Starting age

This is a discussion on Starting age within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; I started programming at the age of 13, and I can remember how naive I was. I used to think ...

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    Supermassive black hole cboard_member's Avatar
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    Starting age

    I started programming at the age of 13, and I can remember how naive I was. I used to think I could do anything with VB, when I never actually did anything productive. I was also a pretty slow learner; it took me a while to understand the concept of variables. You know, I actually made something that I dubbed "MatrixClone" with VB6; a completely stupid "console" that took me a couple weeks to finish and was very badly coded, yet I was proud that I had actually finished something.

    Anyhow, the real purpose of this thread is to test a hypothesis of mine, neatly scribbled on my doodlepad next to my monitor:

    Does the age at which you start programming affect your competance as a programmer later on?

    Generally I think it makes no difference whether you start programming at 13 or 31 - if you can understand it, you can be productive at it.

    So what's the general oppinion around here? How old were you when you started programming? What was your first language? Do you think it makes / made a difference?

    And yes, I like to doodle while I'm waiting for something to download / compile etc.
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    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    I think the ability to learn decreases with age. That said, I believe you can learn new things as you get older, it just requires a bit more work.

    I certainly believe a 31 year old could become a productive programmer, but someone who has been coding 20 years at that age will always be better.

    Programming is not just about syntax etc. It is about solving problems, and an experienced programmer will have a large repotoire of ready solutions to problems in his/her portfolio simply because they have come up before.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

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    I certainly think somebody that starts younger and does it for a longer period of time will be better than the person that starts later and has less experience.

    As adrian said, the ability to learn typically declines with age, but anybody motivated enough at virtually any age should be encouraged to learn (whether it be programming or mechanical engineering).

    I tend to think people get a tad too caught up with age...everybody wants to be the child prodigy programmer and write the next elite gaming engine in record time.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobMcGee123

    I tend to think people get a tad too caught up with age...everybody wants to be the child prodigy programmer and write the next elite gaming engine in record time.
    But truth hurts: Not everyone is a child prodigy....
    If I'm able to turn back time, I would learn C as my first language.

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    Dae
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    So what's the general oppinion around here? How old were you when you started programming? What was your first language? Do you think it makes / made a difference?
    Same as the guys above. I started HTML scripting when I was 12, I started some basic PHP programming when I was 15 and stopped a few months later, and I tried to learn to program for a GBA (C/C++) when I was 17 (but didn't know what a byte or binary or any of that was) and stopped less than a month later. I'm now 18, and around June 2 of this year I started learning C/C++ for real, but had stuff and stopped a month and a half later - and I've recently in the past week started programming again. I programmed (or edited scripts more rather) PHP off and on for a few years before learning C++. I don't think I learned enough in PHP to make a difference in my learning C++. But, I think being exposed to any scripting/programming gets you ready for errors and what to expect - where newbies might just quit because its different. I think what makes the most difference is actually wanting to learn this stuff. When I only wanted to program in C so that I could make a GBA game, all I did was edit other scripts I found and didn't really learn anything (I never knew what a macro was, but I had 20 of them). I've become determined to learn OO/C++ these past weeks and it really makes a difference. Simply wanting to learn and being determined to learn lots.
    Warning: Have doubt in anything I post.

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    Bubba's a great game programmer and he's a friggin geezer.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

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    C++ Enthusiast jmd15's Avatar
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    As Dae, I have been HTML scripting since age 12. I started C++ in my late 13's(I'm now 15, almost 16). I actually started PHP after I had been doing C++. I'm glad I didn't start off with VB, even though a VB book lying around is what peaked my interest in programming.
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    I think the idea that because you started younger you'll be better at _anything_ (except maybe sports I guess) is pretty silly. Learning early is definately an advantage, but it's no substitue for talent, work ethic and attitude.

    In fact, it might be a disadvantage. You see all these "brainy" kids on TV who are very book smart etc., but when it comes to the real world they don't stand a chance, because they never learned to socialise. They might be able to write really fast graphic renderers at home, in the dark, between bites of pizza, but they don't work well in teams. They also often have a bad, elitist attitude because they think they were born into programming.

    I'd rather work with a programmer who knew his stuff and made me laugh, than an elite who never communicated and made me afraid to ask questions.

    A note about me: I played with Javascript when I was 14-15, then learnt C++ and changed my career goal from wanting to be an airforce pilot to wanting to be a programmer. I worked on as many projects as I could when I wasn't with my friends, family or school, and at 18 I moved 2,000KM away to work as a full time .NET developer with my own little appartment. Being self taught, good grades, and having lots of open source projects under my belt definately helped, but it was my attitude, personality, drive and rugged manly good looks that secured the job.

    Starting programming at 5 years old isn't enough to make you the best at anything. It might be an advantage, but the 31 year old who's got a great attitude, is fun to work with, and is driven will always be better than the guy who started young and thinks the world owes him a living, even if they both have the same experience.

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    >>I think the ability to learn decreases with age.
    And i think it has been statistically proven.
    But what i have noticed as i'm getting older (though i am only 18), i am able to understand and grasp the "whys" of concepts MUCH better. I think, indeed, you learn faster when you are younger. I do beleive, however, when you are getting older, you have much more wisdom and life experience to reflect on when you are learning, and so straightens the curve.
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    When I was 13 I smoked too much drugs, that's why I couldn't learn to program until I was about 17.

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    l'Anziano DavidP's Avatar
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    started programming in the 8th grade at the age of 13 or so.

    My first language was Logo, and then I moved to BASIC. After a short interval of Visual Basic during the summer time I hit up C++ in the 9th grade and that has been my main language since that point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrahhali
    >>I think the ability to learn decreases with age.
    And i think it has been statistically proven.
    But what i have noticed as i'm getting older (though i am only 18), i am able to understand and grasp the "whys" of concepts MUCH better. I think, indeed, you learn faster when you are younger. I do beleive, however, when you are getting older, you have much more wisdom and life experience to reflect on when you are learning, and so straightens the curve.
    The problem is that you need a bunch of "training" to understand some concepts, that is why we see calculus, algebra and stuff even it beeing useless in practive it is at least suposed to develop logical skills in you that even the most addicted young programmer wont have. Well he may have but he wont be able to clean him self at the bathroom so he cant get your job

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    I started programming around 8-9, well it was just BASIC, however I moved on the Visual Basic when i was older and learned pretty much enough to do a lot of things. Now I'm learning C++ at 17 (Well not 17 untell dec 18 ) So I don't know if being older makes it so you don't learn as much but I do know the more experince you have early on makes you a better programmer vs's say someone who has been doing it for 2 years and is the same age as you. You cannot sub. experince for age, learn while your young.
    (Expert Visual Basic Programmer)
    (Newbie C/C++ Programmer)

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    Well I'm not a 'geezer' but I've noticed my understanding of concepts and my skills in general are sharper than when I was younger. That is not because of age, but because of exposure. I've been programming for some time and I'm not going to say it because I don't want to sound like Mr. Sr. Software Engineer. Ok, I'm gonna get flamed for that, but oh well.

    Here it is in general.
    The more you play baseball, the better you become (unless you are hopeless)
    The more you code, the better you become. (ditto)

    I flunked Algebra and I lack calculus which really sucks, but I can still understand the math when presented to me. That's due to my own experience and research in 3D games and graphics. If it wasn't for good old fashioned reading, trial and error, and more reading....and more reading then I would have a hard time with it all.

    Research. Research. Research
    Read. Read. Read.
    Code. Code. Code.
    Wash, rinse, repeat about a billion times.

    Even if you have a college degree in Comp Sci, technology changes all the time. What they taught you 10 or 20 years ago won't apply today. The math and all will but we all know that math in the classroom does not always make the exact same transition to computers. So we find...workarounds or more efficient ways to get the classroom result w/o all the classroom work. If we used the classroom example, Quake 4 would run at oh say 2 FPS. Even after college you will have to read and research to stay up to date. This stuff changes so fast.

    That's why it's good to see companies beginning to state that having or not having a degree is not the issue. You can have the degree and yet not be able to solve the problems in code and/or think through them. Programming is about solving problems - and they are usually problems that have a specific solution that is catered to your program. So knowing the solution isn't even enough sometimes, you have to be able to apply it in your code.
    No one is going to tell you exactly how to solve the problem in relation to your specific goals. And, in the case of game programming, usually the solution you create is 'similar' to someone else's, but not exactly the same.

    Experience is really worth it's weight in gold, be it commercial, or hobbyist. Age doesn't matter but experience does. The two are not necessarily associated.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 12-07-2005 at 11:46 PM.

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    I do agree 100% but I don't want to totally undermine the value of having a degree. If nothing else, it shows you can put up with BS long enough to achieve something (a BS) which we all know is a valuable asset in any aspect of society. Knowing formal terminology makes communication much easier...the buzzwords don't have to make sense, but having some sort of similar lingo makes you seem more knowledgable . I went in for a programming job interview. I didn't know what rational databasing was, but once the interviewer started talking about it I listed cases where I had alread been using it in my own projects.

    I still ultimately hate organized education with a fiery passion.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

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