Coding. Programming. Development. These are words that scared me. Computer programing was this magical thing that the super-smart people I knew could do. Whenever I looked at my co-worker’s computer screen in the Reese News Lab, I saw this terrifying, intimidating jumble of numbers and letters and parentheses and colors. It was as foreign to me as hieroglyphics. I’ve long thought it was pure magic. That Reese developer Ashlyn Still’s brain somehow worked in the way that mine could never comprehend.
In reality, I knew that it wasn’t really as scary as I had built it up to be in my head, but I did not know where to start. One day another co-worker sent the team a video. The video came from Code.org. It included interviews with people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others who created programs like Dropbox and Twitter. They spoke to the need for more children to learn computer programming, the ease with which you can start to learn and the excitement that comes from seeing your first code appear on the screen.
The video was just the kick in the pants I needed to try it out. I decided to start where one should start with most things in life: the beginning. I opened up some online tutorials and Text Edit and in just a few minutes ran the code in the browser and came up with this.
I suddenly understood the appeal and the rush that you feel when the simple text you typed is transformed into something new. By the end of a couple hours of playing around, I was changing font and color, formatting tables and drawing shapes. Each time I refreshed the page the excitement grew.
I didn’t think I was going to become Ashlyn overnight, or maybe ever. That was not my intention with starting to learn. As a photographer/videographer, it is unlikely that computer programming will ever be my main career focus. But in order to execute some of the ideas and interactive web videos I am interested in, it will be vital for me to be able to communicate with those I will collaborate with. I need be able to better understand what is possible and how to best communicate those ideas to a programmer.
When I first typed in the heading for the page I wrote “Coding = Magic.” By the end of the day, I realized that was not true, and I looked up the code for the ‘not equal’ sign. It isn’t magic. It’s just a new language, and one that anyone can learn. And more people should.