed to burn one side and half of the other without getting the other half on the grill at all. And where’s the fork?

  6. merzmensch – This is free? Well, okay.

    MattI did my duty.

  7. Thank you! I have zero target audience for this around my house (I did try to painstakingly explain the joke to one of my children, without going into what Nikki Haley is doing) and there may in fact be zero target audience for it anywhere but I like it.

  8. I’m older than you, but otherwise my early experience with programming is nearly identical. I started off writing text adventure games in BASIC, then learned 6502 assembler and started a lot of projects I never finished. (My favorite, after I learned 68000 assembler, was writing a Commodore 64 emulator on an Atari ST. I never finished it, but some programs ported to it perfectly.) Unfortunately, I’d already made a career choice (writer) and only used programming as a basis for my books. A friend of mine switched careers in the 80s, becoming a programmer, and he retired young, becoming a highly paid consultant and living a life of ease. I’m still digging around for writing assignments. That shows you how good I am at picking a career.

    These days I’m writing a lot about robots and I have a suggestion on teaching your son programming. Look into kids robots, like the Makeblock Codeybot, that come with Scratch built into their mobile apps. Your son may find programming a robot’s behavior a lot more interesting than programming a computer. I mean, nobody writes text adventures from the ground up anymore. (I still feel like Twine is a bit of a cheat.)

  9. Chris, you sound like the parallel version of my life: I wanted to get into writing but a background in poverty led me to pursue the “pragmatic” choice. It’s okay, I can do writing in my spare time, I’ll write a great book and can give up this “normal” career. Yay for those plans. Jazz hands.

    That’s an interesting suggestion about a robot. I think the real problem here is that he needs encouragement and the pace of life means I’m not really as present as I should be. Also I have this history of being totally driven with regards to programming, I was an absolute machine and needed no help, so there is a part of me which is mapping that onto him but that’s not a universal perspective…

    I tended to think, too, that higher level, purpose built languages were a thing of evil but all they really do is raise the bar. Bog standard white words on black background don’t cut it anymore. Anyone can do that.

  10. Oddly, I think of learning to program as one of the easiest things I ever did. Granted, I spent a couple of hours going line by line over someone else’s code, but once the light bulb went on in my head, everything made sense. I really needed two light bulb moments, one for BASIC and one for assembler, but after that other languages were trivial. Learning to play a musical instrument is difficult. Learning a sport is difficult. Learning programming was a walk in the park. Then again, maybe anything is trivial to learn if you have a strong enough motivation.

    I remember that driven feeling. Even when I was away from the keyboard I’d be inventing data structures in my head, trying to figure out how I’d implement them when I got back to the computer. That eventually went away. Ah, those were the days…

  11. For some reason I can’t get your problem getting your son to program out of my head, maybe because it hits a personal note. My father was a programmer, back in the FORTRAN days, but he died when I was young and never passed any of his knowledge on to me. I discovered computers with no encouragement from, and (perhaps more importantly) no sense of competition with, my father, who didn’t live to see microcomputers. Programming was my own thing, my own exciting discovery, and I was very proud of myself for mastering it (though “mastering” may not be the right word) with no encouragement except self-motivation.

    Maybe what your son needs is something of his own that you don’t know how to do. That’s why I suggest robots. Unless you’re a robotics programmer, that’s a subject where he could actually master something that’s uniquely his, with no sense that he’s in competition with dad. I’m wondering if maybe leaving him in a room with a bot of his own might not be all the encouragement he needs.

    I may be way off base (and out of line) here, but you might want to check out this article in today’s New York Times: https://goo.gl/35eMiV . It could give you some ideas.

  12. matt w, bit late but target audience reached + 1 good job

  13. I only learnt two languages in my youth – BASIC and Assembler. I got use to C and related languages, but I am uncomfortable with stuff like Perl/PHP which seems to embody the stereotypical programmer’s quest for concise elegance at the expense of all else. It’s fine if you roll with Perl everyday, but I don’t, and I’m always having to look things up. (Don’t get me started on the arcane language of Regular Expressions. I’m more supportive of Brainfuck.)

    I can still be driven to do Great Programming but I don’t have the opportunity. I just don’t have time for it at home and a lot of the stuff I do at work… doesn’t require programming but asking other people to do programming. Sad trombone.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Chris. I hope to get back to trying some programming stuff with my son soon.

  14. Brainfuck. I looked it up. I think I’ve found my next programming project.

  15. Good luck, my man. Good luck.


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