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December 16, 2013 AT 12:51 am

The Code of Life

Adafruit 2422
The Code of Life @ NYTimes.com. Writer learns to code…

The realization came almost two years ago, at the start of 2012, and if I’d had the option then of crawling into my dusty room of first editions and dying, I might have. But as the single mother of an 11-year-old boy, there was a life to build, and bills to pay. So I was motivated when I came across a magazine article arguing for the importance of “code literacy.” Inspired, I signed up for a yearlong programming course at Codecademy, an online educational start-up in New York City.

The first surprise of learning to program? I actually enjoyed it. Yes, programming is challenging, frustrating and often tedious. But it offers satisfactions that are not unlike those of writing. The elegant loops of logic, the attention to detail, the mission of getting the maximum amount of impact from the fewest possible lines, the feeling of making something engaging from a few wispy, abstract ideas — these challenges were familiar to me as a critic. By my third month, I had internalized a new logic, a different way of looking at information. By the time summer came around, I was learning about good web design by constructing web applications, taking them from simple prototypes to something sophisticated enough to test with users. And by the end of the course, I knew the basic structure of computer operating systems.


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