Edan Schwartz
Software Engineer

Response to 'We Don't Need More Programmers, We Need Better Tools'

25 Mar 2015

I ran into an article by Michael Schöbel titled We Don’t Need More Programmers, We Need Better Tools:

Every now and then someone will say that we need more programmers. That every child should learn to program in school. That programming is the new writing.

I disagree.

Give a 14 year-old, one who has never even used a computer before, a computer in its original box and see how long it will take him or her to write their first program. My guess is that it will either take weeks or not be accomplished at all.

The learning-curve has gotten way too steep.

I agree that we need better tools, but we also need a society that is much more comfortable using those tools. Which to me means that every child should learn to program in school.

I think the time is quickly arriving when basic programming skills will be as required in the job market as knowing how to use Excel is today. Does this mean every kid should be pushed towards a programming career? Of course not. But it’s certainly a topic that will need to be better covered in schools.

I completely agree that we need better tools. It’s amazing what can be done now with a text editor and a browser - especially as javascript becomes more powerful and more widely used. But the truth is that there are still far too many barriers to entry to make any meaningful programming task accessible to the average person, in the way that Excel is.

We’ll have to meet in the middle, somewhere. I think it’s reasonable to expect that by high school, someone could figure out how to install node and execute a script from command line. But can we expect that same person to install, configure, and understand the many (and growing) build tools required for a modern day web app? And maybe we could teach them how to setup a virtual host on their machine. But are they really going to spend hours searching through StackOverflow to figure out how fix their apache config?

We need tools that enable us to concentrate on the actual task, instead of all the housekeeping that still comes along with it.

This is spot on. But I still think that every child should learn enough programming in school to be able to effectively use those tools. And we for sure need quality programming eduction in school, because we’ll need some of those kids to be smart enough to write those tools.

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