Award-winning author and games writer, Naomi Alderman, wants to have a go at programming in today's digital world. On the way she explores what coding used to be like. She learns about programming the Dekatron valve-based computer that was used by Mathematicians and Physicists at Harwell, the UK Atomic Energy research establishment. She hears from Mary Coombs who programmed the world's first computer used for commerce; the famous Leo I
(Lyons Electronic Office I) which ran its first business app for the forward-thinking Lyons Tea Rooms in 1951. She finds in those days that the instructions were simple, few and primitive and coded with short numbers perforated into a long but narrow paper tape. Incidentally, in 1954 the LEO II became the world's first commercially available computer.
The rise of higher level programming languages is explored. These replace the need for programming so close to the machine instructions by having compilers or interpreters that convert English language like instructions into the lower level codes automatically behind the scenes. Naomi writes a couple of very simple programs in BASIC
and finds the joy of creativity resides there too. Then a more recent language I hadn't encountered before is described. Inform 7
is a special language for programming interactive fiction and can infer many aspects of a computer game from the higher level descriptions that are provided by the programmer.In an increasingly digital world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Many of us conclude that we just don't have the right brain for this kind of thing. Author Naomi Alderman discovers her latent ability to contribute to our digital future. In the early days of computers, only ultra-logical reductionist thinkers could participate. Amateurs were easily frustrated by computers that seemed to lack common sense. 40 years on, it's a very different story. You don't have to think in 1s and 0s to be a digital creative. Naomi already writes storylines for computer games but she has left the coding to others. Now she finds out if she could do it. She meets the coding experts who think that we've all got something to offer to the digital world.Listen here:
(30 mins) http://goo.gl/16uWvr
Harwell DeKatron (24 secs.): https://goo.gl/ScYCBh
Mary Coombs (3:36): http://goo.gl/lCgr3oLEO (article): http://goo.gl/3lpsDiInform 7
(Interactive fiction programming): http://goo.gl/CwXJT8
Zombies, Run!: https://goo.gl/xyZOhV
Naomi Alderman: http://goo.gl/Mlc8qu
This programme should be available online worldwide without restriction but only for one month after the most recent broadcast. It is easiest to play on a computer (with Chrome^ and Flash) although it will work on iOS (with or without the iPlayer app) and once the BBC media player http://goo.gl/oHuhfM
is installed, it will work on Android too.
Image: Dekatron by Dieter Waechter https://goo.gl/F0QRwy