For the last three days I’ve been attending Web Summit in Dublin,
Ireland. This year, more than 22,000 attendees crowded the presentation
halls and roamed through countless exhibit booths, excitedly inquiring
into the latest startups looking to make it big.
I was honored to be a speaker on the Builder’s Stage, and told the
story of Codestarter and our mission to get a laptop into the hands of
every kid that wants to learn how to code but can’t afford their own
computer. I explained that as a nine-year-old growing up in Iowa, I
got my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80, and it changed my life.
Photo credit: @Rogerh1991, http://code-love.com
I was able to spend countless hours with this machine, typing in long
lists of BASIC code from magazines, one letter at a time. Every time I
ran a program and got the computer to transform those instructions
into a running program, I got the thrill of my life.
I next asked the crowd to stand up and posed a simple question: how
old were you when you got your first computer? Then I told them to sit
down if they were thirty years old or older when it happened. I didn’t
see a single person sit down. Twenty-eight or older. A handful sat.
Twenty-five. Twenty. Eighteen. Seventeen. Sixteen. Fifteen. Fourteen.
Still 75 percent stood. Thirteen. Twelve. Now the crowd began to
thin. Eleven. Ten years old when you got your first computer. A full
50% of the audience still stood.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. It’s not hard to see how years,
sometimes decades, of practice with a computer can result in a huge
advantage when it comes to studying computer science in university,
landing a tech job when entering the work force, or having the
confidence to create an internet startup.
Unfortunately, not every kid has the chance to get a computer when
they’re ten years old. And that’s a shame, because the power that
comes alongside tech expertise is immense, and can change a lot of
lives for the better. At Codestarter, we’re working to give that same
opportunity to every child that shows an interest in programming.