Coding for old school novelists

This wasn’t my usual writer’s workshop.

As an old school journalist and a storyteller, I’m trained to put words together with a purpose in mind for an audience to either consider or take action or feel emotions, in other words, be informed or entertained.

Likewise, coders use specific languages to direct machines to perform certain tasks.

Maybe that’s a bad analogy. We are not machines.

Anyway, Mark Lassoff of Learn to Program and his associates taught a course on coding for all levels at the ReSet Business Factory, a Hartford center and community for entrepreneurs and my office away from my home office.

Paul Langdon and the programmable BB-8 Sphero robot with the operations program on the monitor (the colorful lines.)

Paul Langdon and the programmable BB-8 Sphero robot with the operations program on the monitor (the colorful horizontal lines.)

One of his associates was a mini version of BB-8. Look closely. BB-8 is  in the aisle.

CodeClassBB8

Size matters not. Our demo robot is in the aisle. Lassoff shows the steps in the program on the monitor.

Paul Langdon put our special Star Wars guest through its paces using a program he designed on a free app called Tickle. What you see on the screen next to Lassoff is the program display from Langdon’s phone.

Each color is a line of text telling the computer app a command.

The point of the demo was to show that every move or pause the robot makes is programmed in as text.

The text gives the machines commands to do, as in a loop.

At one point as technical glitches happened, Lassoff suggested we program “frustration” into the loop.

We know a machine can’t feel “frustrated,” not until SkyNet makes all the machines self-aware (the Terminator movies, in case that rings a distant bell), but we see frustration in silent people through body language.

Just like we interpret frustration in the non-speaking Star Wars robots.

Show, don’t tell.

Game developer Andrew Snyder showed us the bones of his “Pong Clone” which he designed on a game developer app called Unity.

Snyder shows us the steps in he programmed into his game.

Snyder shows us the steps in he programmed into his game.

The user interface for Unity — or, rather, what’s on my screen in the lower right hand corner of the image above — reminded me of the three-paned user interface display of a writing program I use called Scrivener.

Scrivener on my desktop at home. Do you like my Poland Spring soda webcam lens cap?

Scrivener on my desktop at home. Check out my high tech Poland Spring bottle cap webcam lens cap.

Any familiar landmark helps when learning something new.

Before Langdon showed us his program that ran the mini BB-8, he described programming as “just telling a story to a machine.”

Langdon edits his "script" to tell the robot.

Langdon edits his “script” to tell the robot what to do.

 

Okay. Story, I get.

The machine is really the reader or, more often, an actor. That makes programming a computer for a task more like a theatrical script.

So …

Coding is just a different language with precise syntax and grammatical structure for a specific audience.

But wait — there’s more.

  • HTML is for writing text to be interpreted by a web browser.
  • CSS lays out what the web browser sees all pretty on the screen.
  • JavaScript uses text to make a computer Do Stuff.

My instructors, if they’ve gotten this far reading this post may be thinking:

inigo-montoya_that-word

But I’m doing something right. Thanks to the course, I properly used the word “boolean” in a joke that made my engineer husband MacGuyver laugh. #Winning

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
  • Marian Lanouette
    May 2, 2016

    Good article. You make coding sound easy.

  • rhonda3
    May 2, 2016

    Thanks, Marian. It’s kind of like describing an elephant. I can tell you about the size and the trunk. That’s about it. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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