Learning to code is the new carpentry; grab a hammer now

Learning to code is the new carpentry; grab a hammer now

One hundred years ago, people commonly built their own houses. Most of the males in that society had carpentry skills that would put the majority of today’s males to shame. By today’s definition, you might call these people general contractors, but at the time, they were just “handy.” And you had to be – if something needed to be repaired, you were going to be the one to repair it.

Today, general contractors and carpenters combined make up less than 1 percent of the workforce. But being “handy” still has its benefits. From installing your own dishwasher to refinishing your own basement, knowing how to do things yourself can save you thousands of dollars.

Fast forward to 100 years from now. What will need servicing are the highly intricate systems that will run our lives: Our intelligent thermostats, refrigerators, and entertainment systems. Even if technology continues to improve the reliability of these devices so they rarely break down, those who can code will be the ones who can tinker with them, customize them and reprogram them to do exactly what they want. Hey, doesn’t Cousin Jim know how to code in C? Can you have him come over to look at the thermostat?

People who have the knowledge and skills to get dirty in the code of a machine will be tomorrow’s version of “handy.”

In other words, the people who have the knowledge and skills to get dirty in the code of a machine will be tomorrow’s version of “handy.” Just as parents in times gone by wouldn’t have dreamed of raising children without teaching them how to drive a nail, today’s parents should set the same basic level of handiness for coding.

But we don’t seem to be taking it that seriously.

Only 10 percent of American high schools offer a course in computer programming. Only 2,100 high schools offer the AP computer science class, out of 42,000. There are many different reasons for this, starting with our abysmal strategy of education funding in this country. But there is also a disconnect between the interests of our students, who love using computers but aren’t terribly interested in how they work, and the needs of the global economy.

You may have seen this great short film of the titans of tech talking about how they learned how to code and how important it is for today’s generation to have the same opportunity. They are speaking in terms of economic growth and how they struggle to find good engineers for Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Politicians, including the president, talk frequently about the need for students educated in the computer sciences in order to compete with India and China.

This is an economic problem to be sure, but a lack of educated talent could also bring about a stall in the machine of progress, at least in this country.

What if – just at the ascendancy of the automobile in the 20’s – Americans never developed a taste for working on cars? Sure, they love to drive around, but can’t be bothered to learn how to change oil or repair a punctured tire. They love to buy cars and can’t wait for the newest version to come out, but have no idea how it works.

Only 10 percent of American high schools offer a course in computer programming.

To make things worse, the Germans and, eventually, the Japanese really like to do that sort of work. Soon we’re importing those workers by the boatload just to fix our cars. And they cost twice as much as a mechanic does now.

American automakers can’t find skilled Americans to build cars. Ford moves to Dortmund while General Motors offshores the majority of its jobs to Osaka. Whether this car disconnect occurs before or after World War II decides whether we have the industrial might to win the war. We’re either business partners with Germany and Japan, or a wholly owned subsidiary.

This is where I get accused of being an alarmist, but I think it’s become readily apparent that tomorrow’s wars will be fought online. If the Syrian Electronic Army can cause a sell-off in our stock market with just one tweet, I think that point is self-evident. The question is whether we will have enough soldiers in that war.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to this problem. I just know there is one, and it will become of critical importance in the future. Do yourself a favor and find some free opportunities to learn basic programming. Show your children. If they seem interested, pursue it further. You might be making them millionaires – or generals.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Grit and gear: How Chris Hershman went from retail clerk to music video director

How did Chris Hershman go from working a music retail job to working with bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot? The music video director and filmmaker talks to us about video, tech, and Nikon's new mirrorless.

Change your mouse cursor in Windows with these quick tips

The standard mouse cursor is boring, so change it! With this guide on how to change your mouse cursor in Windows, you can choose to use one of Microsoft's pre-installed cursors or download something a bit more extravagant.

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

MacBook Pro battery replacement: Everything you need to know

Looking for a new battery for your MacBook Pro? It's important you know what to look for, what model you have, and what options Apple gives you! We'll cover everything you need to know about Apple MacBook Pro battery replacement.

Intel’s 28-core monster Xeon CPU might cost upwards of $4,000

Intel's new-generation 28-core Xeon CPU will debut with a hefty price tag. Although not quite as expensive as some of its predecessors, early pre-order pricing has it costing between $4,000 and $5,000.

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

Acer Swift 7 vs. Apple MacBook Air

The Acer Swift 7 accomplishes its goal of being the world's thinnest notebook, and it's well-built to boot. But is that enough to take on the Apple MacBook Air in terms of being the better to actually use?

Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 vs. Dell XPS 13

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 has some incredibly tiny display bezels, in an effort to jam a 14-inch notebook into a 13-inch chassis. That pits it against the Dell XPS 13, the icon of small clamshells.

Lenovo’s first ThinkPads with Intel Whiskey Lake processors to arrive this month

Lenovo has opted not to wait for CES 2019 next month to introduce the first ThinkPads with Intel's Whiskey Lake Core I5-8265U and Core i7-8565U processors. They will arrive onboard the new ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga.

LG’s new monitor gives you screen space galore without hurting your wallet

LG's new 32-inch display could be your next great upgrade. For $350, it offers the complete package of high resolution, high refresh rate, and 32 inches of screen space. What more do you need?
Product Review

It's not just light. Alienware's m15 is an entirely new breed of gaming laptop

Thin and light gaming is a new category of laptop, led by options like the Razer Blade. Alienware now has its own entry -- The Alienware m15. It’s not the thinnest, lightest, or sleekest option in the bunch, but it doesn’t hold back in…

PewDiePie supporters hack printers, hope to boost his subscription numbers

In an attempt to garner more subscribers for their favorite vlogger and secure his status as having the most YouTube subscribers, PewDiePie supporters claimed to have hacked thousands of printers worldwide.