back to article This one time at Apple Camp... Tech titan offers to school US fanbois on coding

Apple Stores across the US will offer fanbois an hour of computer programming lessons this week in a bid to boost the nation's digital economy. The fruity firm has joined tech firms, schlebs, and even the US president himself in promoting a national scheme called Hour of Code, which aims to teach Americans the basics of …

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Anonymous Coward

A little information...

...is a dangerous thing. Isn't that the saying?

Manager takes course. Sees how easy the stupid little scripting task they are given is. Thinks all programming is that simple. Thinks he's paying his staff too much for it. Pay cuts all around!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A little information...

then said manager discovers off-shore workers work harder for less money, sacks his local workforce and gets his bonus.

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Re: A little information...

But off-shore workers produce some quirky software that didn't quite meet the specifications and asking them to make the relevant changes is like trying to skin a live whale with a plastic tortoise.

Said manager then leaves company or worse gets promoted according to the Peter Principal .

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Thumb Up

Re: A little information...

like trying to skin a live whale with a plastic tortoise

Have an upvote for that lovely bit of imagery!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A little information...

Yeah, we must ring fence our knowledge and never let anyone else know what we know.

Are you an insecure contractor, that's how you come over. For a start most programmer's bosses are already programmers and those who aren't probably understand enough to know how complex it is. Of course this doesn't chime with the meme of "all management are idiots" which seems to permeate a lot of the commenters here. Of course all of those commenters understand management perfectly...

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One little problem...

Who's going to teach the "Genius Bar" kiddies how to program, so they can teach the classes?

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Silver badge

I know there is another el reg story saying that real world experience is more valued than a degree but this feels like taking it a bit far.

What's the language they are learning?

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Bronze badge

Re: What's the language they are learning?

Apple store? Probably a little bit of "make a button on your iPhone say hello when you tap it" via Objective C.

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if you're a beginner

You're probably going to take any free tutorials you can get if you're just starting out, and it doesn't matter who is holding them.

Sure you'll need real world experience, but you can't get real world experience if you're still learning the basics.

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Bronze badge
Meh

blend o' skills...

Like most subjects it is a blend of many skills. Being a maths/sci geek helps me to use computers and write code that simulates molecules.

Web stuff? I can make it work but it will be fugly....

Am I the only one that thinks you can just "get" computing....? The degree just makes it pretty....

P.

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Re: blend o' skills...

"Am I the only one that thinks you can just "get" computing"

I've found it requires tremendous amounts of constructive cursing. If you didn't learn to swear like a good'un at school, you may be at a disadvantage.

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Re: blend o' skills...

Anyone can buy a book on the subject, and anyone with a vaguely logical mind can write a program.

Experience, discipline and method are what matter though in the commercial world.

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Devil

So who's going to be giving this training?

Not the staff at the "genius" bar, surely? Yep, I can see how that'll help raise standards of anything....

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You can get one of the best paying jobs in the world.

That definately wouldn't be on par with what the coders in my company earn then.....

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Re: You can get one of the best paying jobs in the world.

My thoughts exactly...

You can get one of the best paying jobs in the world... Or you can get mine.

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Well that's the problem, isn't it

You cannot teach people to program effectively in an hour, a week or even a year.

I once worked on a quarter billion dollar project with 165 other consultants writing code. The majority of those consultants had taken a six-week training course in the C programming language. Even ones with a few months experience had no idea what they were doing.

The system coded up by this enormous and expensive team had memory errors so severe that the system was not able to run. I put in library code of my own to wrap, partially mitigate and report on the numerous memory leaks and buffer overwrites, use of freed pointers or pointers never allocated, etc. It was ridiculous. I put in that programming harness to demonstrate to them the extent of the bugs in the system. They did not understand even when looking directly at the problem and continued writing code with the same types of bugs.

The thing I put into place eventually ended up sending Email messages to an account for the build manager. He alone understood the issue and so would make the bug fixes himself when he knew how.

The code could not run without my memory wrapping code. It would crash directly. Instead of listening to me about the bugs, despite the proof that with my code it ran, without my code it crashed, they would not believe me and made no effort to correct the issue.

This quarter billion dollar system went into production with my debug code still in place because it could not run without it.

I have been programming for more than thirty years. Chances are good that a fair number of people reading this exercise code written by me nearly every day. I am very good at my craft, but I am still learning. Programming is a very difficult thing to master. Pretending that you can even understand what is required in a day shows that you don't understand the subject even a tiny bit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well that's the problem, isn't it

That's not the point of this hours introduction, is it? The idea is to get people interested enough to put the time in to learn the skill. It's a taster, an amuse-bouche if you will. They ain't attempting to replace you!

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WTF?

Re: Well that's the problem, isn't it

"This quarter billion dollar system went into production with my debug code still in place because it could not run without it." - and perhaps more fool the company you work for, for not understanding this and firing the lot. If it needs your debug code to make it work at all, god only know what other sorts of horrors are lurking in there. I mean... this code... it does do what it is supposed to, right? The results make sense? Always? Has this been adequately tested? You don't work for RBS do you?

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Re: Well that's the problem, isn't it

@heyrick:

Re: " this code... it does do what it is supposed to, right? The results make sense? Always?"

Unbelievably, yes. I can't tell tales out of school, so can't say much, but it used a clever technique to determine, at a distance, systems that were about to fail before they failed. That in turn allowed scheduling repairs prior to failure to ensure SLA uptime. The errors in the code were errors in software development, not in logical design. The program did what it was supposed to do. It would occasionally die and have to be restarted because my code was not able to entirely fix errors subsequent to invalid memory use.

Re: "Has this been adequately tested?"

Yes. In fact, that is the only reason it worked. Through a huge series of testing and repair iterations the software's behavior was brought into compliance with its design requirements. They could argue with me, but they could not argue with designers and users in UAT.

Re: "You don't work for RBS do you?"

No, but I think you get the idea. The reason stuff like this flies is because someone like me subcontracts to another sub-contractor that in turn contracts to the general contractor that has the customer relationship.

Deals are made between client and general contractor, sometimes a horse-trading deal for which the nominal contract deliverables are irrelevant. They are scratching one another's backs somewhat off the books and the nominal contract is one way to move things back and forth. The General contractor gets a piece of billed hours as does the sub-contractor. The final person doing the work (me) is encouraged to work long hours, and carefully bill every minute because only billed minutes result in money regardless of progress on tasks. These are usually in some type of regulated industry that is able to pass on any and all costs to the consumer. Everybody prospers except for the consumer.

In the particular instance above, this pro-active maintenance system saved a *ton* of money so what was being paid was out of value actually created by the work. Its quality was not much of a factor as long as it got the job done. Even though it was aesthetically offensive (to people like me who care), It got the job done.

Come to think of it, the above is not atypical across all of software development. No wonder it is all such a horrendous mess.

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Anonymous Coward

"No one’s born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one."

There's a big difference between computer science and programming, in the same way as there is between physics and engineering.

There's also a vast difference between a good programmer and a mediocre programmer. It's hard to think of any other profession where a person could outperform their peers by such a margin, or indeed where such a difference would be tolerated.

The nearest example I can think of are musicians. By all means everyone should take a 60 minute lesson on playing the piano for fun, but don't think for a moment that's going to turn you into a concert pianist. You need years of work, massive passion for what you do, and no small amount of natural talent.

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What you've got to hope from the one hour taster is that they have enjoyed themselves writing something that sort-of worked that they think another hour's commitment might be worth it, and then another hour's and another...

So the question is - what happens to those people who get to the end of the hour and want to continue but aren't ready for unstructured, unsupervised learning?

They might never make software engineers or build an app, but if they learn that they can program a bit and get the computer to do something for them then that's worth trying.

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C'mon America's Youth - Let's All Write Code!

As asked in comments above, exactly what do they consider "programming"?

I went to the Code.org site and wasn't sure how to answer the question Are you a Student/Teacher/Computer Engineer/Other. I'm 'Other' even though I spent 23 years writing business apps in COBOL. If you've played computer games and wondered how they work you'll learn to code. If you just don't care you never will learn how to code and I hope no-one ever forces you to.

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Anonymous Coward

I thought the whole idea of Apple devices was that you don't have to learn any complicated 'techie shit'

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Anonymous Coward

You don't have to know it but you do have to pretend that you know it. For example, an Apple genius refers to lying skills not technical skills.

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You still need that techie shit

You can create a great UI with minimal effort using Cocoa. But the bit under the hood still needs real work, depending, of course, on what exactly you want to do. Maybe there's core code out there that does the tricky bits you want, but then it's hardly going to be a truly novel app if you're just putting together a few lego blocks. But Cocoa is really great if you're a creative and need to create a custom or non-commercial app that can address some specific requirements not met by commercial software.

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SVV
Bronze badge

I just tried the course

It's here if you fancy a go yourself : http://learn.code.org/hoc/1

My verdict? Pretty good actually at introducing the basics, feels like solving little puzzles (which is what programming should feel like, lest we forget when spending another day wading through endless pages of badly written undocumented awfulness). I could imagine that the later exercises are at a level that some kids will find challenging and hard to grasp without more help, but overall it certainly does what it claims and shouldn't be dismissed lightly.

Be warned however that some of the sugary between-exercise video clips featuring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and sundry American nano-celebs may cause potentially screen damaging levels of computer rage.

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Re: I just tried the course

I would suggest that what is most important is not one's capacity to code but one's capacity to reason logically. Anyone can learn to code, reasoning logically is another matter.

As an analogy, when I learned to speak French, I did not become Moliere or Hugo.

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Silver badge

Dear Apple, open yourselves up a little

I like my iPad Mini. I can see potential in it.

Kindly explain to me why I appear to need a desktop Mac in order to submit apps to run on it (via the App Store), or even to upload an iBook if I should ever write one.

Why is it that I can write an Android app on practically anything, but doing stuff for an iPad is a closed door? You do realise that desktop machines and tablets exist in different spheres and for different reasons? The iPad has certainly opened my eyes to what a tablet can do (my previous Android experience was with phones); however if I am limited in my options to make it do what I want it to do (even if that is just farting around to get to know how the setup works), my next device and any code I may write, may be Android instead.

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Silver badge

Re: Dear Apple, open yourselves up a little

I think you're conflating issues.

The Hour of Code is a national scheme. Participants offering a free one-hour in-store lesson include both of the companies that have the space to do so: Apple and Microsoft. The article seems more interested in the Apple angle but you can take that up with El Reg.

Neither Apple nor Microsoft allow you to develop for their ~$500 tablets without buying an additional computer. Does that mean neither of them should be allowed to take part in the scheme?

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JB

Yoof coding

I understand these sessions are for teenagers. Is there anything for people like me, in their 40s, who did some hobby programming in the good ol' days and want to get back into it, but are befuddled by what's happened in the last 20 years? I've started tinkering with Python and have enjoyed it, but looked into developing apps for phones/tablets and found it totally bewildering.

What are these sessions about? I'm guessing Objective-C.

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Anonymous Coward

I want a one-hour course in chair throwing

It seems to make people a hell of a lot richer than programming.

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