Just Add Imagination

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Just Add Imagination

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I met a 12-year old programmer yesterday. He was on a field trip to the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago with his middle school. He'd brought a USB storage stick with a program he'd written on it to show us. What he had written was a very cool web browser. He told me it included about 20,000 lines of C# code.

He demonstrated the program for the group and I have to say he impressed a lot of people. This web browser had the features you would expect such as tabbed browsing but it had a lot of features I'd never thought about. For example it was a simple menu option to have the program look up the ownership of a domain using whois. And there were other options to get other bits of information about the web site as well. Frankly there was too much to see in a short period of time for me to absorb it all. I gave him my card and asked him to email me. Frankly I want to try his program out for myself. I also want to know more about how he did it as well.

There were a couple of messages I took from this experience. One key message was that young students are very capable of thinking outside the box. They are quite adept at looking at a tool (in this case C# and the .NET Framework) and putting the pieces together in new and interesting ways. Another is that Visual Studio and the objects in the .NET Framework clearly make a lot of things easier to include in a program than ever before. This student was taking full advantage of them and had created a very powerful application.  The combination of opportunity, the right tools and a young, energetic creative mind is a very wonderful and powerful thing.

I just wish we could introduce programming to more young students. This student is 12 but has already been programming for three years. Bill Gates started programming when he was 13 so this young student has a four year head start. Just imagine the possibilities.

{Note: I have a brief follow up on this student posted as he enters high school.]

[Note to Digg readers - please look around and read more of my blog. I'm glad you stopped by.]

  • Could we see screenshots?

  • Good for him, Im 26 and this is inspring

  • this reminds me of a kind in grade 8 that programmed an application to change the bootup screen in Windows 98

  • Dude you can make a browser in .NET in a matter of minutes... it's all drag and drop (it is really just redressed IE).  There is no real coding involved.

    Most of my peers and I began coding games in BASIC in middle/elementary school.  This isn't impressive at all.

    Nice try.  Real browsers (rendering, etc) are written in C/C++ not .NET (any .NET compatible language, be it C++/C#/or even J#).

  • Just what the world needs: another monopolist!

  • I like the "refresher" function.

  • That's amazing. I just looked at the screenshots. It looks better than IE7!

  • I guess lame is right, the 20,000 thousands of code are just junk generated by the automatic code from the drag and drop.

    lame wrote >>>>>

    Dude you can make a browser in .NET in a matter of minutes... it's all drag and drop (it is really just redressed IE).  There is no real coding involved.

    Most of my peers and I began coding games in BASIC in middle/elementary school.  This isn't impressive at all.

    Nice try.  Real browsers (rendering, etc) are written in C/C++ not .NET (any .NET compatible language, be it C++/C#/or even J#).

  • "had a lot of features I'd never thought about."

    That's exactly why firefox is a better browser than IE, it gives not just 12 year old's the option to build new features, but it gives it to anyone, and not just for their own downloadable package, but for all the firefox browsers allready installed.

    BTW, 99% of the features listed in the screenshots are either firefox rips, opera rips, or allready available trough addon extentions for either browser.

  • That poor kids going to get his gmail account spam bombed.

    Dan W. Armeneau

  • Sweet.. really good looking, looks REALLY professional if you ask me. I'm just a bit in doubt that this kid wrote all of this himself... I mean.. :| damn!? Even the "graphics" and menu's and other little screen thingies are done so well... I'm not really convinced this kid did it all by himself... or maybe I'm just jealous :)

  • I think you were a little duped.  C# probably has the html renderer, and honestly, this summer, while coding nearly every day and night for something, I came out with only 5-10k lines of code, depending on how you look at it.  20k is just too much, even without QA. It was cool he did that, but you had the moral obligation to comment on that, esp. given his age.

    I do agree about the general message. The best coders I know today started young, and all of us are used to working solo and unhindered, a complete turn around from what I have seen of the corporate world.  The external pressures are off so motivation is strictly personal and the end result isn't as watered down (though the actual result is a little rough).

    Kids learn the best, and given the ubiquity of computers in modern life and the sciences, we can teach them early (elementary school, that worked for several us), it would dispel many misconceptions early on and is a much more motivational way at first to learn how to think logically than paper&pencil math.  The reward (your program) will not be received until you think everything through,  and the more ingenious and persistent you are, the better the result.

  • Sounds very much like Bill Gates indeed!

  • I'm not saying that this browser will revolutionize the world, or even his middle school class, but I wasn't doing that at age 9 or 12! What were you doing?

    I say, more power too him. He has a better start than I did.

  • I'm not saying that this browser will revolutionize the world, or even his middle school class, but I wasn't doing that at age 9 or 12! What were you doing?

    I say, more power too him. He has a better start than I did.

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