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[Comments] (8) Shoes: Often I complain to Evan (and anyone who will listen, which mostly means Evan) about my childhood growing up in the middle of a grape field. There's no point dwelling on the past like this, but I do it anyway. Here's the approximate rundown: I was just ordinarily unhappy until in early 1994 I got a copy of The New Hacker's Dictionary at the Cal Poly SLO college bookstore. I was a middling BASIC programmer, and suddenly I wanted to be a terrible C programmer who made an ass of himself on Usenet. This, I felt, was the future. But this future required connections and money and knowledge I didn't have. Frustration!

Now I can see things I could have done back then, but I'm fifteen years older and I've achieved the dream of being a terrible C programmer who makes an ass of himself. So I'm kind of nonplussed when I see people like famous science fiction author David Brin wax about the 80s and early 90s as a golden age of kids' programming education. BASIC, be it GW or Q, is lame, and to paraphrase a common saying about SF, the golden age of programming education is whatever age you are when you get Internet access.

These days the problem is that there is a plethora of programming environments, fragmenting the market for supplementary educational material. The one I most wish I'd had in 1994 is definitely Shoes, _why's Ruby toolkit that lets you do GUI programming with web-programming-like layout instead of the dominant widget-packing layout paradigm which is pretty insane. Of course in 1994 it would have been ANSI art windows or something, but you get my point, which is: Shoes is awesome.

My blurb for Shoes is: "Super-Hypercard". And rather than do a big boring document for Shoes like I did with Beautiful Soup, _why did the Shoes documentation as a fun little book. The dude is classy.


Posted by Kristen at Sun Mar 16 2008 12:48

I'm not sure I understood any other that.

Posted by Kristen at Sun Mar 16 2008 12:48


Posted by Rachel at Sun Mar 16 2008 12:58

wow its still there. apparently.

Posted by Nick Moffitt at Sun Mar 16 2008 15:11

You can complain bitterly about being disconnected, but sometimes the connections did little to help. I remember that much of my time on the Seattle BBSes and early IRC and early-90s usenet was spent feeling like a complete poseur out of his depth.

The Seattle Citadel BBS scene was sort of at the tail of its curve, so there was a vast tree of codebases shepherded by grumpy sysops-cum-hackers who were kind of cynical about everything since it looked like the Internet was about to eat away any remaining hopes that they could make a living off the BBS hobby. Imagine trying to get into kernel hacking, only everyone you talk to is either completely overtaxed and unresponsive or is a clone of Brett Glass.

Still, I credit being lost in all that to kindling my interest in all this stuff. It was a big shared codebase where you could grab the sources for most of it, and when folks threw around words like "copyleft" it felt like just the sort of rebellious fight-the-system concept my 15 year old self could throw his unhealthily large amount of weight behind.

As for the 80s and BASIC, I have to admit that until I started working on a funky BBS in the telemate scripting language, I had never actually grasped FOR loops. That kind of omission, after years of poring over books on BASIC for the C64, made any attempts at doing anything with the language futile. No lists? No iteration? No wonder I was frustrated!

Posted by Evan at Mon Mar 17 2008 23:02

"For just 65 cents a day, less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can help this young man gain access to a proper unix development environment ..."

Leonard seems to have stayed off the streets, but what of all the kids in the developing world? I have to wonder if this feeling played a role in the One Laptop Per Child project.

For my part I had envy for all those with 386dx's, which could actually multitask (unlike my 386sx/16Mhz, oh yeah) ... and don't get me started about the merits of Adlib vs Soundblaster.

I was all about Telemate! It kicked Telix's ass.

Posted by Claudia at Tue Mar 18 2008 13:16

Don't call it a grape field, call it a vineyard. It will give you a whole new outlook.

Posted by Leonard at Tue Mar 18 2008 13:17

Yeah, outlook on a bunch of grapes.

Posted by Susie at Tue Mar 18 2008 20:30

I miss that house sometimes.
I don't call it a vineyard either. Vineyards are for Napa Valley and Nor Cal

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