Back in the 1970s, when personal computers were first introduced, most of them came equipped with a simple programming language—usually a variant of BASIC—and interaction with the computer required use of this language. This meant that, for those of us to whom technological tinkering came naturally, going from simple computer use to programming was easy.

These days, with computers being many times more powerful and cheaper than in the 1970s, software interfaces tend to present a slick graphics interface manipulated with the mouse, rather than a language. This has made computers much more accessible and, on the whole, is a big improvement. However, it has also put up a barrier between the computer user and the world of programming—hobbyists ...

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