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2023-08-26T09:02:11Z ago

Really great discussion and topic. It wasn’t dug into, but I think the factor of how many distractions there are for kids growing up these days puts some massive hurdles in front of them to develop that “passion” and capacity for perseverance (focus). I was an early 90’s kid and as a result grew up mostly within a purely functional space of technology (smsing one person at a time to organise something - and it cost a lot to do), no exciting online multiplayer gaming, no social media (and when it came, it was myspace which is more a personal site really).

In short, my generation still to a certain degree had the luxury of dealing with true boredom - where you had nothing to do and had to actively find something to do; we didn’t have computers in our pockets that could ensure we never had a free moment to let our mind wander even when in the classroom, waiting for the bus, walking in the park or on the toilet. Your mind not being allowed to wander, is the same as your mind not being allowed to sink into a new skill, topic or interest and to over time, let it develop your character and identity. This is what passion is in my opinion.

2023-08-29T01:31:50Z ago

The generational analysis is definitely not correct.

There is certainly a smaller proportion of enthusiast developers among those entering the industry. But that isn’t because kids today have iPads instead of C64’s.

Among the Xennials (or “Millenial Falcons” as Dylan Beattie calls them), even of those who had C64’s, very few of them were typing in games in Basic, most were playing Pitfall or using other consumer software and never developed any curiosity beyond that.

By percentage, a far greater percent of kids today have access to programming in Minecraft or Roblox, or on Arduino or Raspberry Pi etc etc. Or learning to program using JavaScript on the web, or Pico-8, or any number of other platforms that are now available. While you were considered an “enthusiast” for launching your C64 games from commodore basic, enthusiast kids today are hand-coding serial PIO protocols on a Raspberry Pi Pico to flash their RetroArch compiled from source for their mips32 handheld console.

So why is there a smaller proportion of enthusiast developers entering the industry? Because the flow of enthusiasts are drastically outnumbered by masses and masses of people who are swarming to the industry because of the widespread impression that it pays well and that there are jobs available.

“Learn to code” is the defining 2010’s-2020’s meme describing what is perceived as only way to find gainful employment in the modern economy. All of the prominent, richest people in America are well known to have earned their riches in tech. All of this draws the attention of swarms and swarms of young people with no particular interest in computers per se, but a keen interest in being employed and making a living.

Along with that competition, “enthusiasts” are not just drowned out, they are often edged out. There are simply higher expectations of programmers today. People who would have succeeded as enthusiasts in the past are now edged out by competition who may be better at interpersonal relationships or office politics or just the ability to hold down a job/complete tasks etc. Or for that matter, just better at writing organized professional code where the younger “enthusiasts” of the past got away with hacking.

Talk to anyone who has been in this industry 50 years, they were tell you that the kind of code that passed for acceptable in their first 20, 30 years of programming would now get you fired. Hard to believe, but today’s boot camp grads, as bad as they seem to us today, are actually legitimately better coders than were the average entry-level 80’s-90’s programming enthusiasts.

So yes, the era of the enthusiast programmer is over. You can’t hire “all 10x developers” because there simply aren’t that many available. Programming is now an ordinary job populated by a whole bunch of “normals”. But no, it’s not because of some generational difference that we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to load up Commander Keen and it built character somehow. No, today is actually a much better time than ever for a child to grow up as a computer enthusiast.

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