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Issue 028: Programming as a Hobby

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Issue 028: Programming As A Hobby

Welcome to the twenty-eigth issue of De Programmatica Ipsum, dedicated to the subject of Programming as a Hobby. In this edition, Adrian explains how hobbies prevent specialization from taking over our minds; Graham argues that the current approach to bring new generations to programming is flawed; and in the Library section, Adrian reviews "Dealers of Lightning" by Michael Hiltzik.

Specialization Is For Insects

There is a whole field called "Recreational Mathematics;" a moniker that might as well be replaced with "Mathematics as a Hobby." I personally enjoy dabbling in it a lot; I am mostly interested in number theory feats: Ramanujan's hypergeometric series and continuous fractions converging to Pi in the most weird ways are among my favorites.


There is a common trope that says we would get more children interested in programming as a hobby if programming as a hobby was like the programming our generation did as a hobby. By our generation, I mean a broad swathe of people in WEIRD (Westernised, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic) societies who are mid-late Gen X and early-mid Gen Y, who can claim to have "grown up" with microprocessors either as kit boards or in the form of slab-form-factor microcomputers, ending approximately with the dominance of the PC and Windows 95.

Michael Hiltzik

Imagine that you are a fourth grader in California, in 1973. You were 6 or 7 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, and there were still astronauts up there just last year. On the radio you can hear Pink Floyd, Elton John or Led Zeppelin. One day your teacher receives an invitation for an experiment involving school kids in a laboratory somewhere in Palo Alto, a location 40 minutes south of San Francisco. Even stranger, the invitation comes from a well-known firm in the photocopier business.

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