My son Lim Ding Wen
is probably the world youngest Apple IIGS programmer. Not just Apple II programmer, as anybody who can type a simple line - 10 print "Hello World" - can become an Apple II programmer - programming on an Apple IIGS required a lot more knowledge. I feel so proud as a father today when Ding Wen wrote his first event driven program which he called Doodle Kids
, a simple painting program he wrote for his younger sisters.
I have always wanted to teach my son programming when he was a kid. When he was only 2 years old, he had already know how to insert a disk and boot up a computer, then used the mouse to find the program he wanted, double clicked to run it and have fun. He asked how to write a game when he was in primary one (7 years old), and I promised to teach him programming if he had done well in school, and he did.
So I have been searching around for a programming language to teach him. I know Mac and PC quite well, and I probably know more programming languages than most programmers out there - as I myself have been designing my own visual programming language and worked in advanced language research lab in Singapore, working on a Java-like language called Starship before there is a language called Java. My favourite language includes FORTH, which you have to think and write in reverse polish notation!
But I failed to find one - a free one, not something that cost me hundreds of dollars for the IDE. Java, C#, BASIC, LOGO or even many web programming languages out there - trying to teach a 7 years old how to write a game is not easy. The programming language needs to be generic enough, simple enough, and yet powerful enough to do graphics and animation with ease - and not be constrained to be just doing graphics and animation. I do not want to teach my son pointers, or how to write a make file just to compile a program - so it must be something that you can simply type a program, and running it in the simplest way. I have tried many variants of languages like TNT Basic
, Chipmunk Basic
, Free Pascal
and cannot find one which I think is good enough. So at the meantime, I teach Ding Wen the one I learned first in my life - Applesoft BASIC on an emulated Apple II. He likes it a lot and can write some small programs, but this is clearly not the best language for him.
My luck fell from the sky when somebody was looking for me on the Internet - apparently I was one of the lucky few in the world who has purchased and received a programming tool called Complete Pascal II more than a decade ago, and someone is looking for me to see whether I still have the original copy, which I didn't. But the kind gentleman who looks for me has done an amazing job - he has an earlier copy called TML Pascal II (the predecessor of Complete Pascal II) but without the documentation, and he found one in French and translated it to English! Later we found a copy of Complete Pascal II
- and amazingly, this is exactly what I am looking for. A graphical IDE, simple enough to use and compilation is just a click away. Apple QuickDraw is very simple to use, and we spent days going through old book stores to find old Pascal books. We even use the Borland Delphi book to learn about Pascal, and Ding Wen picks up very fast, using an emulated Apple IIGS.
Within a year, he has created graphics, animation and even simple games for the Apple IIGS. And I have created a web site for him: Lim Ding Wen
. We now have 2 real Apple IIGS in our house which he can test his programs, and he had also picked up other programming languages like GSoft BASIC
and animation packages like Cartooners and Fantavision along the way.
If you have been thinking about learning how to program, but think that programming is probably too hard and is only suitable with someone with a big IQ, think again. This is something a 7 years old kid can do, so can you. All you need, is just your imagination, and a good programming language. It does not have to be hard work, just a desire to make the computer do what you wanted it to do - a simple game, a moving icon, it is all up to you. If you want to check it out the way Ding Wen is learning, you are welcome to check out my site Virtual GS
. Apple IIGS is a perfect machine for learning programming.
When Ding Wen finally outgrows what the Apple IIGS can help him, I have already found the next solution for him - the free and popular ActionScript 3. But at the meantime, he loves his Apple IIGS, and continue to enjoy being the world youngest Apple IIGS programmer - until his younger sisters come along, of course.
PS: Ding Wen first ActionScript
program - which shows his love for the Apple IIGS. He has since written Car
, both excellent replacement for his Apple IIGS demos.
PS3: Ding Wen wrote his first native iPhone application - which painted an Apple IIGS!
PS4: Ding Wen has ported his Apple IIGS program Doodle Kids
to iPhone and it is now available
in App Store!