I have a confession. When my kids were really little, I used to eat their Gerber vanilla custard pudding when no one was looking. When they were somewhat older, we went to Pixar movies. At at a certain point, I sort of made them go with me. I didn't want to be the creepy adult male in a Pixar flick. By now, you should be picking up a trend. Yep, sometimes I like the things that perhaps were not targeted to my demographic.
That brings me to the news of Apple's new iPad app, Swift Playgrounds. It's designed to teach kids to code. Kids need to learn to code "like a fish needs a bicycle," to steal a metaphor. Kids who want to learn to code should, but that's not the point I'm making. Swift Playgrounds might be targeted to "kids" but I think that's a mistake. Swift Playgrounds should really be called programming or coding for the "rest of us." In fact, what Swift Playgrounds really is the the true descendent of HyperCard.
HyperCard was the brainchild of Bill Atkinson who created MacPaint. Word is, Bill offered it to Apple on only one condition: It had to be free for all Apple users. Free as in beer. Legend has when John Scully, then CEO of Apple, said on first sight, "Now I can program". HyperCard was built on a metaphor of "cards". Each card was the size of then Macintosh screen. "Programming" was done by using "objects" with natural language. Cards, objects could be linked at a time when the idea of a "hyperlink" was a vague concept that few understood. Virtually anyone could create a "stack" of cards, linked together with ease. It was a simple or sophisticated as your imagination.
I once created both an educational program to teach Talmud as well as a mission critical application for the CEO of a Fortune five company. My programming skills are limited to what I learned getting a minor in Computer Science. Like many, I mourned the passing of HyperCard.
Swift Playgrounds is awesome. I reject the idea that coding needs to be a part of the core curriculum of any school. That said, any tool that unlocks the power of the most powerful devices ever created is amazing. It's a tool beyond amazing.
Sorry, Tim. I know that Swift Playgrounds isn't meant for me. It's meant for students. After all, coding for kids is the new mantra. Nope, unlike Trix, Swift Playgrounds isn't just for kids. It's the Gerber Vanilla Custard Pudding of the 21st Century. I don't even need to have a kid around to use it.
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I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.