Learn JavaScript this year with Codecademy

Screenshot of Codecademy website

When I was young my Mum and Dad bought my brother, sister and me a computer, a Commodore 64. I remember that I had to write a short essay about why I wanted a computer before Mum and Dad would consider buying one. I really wish I still had that essay, I’d love to read now what I wrote back in 1983.

I loved it. With its friendly blue screen and flashing cursor.

Commodore 64

And its ability to load The Hobbit text adventure in under half-an-hour. But what I loved most was that I could program it.

I would spend hours typing in programs from magazines like Commodore User, Your Commodore and Your 64, and then working out how to customise them. And if I felt brave I’d write my own programs from scratch, in nothing but Commodore BASIC but it was a start.

These days you buy a computer and it boots into Windows, or Linux, or MacOS, or Google Chrome, or Android, or a host of other operating systems with friendly, colourful graphical user interfaces and there is nowhere obvious to begin trying your hand at programming.

If you do want to get into Windows programming, for example, many of the programming languages and environments look quite intimidating to a beginner (and often have a price-tag to match). And that’s before you even attempt to decipher what .NET is, or WPF (that’s Windows Presentation Foundation), or DirectX, or… you get the idea.

I once dabbled with an early version of Delphi (having done a year of Pascal at high school), and Dolphin Smalltalk. I even looked into C and Borland C++ Builder. I didn’t create anything particularly mind-blowing. But you know, they were my programs. I had created them and I knew how they worked, and the process was just really good fun.

That’s one reason I loved my Psion PDAs: they had an OPL programming editor built in. You could start writing programs straight away, using Psion’s own BASIC-like procedural language. I have a half-written Mahjong scoring program somewhere on file that I would like, one day, to finish. Maybe next year!

I definitely think that young people, especially, should be taught programming (again) in school. Something that an article in The Guardian last month agrees with: Programming should take pride of place in our schools.

Codecademy

This year Codecademy seem to be making a push for 2012 to be a year of programming. They are encouraging people to sign up for their getting started with programming course. They are using JavaScript as their chosen language.

JavaScript is a great language to start with (as Mike Loukides will tell you “everyone needs to learn JavaScript” in 2012). The course is online. You do it all within a Web browser. Web browsers know what to do with JavaScript. Perfect.

I’ve completed the first lesson already. It was called FizzBuzz and it gets you recreating that favourite game of primary school, where you start counting from 1 to 20, but instead of saying numbers divisible by 3, you say “Fizz”. And instead of saying numbers divisible by 5, you say “Buzz”. For numbers divisible by both 3 and 5, you say “FizzBuzz”.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at learning JavaScript (and programming in general) then do check out Codecademy.

The Hunt for Gollum

Tolkien

I first encountered the writings of English writer, poet and academic JRR Tolkien, as I suspect many other teenagers did in the early 80s, when I received a copy of The Hobbit for the Commodore 64 back in 1983.

My copy of the computer game (on cassette) came bundled with a copy of the novel. I still have it—it’s a rather loose-leaf copy now; it has a cover price of £1.50. The game cost £14.95, which was more than twice the price of an average music album in those days, and took around 30 minutes to load.

As an aside, as I’m sure many other are, I’m keenly looking forward to seeing The Hobbit in the cinema next December.

It wasn’t until nine years later, in my final year at the University of St Andrews, that I discovered The Lord of the Rings, and years after that The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and various other collections of his works documenting the history of Middle Earth.

The Hunt for Gollum

The Hunt for Gollum is a British fan-made, unofficial prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy that documents Aragorn’s quest to find Gollum. And it’s really rather good, for a film shot in high-definition video on a budget of GBP £3,000.

The story takes place 17 years after Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party following Gandalf the Grey’s investigations into the original of the One Ring and he fears that Gollum will reveal information to the Dark Lord Sauron about Bilbo Baggins.

The film lasts just under 40 minutes.