Alyssa’s First Application

My 13 year old daughter, Alyssa, has shown a little more interest in the computer than her older sister and she seemed like she might be a good candidate for pulling into the world-o-programming so I ran down to the company store the other day and bought her a copy of VC#.  She dutifully installed it and then said, “so what does this do?”

“You can write your own programs!”

After about 3 minutes of explaining to her what a program is (can you believe that someone who has been using a computer for years doesn't know what a program is...I guess I'm supposed to consider this a good thing) I opened up C# and created a simple winform app.  I created a button and when you clicked the button it displayed a message box.  Cool!

We compiled and ran it and it worked!  She was minorly impressed.

I then added a textbox to the winform and set the message in the dialog box to the text entered in the textbox.  She was more impressed!  And with a tear in my eye she pulled the laptop from my lap and she wanted to do something.

That is where it all went downhill.

She looked over the toolbox quickly and dragged a datagrid control onto her winform.  It was sized about 5 pixels by 5 pixels ... so it basically looked like an unintelligable tic-tac-toe game.  With a little help from me she got it sized so that it was semi-intelligable.

“What do I do with it?” she asks.

“Well, you should have a dataset that it is bound to, but we don't have a database...we'll just create a DataTable real quick.“

So I started trying to explain tables and columns and rows and types while I re-grabbed the laptop from her lap and started manually filling in a DataTable and...

...someone turned the TV on.

DataSets couldn't compete with Kim Possible.

While she basically ignored me I created 2 columns and 3 rows of data about pets and after a couple compile errors I managed to get something up and running.  She nodded over in my direction and said, “yeah, cool Dad,“ which was her polite way of saying “whatever.“

My dreams of coming home to my daughter meeting me at the door with news of the latest feature she added to her super-gizmo application were slowly dying.  I was hoping at least one of my children would become an asocial nerd.

But then it dawned on me!  I'll get her a book!

Stay tuned...

Comments (13)

  1. Betsy Aoki says:

    The way I got hooked into programming (and we are talking about 8th grade, dawn of time, when Basic was barely available) was the idea of creating a "choose your own adventure" game based on random number generation.

    If you can’t get them through utility, get them through gaming. 😉

  2. Jake Good says:

    Thats what got me into programming.. I always wanted to develop games and it led to my eventual purchase of 100+ books and tools.

    There are projects out there aimed at teaching children software development. Largely funded and hard to find considering I cant come up with any links thus far.. 😉



  3. Kartal Guner says:

    There are lots of games out there that you can’t compete with. But you can make a game that is more personalized. Maybe like a game of memory but with pictures of her and her friends. Then she can share it with her friends and may keep her attention and willingness to improve it/add features.

    Another this is many kids are starting to have their own web pages. If she learns some programming, she can have the coolest one around.

    Good Luck

  4. MadHatter says:

    I understand you, I tried the same approach with my brother and that’s why he became a cook 🙂

    Not only will frustrate her but it will create a great aversion to everything geek.

    Now, grab an old copy of quickbasic and after installing it start with this:

    10 cls

    20 print "Hello Alyssa!"

    Then, go with IF and FOR samples about simple things like printing her friend’s names and so.

    That will make her experience more pleasant for sure.

  5. Addy Santo says:

    NO NO NO

    The only true way to teach a kid to program is through LOGO. All else is heresay 😉

    But seriously – Logo teaches procedural programming, recursion and other advanced concepts in a way that even a 10 year old can understand. It is accessible and fun – the results are very visual. Highly recommended!

  6. David Cumps says:

    My way to get into programming as a kid was through hex editing existing tools 😉 Together with a born gift to try to fuckup everything I can get my hands on, and at that particular moment it was Windows 🙂 So much more you could destroy (and fix afterwards) then with my first Amiga500, that was too dummy-proof for me.

    But I’m having the same thing with my 13 year old brother. He’s basicly grown up with wysiwyg editors and msn groups and basic broadband internet. And because of that it’s keeping him from learning HTML to get into computers. Too bad, no brother-coder for me

  7. Ouch! You tried to spark your daughter’s interest in programming by using VC# to bind data into a datagrid?

    As others have mentioned, consider approaching from the creativity/fun angle, and make sure you don’t force her into it.

    I’m a pretty hard core geek: when I get done working on code for 8-10 hrs a day I often go home to spend a few more hours writing little utilities and browsing the web. Never once have I been bored enough to play with datagrids, though… 🙂 I should also mention that to this day I have an aversion to some of the areas that my dad tried to get me to write programs for.

  8. I started programming on an Atari 400 back in the early 80s. I think if I were just starting today it would be overwhelming and not much fun. Why bother programming when there’s so much stuff already available to download at lightning speeds! God forbid typing in hundreds of lines of code from a magazine!!!

    But like you, I wanted to introduce my 10 year old son to programming. I thought he would enjoy it if it were seperated from the computer as he knows it (gaming/internet). So, I introduced him to it the same way I was introduced – with an 8-bit Atari and a book (the same one I used).

    I typed in a "guess the number" game and explained it to him. He caught right on and started making modifications to it. He was immediately hooked.

    The old computer has since died so he is hounding me to buy another "programming computer". 🙂 This is great…now I can buy all that Atari stuff I wanted when I was a kid but couldn’t afford!

    Keep it simple…

  9. Another Dad says:

    One word: MSAgent

    My 6 year old loves it. Get all 4 characters and now you have drama.

  10. LOL. I have 3 daughters myself…oldest 7….it’s probably a good thing that she isn’t into programming at that age. i imagine if she is in front of the computer screen all of the time she won’t have a social life and she won’t date when she get’s older.

    hey wait a minute. maybe i should get my daughters into programming 😉

    -Mathew Nolton

  11. I’m not one of those game programmer types. Give me a spec and I’ll crank something out. That’s how I started programming.

    I’m 16.

    I don’t understand WinForms databinding. Doesn’t work like webforms, which is where I learnt to do .Net, and well, everytime I try, I run out of patience.

    I don’t think a WinForms datagrid is quite the place to start. 🙂

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