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DS interested in programming - Pi or Scratch on an old PC?

(10 Posts)
betterwhenthesunshines Wed 05-Dec-12 22:04:08

DS is just 11 and has recently got interested in Python although he finds it frustrating if he gets an indent or something wrong and then the code doesn't work. Also I don't want him downloading endless bits of coding software (eg he needs an extra bit for graphics which so far hasn't happened) onto my precious Mac as my life revolves around it at the moment for work.

I'm thinking about getting him a Raspberry Pi as he'd like the mini 'build' element of it but we don't have a spare monitor (don't really want him plugging it in to the TV all the time) so we'd have to get an old one from somewhere. Is it too complicated to get started on if you don't have someone to teach you how?

Would he be better off with if I can find an old laptop and load Scratch? I've heard it's a bit more immediate and to be honest I'm a bit out of my depth!

ladyWordy Wed 05-Dec-12 22:16:39

If he's keen on programming I think the laptop option is better. As he's already found, when you learn programming you spend most of your time debugging smile so the equipment you do it on needs to be reliable.

No reason he can't try out a raspberry PI as well. But you can load Scratch on anything. I played with it, thought it was fun in its own way. If he's onto Python he'd probably laugh at it though wink

Snorbs Wed 05-Dec-12 22:22:55

I'm not sure but I'd say that for a young fledgeling programmer, the way to their heart is immediate results. The Raspberry Pi requires a bit too much messing around to even get it into a usable state, plus it's slow.

Get an old laptop running windows XP, stick Python on it plus PythonWin (comes with an editor that helps with the indent thing) and VPython (stunningly easy 3D graphics programming), and let him at it.

betterwhenthesunshines Thu 06-Dec-12 17:36:27

Thanks both, that's really helpful. Snorbs, I think you're right about immediate results. The Pi sounds fun as 'wow' item and good once you know what you're doing, but maybe too much to do to get started.

Now just need to find an old laptop from somewhere....

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sat 08-Dec-12 08:11:56

The other alternative if you have Microsoft office kicking around is to try him out on some VBA in Excel.

betterwhenthesunshines Sat 08-Dec-12 08:35:28

OK, my mum is going to try and find her old laptop so I can load it up with the right programs.

Pedro What is VBA?

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 09-Dec-12 13:26:43

Visual Basic for Applications. It's a programming language that sits inside Office products.

IndigoBelle Sun 09-Dec-12 13:37:23

No to scratch and no to to VBA. Neither if them will teach you programming.

If he likes python he could stick t that or try PHP or ruby.

I agree with getting him a cheap laptop though.

scissy Sun 09-Dec-12 22:09:05

If he's already learning and (sometimes!) successfully coding in Python, Scratch will probably just frustrate him, it really is limited beyond simple "point and click move this thing x spaces" type exercises.

Most software engineers I know wouldn't dare to admit knowing any VBA, plus it's not really suitable as a "teaching language".

Old laptop is probably better because it's more versatile (and comes complete with screen :D), however a Pi is relatively cheap so if he breaks it it's not so bad. Also, there are some interesting projects that are designed for the Pi if he decides to branch out into controlling electronics (GPIO for example and lighting LEDs - as demonstrated at the October Pi Jam in Bristol).

betterwhenthesunshines Mon 10-Dec-12 10:50:11

My mum is coming round later with her old laptop to see if we can get it up and running. And then it seems like more investigation to look at the best 'program'. It's good to have some options though as if he finds one thing frustrating, there are other things I can show him. You are all so good!

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