Hermans: My name is Felienne Hermans. I’m going to talk about my book called, “The Programmer’s Brain.” Specifically, we’ll zoom in on the topic of how to read code.
Before we really dive into reading code, and The Programmer’s Brain, I want to take you through my personal history of how I came to study The Programmer’s Brain and how I came to study code reading. We have to go back to the year 2013, in which I started to teach kids, programming, 10, 11, 12-year olds at a community center in my neighborhood, wanted to learn programming. I was like, “Sure kids, I can teach you programming.” I was like, how hard can it be? They’re children. Even though I didn’t know that much about teaching, I figured it was not going to be hard.
What happened then is subconsciously, I started to think back at how I learned programming when I was a kid. This is me programming when I was about 10 years old, behind a big computer. I was really small then, but also computers were really big in the ’90s. When I was learning to program, I wasn’t really going through a programming lesson or a programming tutorial. There were no programming lessons. There were no adults around that really knew programming. I never really took a programming lesson. I learned programming from a book. Maybe some of you of my age, have the same experience that these books weren’t really explanatory books. They just had printed out source coding. This is how I learned programming by reading and figuring stuff out. Ultimately, of course, getting a sense of what those codes mean.
It isn’t just me, many people my age share the same experience of learning programming without a teacher, without going to a programming lesson. As a field, we miss a collective history of what a programming lesson looks like. You might wonder, why is it relevant for code reading? The fact that we don’t really know how to read code directly relates to the fact that we never took lessons. I’ll show you in a bit why that is so related. Because we never really went through a programming lesson as a community, we don’t really know how to shape a lesson. I certainly didn’t know how to shape a lesson. I just let the kids explore. This is something still very visible in our self-image as a community, just let people explore, just let kids explore on their own, they will figure it out.
You still see this vibe very much in programming for kids’ books that you can buy now, so not in the ’90s. Today, if you look at programming books, you see that those are written by people with the same experience. For example, here’s a book, Computer Coding for Kids. The snippet is in Dutch, but there’s an English translation underneath. This says, never be afraid to mess around and experiment. This is very much the