The two most important lines of code I have written, ever

There is a bit of a discussion going on in the Twitterverse about whether or not you should learn programming, started by Jeff Atwood and picked up by many, including Zed Shaw.

Now, I have a great amount of respect for Jeff Atwood and there is the possibility that stuff was misunderstood. But I’m offended by the example be brought up about the code that may be written.

I would like to present you with the two most important lines of code I have ever written in my entire life:

10 PRINT "HALLO"
20 GOTO 10

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In almost 30 years I have never, ever written something more important to me. Of course, I wrote code that was infinitely more complex and had a better purpose.

But on that day sometime in 1987 when I wrote the code, my relation to computers drastically changed. I realized these aren’t some complicated, almost sentient, magical things. I realized that if the computer is willing to print "HALLO” until the end of eternity (or until I press RUN/STOP) without complaining, then this machine is mine. It’s a slave, waiting at my command. Once I realized that I’m commanding the computer (and not the other way round) I could set my mind on how to actually do something cool or useful or fun with it.

Of course, we have come a long way since the 80’s, but a lot of people still see technology as something magical and intimidating. While there is a lot of reason to be in awe of the technical achievements, the first step to becoming a programmer is to realize that you are the master.

Let people write the above code and if they get excited about the sudden realization of their power, let them become programmers. The people that are not excited will eventually stop anyway. But whatever you do, don’t mock beginners writing simple code on the grounds that the code is simple, because it just makes you look bad.