What do you recommend when asked “How can I learn to program”? aka The 747 cockpit vs SideWinder :-)

Fairly frequently a relative, friend, or friend of a friend asks me “Hey Eric, you know about this stuff. I want to learn to program. How do I do that?”.

First up I like to understand what they expect to achieve (which often is at the level of  “Make the next World of Warcraft”) then after some expectation resetting, I start to share my wisdom Smile

In the past I have tended to point folks at:

SmallBasic - which is excellent, especially for kids


Kodu – which is focused on visually developing games and is extremely good


“Beginner Developer” site and the Visual Studio Express tools , for the “more serious” stuff

However today when I was asked by a nephew, I found myself ignoring the above and instead pointed them at the brand new (and still beta) WebMatrix. More specifically:

Job done.

Why? It is all about the 747 cockpit…

Increasingly when folks ask me this questions they really mean “learn to program the web”. Which immediately rules out smallbasic and kodu.

It is certainly ok to learn to program the web using the Visual Studio express tools but in many respects Visual Studio bears a striking resemblance to the dashboard of a Boeing 747 when looked at the through the eyes of a hobbyist:


When what they are really after is a Sidewinder joystick:


(tx Zenmaster. BF2 – what a great game!)

IMHO, WebMatrix = the Microsoft SideWinder joystick.

I always loved that joystick Smile

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