Coding is a brilliant skill for children to learn and helps them become more resilient, learn to solve complex problems and think outside the box. Computer programming isn’t just about teaching how to type lines of code. It is more about teaching children how to think differently. Being able to code effectively, a programmer needs to use logical thinking. They need to be able to see a large problem and break it down into smaller pieces in order to solve it in an effective manner.
Contrary to popular belief coding is very creative. Computer programming teaches children to experiment and gives them the confidence to be creative. They will have the chance to design something that is entirely their own.
Coding is also seen as a great path for a future career. There are an increasing number of businesses who rely on computer code, not just those in the technology sector. It is a valuable skill for those who are looking to get into entrepreneurship too. Below are five people who became successful because they learned to code early on.
When talking about digital visionaries who started coding young we can’t fail to mention Bill Gates. Most people know him as the co-founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world. They also know that he dropped out of Harvard University to pursue his dream. But many are not aware of the fact that Gates is a terrific programmer who learnt coding at an early age.
He spent a better part of his childhood on A/B testing and his school even let him miss math classes so he could devote time to building his first program, a tic-tac-toe game where users could play against the computer. He wrote the code for it in 1968, when he was just 13 years old.
Growing up, Gates, along with school friend and another Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, would even exploit bugs in the school computer’s operating system so as to get more free computer time. In high school, he was part of a group of programmers who computerised their school’s payroll system and founded Traf-O-Data, a company that sold traffic-counting systems to local governments. In the year 1975, Gates, a Harvard sophomore, joined hands with Allen to develop software for the first microcomputers and the rest, as they say, is history.
Early coding starters include Steve Wozniak. Like Gates, the co-founder of Apple Inc started coding in school. He had mastered coding so well that in 1969 (his first year at the University of Colorado Boulder), the 19-year-old managed to hack into his college’s computer system to send prank messages to classmates. The resulting expulsion from college didn’t deter his coding journey.
Seven years later, Wozniak single-handedly developed the Apple I, the computer that launched Apple. He was also the main designer of the 1977 Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers.
Among the successful people who learnt coding at an early age is Daphne Koller. She is an Israeli-American professor of computer science at Stanford University. A MacArthur Fellowship recipient, she focuses on artificial intelligence and its applications in the biomedical sciences as her general research area.
She did her bachelor’s at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1985 at the age of 17, and got her master’s degree the next year. This was followed by a Ph.D. at Stanford in 1993. She founded Coursera in 2012 along with Andrew Ng, a fellow Stanford computer science professor. She has been quite vocal about the need to learn coding, regardless of one’s age. She has also advocated the usefulness of an online class in spreading awareness about any subject across geographical boundaries.
She is known for saying “Universities have come to realize that online is not a fad. The question is not whether to engage in this area but how to do it.”
Dorsey’s love for programming as a child comes from the fact that coding let him indulge his passion for maps. In 1984, when his parents bought the eight-year-old an Apple Macintosh, Dorsey was overwhelmed by the power coding gave him. And so the future co-founder and CEO of Twitter built maps on his computer using software programming.
At the age of 14 – when most kids his age spent their time looking up to sporting giants and rockstars – Dorsey was working on dispatch routing. Later on, it was while studying at New York University that he first came up with the idea that he developed as Twitter.
Danielle Feinberg is an American cinematographer and director of photography for lighting at the computer animation film studio Pixar. She directed lighting for the Academy Award-winning films WALL-E and Brave.
Growing up in Boulder, Colorado, she went to summer coding camps and after-school classes for students interested in computer programming. She then went to Harvard University, where she took interest in computer animation; she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in computer science and joined Pixar in 1997 as a technician managing the data and photo libraries for rendering A Bug’s Life. She has since led work in visual effects, technical direction, and graphics. Outside of Pixar, she mentors girls to get them interested in STEM through organizations such as Girls Who Code.
Using computers and writing software in middle school, Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, showed an early interest in coding. His dentist father realised the value of learning coding early and taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the ’90s. He then hired software developer David Newman to tutor Mark privately. The precocious Zuckerberg went on to do a software programming graduate course at Mercy College even though he was just in high school. As part of one program, he built a software program he called ‘ZuckNet’; it allowed the computers between his house and his father’s dental office to communicate with each other and was the precursor to AOL’s Instant Messenger, which came out soon after.
During high school, Zucherberg worked under the company name Intelligent Media Group to build a music player called the Synapse Media Player. The player relied on machine learning to learn the user’s listening habits and earned a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine. By the time he joined Harvard, he was already known as a programming prodigy. Studying psychology and computer science, he wrote a program called CourseMatch in his sophomore year; the program let users make class selection decisions based on the choices of other students and helped them form study groups. Sometime later, he created Facemash, a program that let students choose the best looking person from a selection of photos. While it was eventually shut down, it paved the way for the creation of Facebook.