BBC BLOGS - dot.Rory
« Previous | Main | Next »

David Braben: An Elite gamer

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:24 UK time, Wednesday, 16 March 2011

It's BAFTA night - no, not one of those little affairs involving Hollywood stars or soap actors, but the video games version. It's the biggest awards ceremony of the year for an industry which is becoming more important to our economy than movies or music.

David Braben

And, while the BBC does of course take an impartial view of these matters, I am hoping that someone who represents the best of Britain's games sector walks away with at least one of those golden masks.

David Braben's company, Frontier, has been nominated for two BAFTAs for its work on Kinectimals, a family game which was one of the launch titles for Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system. I spent a hugely enjoyable afternoon at the firm's Cambridge offices with David, discussing the science which goes into games, his worries about whether Britain is producing enough of those scientists, and finally persuading him to have a quick play with something which, nearly 30 years ago, took the art of gaming onto a whole new level.

For a whole generation, Elite, created by Braben and his fellow Cambridge student Ian Bell, is what first turned them into gamers, hunched over their BBC Micros for hours at a time. Its 3D graphics, its open-ended nature, its creation of a virtual world and an in-game currency - all foreshadowed the way the industry would develop.

But, while it was great to get a quick demo of Elite from its co-creator, I'd really come to talk about the present. Frontier stands out as one of the few British games developers competing with the big players on the major platforms while retaining its independence.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

While many great games are still made in the UK, much of the industry is now foreign-owned and that leaves its workforce vulnerable when the games business goes through one of its periodic downturns, and head offices in California or Paris are looking for savings.

David Braben stayed in Cambridge after graduating and in 1994 founded the business he still runs. "It's a really good place to be based because of the university", he explained. The company, which now employs more than 200 people, seeks out students in computer science, maths, and physics as potential employees.

You might think that Kinectimals, a game that allows children to adopt an animal and go on adventures, was a pretty simple affair, not requiring much science. Not a bit of it. A team of more than 100 worked on it for 16 months, and making the animals move in a realistic manner involved some heavy lifting: "There's all the science and maths of the skeleton tracking," Braben explained "There's also modelling and drawing the movements, the physics of how the skeleton works."

As well as the scientists, making the game also required people with what the boss called more "touchy feely" skills - designers, writers, artists, animators. Our universities churn out plenty of them, but Braben's concern is of a growing skill shortage in the sciences: "A real problem is there are way fewer graduates coming through the system now than there were five years ago," he explained. "Computer scientists are down by a factor of two."

Creating video game

But Braben is not the type to sit around moaning about the industry's problems, or obsessing about the need for tax credits - he's doing something about it. He and some friends in the Cambridge technology sector are looking at ways of reintroducing into schools the kind of basic programming skills he learned, and which seem to have disappeared in an ICT curriculum which teaches how to handle Microsoft Office and little else.

They've a cunning plan for a very cheap programmable device which could fire young imaginations today in the way the BBC Micro and Elite did 30 years ago. More on that in due course.

For now, good luck to all the nominees at the games BAFTAs, but especially to Frontier, which is showing how British science and creativity can combine to create something we can be just as proud of as The King's Speech.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Programming in ICT? us hard core gamers / IT experts (David included) didn't come from a generation where coding got taught! Making games was (is) something you did at lunchtime and after school between getting picked on by the cool kids.

    You can't expect a newbie ICT to setup and teach a Java Development Environment for 30+ kids.

    Apps are where the next generation will come from. Making their own little games on the quad core laptop mummy bought them.

  • Comment number 2.

    "which now employs more than 200 people, seeks out students in computer science, maths, and physics as potential employees."

    Well after letting go near enough 40 people recently and by the looks of how empty the office is, a lot more have left cause of that, so defiantly less than 200 now - they shouldn't be hiring anyone else till they are back on their feet.

    "someone who represents the best of Britain's games sector" - I hope you are thinking of the team, Frontier isn't one guy.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think they're talking about that level of modern programming. I think they're remembering the old days of programming on the ZX Spectrum, or BBC, etc. Starting kids off in something akin to BASIC, which no one does any more.

    But they need something that will show results reasonably quickly. A version of BASIC with more power and graphical control commands, that will allow kids to dive in and create simple but fun games and experiments with ease.

    The SAM Coupe was a great effort in that direction years ago, but came out too late (Or too early, perhaps?) and was poorly marketed. Something similar, inexpensive, with plenty of useful and easily expandable connections for the hardware fans, and a core language that echoes BASIC for the programming side, is what it needed. It would get kids immediately enjoying the creation of their own programs and games (And think how it could be used for other lessons! Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Biology, etc...). That's what kids need to learn on.

    I've thought about the concept myself often enough, seeing what modern kids are missing... Being a merely mid-level programmer (who grew up on such primitive machines), I'm also a graphical artist who studied traditional art and product design. I can imagine something simple but fantastic for modern kids. A simple retro-style device, with modern technology to keep the costs low, with the maximum amount of flexibility. If schools promoted its use, and the education department really got behind it, it could create a new wave of computer talent in the UK the way those early machines did, when the rest of the globe were playing with un-programmable consoles.

  • Comment number 4.

    Did his company make games for the 16bit systems? i was way too young during the 8bit era:)

  • Comment number 5.

    "and which seem to have disappeared in an ICT curriculum which teaches how to handle Microsoft Office and little else."

    I'm so so bored of hearing this in the media! Its not true, serves little purpose, and undermines a subject already under some considerable pressure due to this sort of casual comment, generated by a total lack of understanding. Information Communication Technology as a subject is not responsible for the delivery of a curriculum associated with computer science or, more broadly 'I.T'. The 'C' bit of ICT is very specific, and very useful as a broad tool for computer capability, i.e. an education in how to use computers effectively, in everyday situations. Learning how to use specific software packages is an important part of this education, as a preparation for real-world situations in the workplace. Schools have no direct need, or association with MS, thats just a reflection of the demand. As IT culture shifts, in mnay cases, the ICT curriculum tries to match and anticipate this shift.

    The skills and mindset of a person capable of producing games/coding at the level mentioned in the article is entirely different from the average day to day use and competency expected in the workplace, something that a decent school is aware of, and something that an ICT curriculum can deliver. If given a chance.

  • Comment number 6.

    Royal Holloway University of London has courses based around making computer games in the first, second and third years. Today I am helping run an open day taster session to 60 A-level students. Highly recommended!

  • Comment number 7.

    @ MyVoiceinYrHead
    Despite how quickly you dismiss the idea, I do feel that we need to introduce some elements of computer science into the school curriculum.

    It is a huge shame that for a country that was at the forefront of computing, and for a country that produced many programmers and computing experts, that we are starting to slip away from that.

    Hell, even if it is introducing different number systems (binary, hex, etc) in Maths lessons, and proper computer architecture in ICT lessons (actually drill down to the CPU, RAM etc, rather than just saying this is the box where the magic happens).

    Also, in terms of programming, we aren't asking a newbie ICT teacher to set up and teach java development. How about starting at stuff that isn't even programming (like command line stuff, HTML, CSS etc). And even moving onto "actual" programming, it isn't exactly hard to have visual studio or ecplipse installed on the computers, and teach the students the very basics (hello world etc). Perhaps it could be a tiny bit added onto the end of GCSE ICT (instead of being taught about input hardware for the millionth time).

  • Comment number 8.

    I have a background in IT Support and am now teaching ICT to year 7 - Year 11 students. I was really concerned to see the lack of real IT skills that pupils now get due to the national curriculum, So I sat down and redid our entire scheme of work concentrating more on the interesting aspects of IT (Games Design, Website Design, and the likes). all things that as a kid I enjoyed doing on my Vic20, yes this means that my pupils will not spend 6 years learning office applications, but they will hopefully be a lot more interested in continuing study into A level and beyond.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm amazed at the lack of a programming element to ICT in schools.

    Also while it revolves around Microsoft products the children should have a far better grasp of systems and files rather than applications.

    If I remember rightly someone developed a programme that helped children design & compile basic games for the Spectrum - surely a similar application could be developed for schools.

  • Comment number 10.

    WD (10:57am on 16 Mar 2011) mentions BASIC and having something similar these days for children to create their own games. How about HTML5 canvas element in a simple web page and using javascript on the programming side? For the non-techie types the canvas element can be used to produce graphics and the javascript programming language to make the graphics do things. Just type 'canvas' and 'games' into Google and there many websites to get you on your way.

  • Comment number 11.

    I had no idea that David Braben was involved with Kinectimals! That's pretty awesome.

    I've fond memories of Elite, Elite II, Frontier: First Encounter (from which I presume the company name is based) and various clones such as Escape Velocity, so I hope they can quickly recover from the problems comment #2 covered.

  • Comment number 12.

    The man should either get a knighthood or be stuck in the stocks for the amount of time i spent playing Elite and not doing school work...God that was a good game.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ tom
    The thing is it is true.
    I speak from my own experiences of double award GCSE ICT and my girlfriends experiences of single award ICT and A level ICT.

    For the most part, all three were essentially qualifications in using MS office. Using Excel, Word, Publisher. My gf's A level course is a bit better, going into Access (although no VBA), and does have a little bit of web design (although no HTML / CSS etc). Other than that, the GCSE's we did had a fair bit on "what is hardware and software" and "what are inputs and what are outputs" - things that had been covered several times in years 7 to 9 already.

  • Comment number 14.

    I grew up in the 80s and now run a software company producing internet software.

    My first experiences of programming (like many of my generation) was on the home computers of the time - in my case the Commodore 64. I played games on it, but I spent many hours writing my own code too.

    We had "computer studies" at school briefly, but it was next to useless. What little we were talk was very basic for those of us who played with computers at home.

    It would be great to see young kids being taught programming from a young age (something my generation didn't have) but I don't see it happening - not least because there aren't the qualified people to teach it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Technologies like Microsoft's Silverlight (WPF) and Microsoft's XNA already allow a fairly simple and easy step into the world of more "interesting" programming (even the "non-programmable" consoles). Microsoft's education licenses help keep costs at a minimum too. It's a shame it isn't Apple who have made these technologies or else the BBC would be all over them.

  • Comment number 16.

    As someone who grew up with the ZX81, then Spectrum and eventually Atari ST then PC I have a smattering of basic programming skills, I find these have been very very useful in learning the basics of webdesign and HTML coding. I am not and never will be an expert BUT a lot of the people that came into computing after Windows 95, the point and click generation have simply no idea waht happens behind the scenes and not clue how it works or how to operate a web site interface unless it is point and click. There does need to be a return to some simple programming to aid future generations, if nothing else it might give them a clue as to what to do when you point but it won't click. IT skills at a simple how to click on things have increased over recent years if those skills are only required to switch it on, surf the net and send an e-mail. I think that anything much beyond that level has slumped.

  • Comment number 17.

    I personally think this just highlights everything that is wrong with the games industry at the moment.

    Genius creator of an epic, brilliant, open-ended, proper clasic game is reduced to making cutesy, family-friendly gimicks that (here's the big sell) uses a motion controller. Woooooo - Big deal.

    No games pubslisher nowdays would ever take a punt on what might end up being the next Populous, Civ or Elite games. Braben should be livid with the stagnation.

  • Comment number 18.

    Braben is hardly the poster boy for British developer talent, bug infested shovelware springs to mind. Far better are the many UK developers Sony brought “in House” and Rare, all of whom didn't actually reach the pinnacle of their careers with their first game.

    Anyway, I think he has a point, but in this day and age something like an Amiga would fail spectacularly, PCs are king and considering you can get free versions of Microsoft’s programming suite what would be the point of releasing a box to get people programming? It all ready exists and hardly anyone cares.

    I suppose it’s easy to hark back to the days of the BBC Micro and Speccy and get all bleary eyed about it, but even with the advent of the Amiga it became more of a challenge to produce good results. The days of two people knocking out a classic like Elite are long gone.

  • Comment number 19.

    peterkcrowther - I have to admit, I'm more an 'Actionscript' person these days, but having a quick look, you might be right about something like that, if it's simple, but versatile. I think the difference is, it needs to be a language implemented on a new custom device. Something almost purposefully distanced from PCs.

    Yes, it needs a certain similarity, because eventually they will be doing these things on PCs, but probably the closest example of what they need, power and size-wise, is the Nintendo DS. Except they should have something with a keyboard, and probably a memory card slot for saving images, etc. Something they can sit with at home, and program away on, without needing to borrow parent's computers, and no internet access. ;-) But limited wi-fi between machines, like the DS, would encourage kids with making their own games to play with friends. It should also have external ports so it can be used in things like science, or design classes. Imagine hooking it up to sensors in physics or chemistry classes, to manipulate readings? Or using it to control primitive electronics that the kids have built themselves?

    I think there's room for a device of this nature to get kids started, whilst avoiding the 'point and click' mentality.

  • Comment number 20.

    There are "Child" friendly programming tools out there that make it fun for even the youngest kids to play with programming. Scratch and SiMPLE come to mind.

    Anyone suggesting Java, .NET, Silverlight etc are not anywhere near the sort of tools that could be used in schools.

    ICT in schools in our area is just learning Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Not that that's a issue because tools like this are used by everyone in the real world everyday, so are a good place to start. But learning a bit more about computer science and programming tools are tool this country needs.

    20 years ago we produced the best software engineers in the world, we still could but UK companies will have to stop outsourcing everything to India. We can't compete with China for cheap engineering or India for cheap IT skills ... but we can compete at the top end .... when the Financial services bubble bursts it's science and technology that will save us.

    Shame none of this will happen ... SS UK will simply sink without trace because of corporate greed and short-termism .... :sigh:

  • Comment number 21.

    Also, to further what I said.
    While I agree that there is nothing wrong in teaching basic skills like using MS office, the problem is that nearly all the students in a GCSE ICT class will know how to use office anyway. Its taught from years 7-9 in ICT lessons, and quite often in primary / junior schools (when I was in year 10 I helped out for a week in my old junior school, and was very surprised at the level of computer skills the pupils there already had).

  • Comment number 22.

    When is Elite 4 coming out? Is it coming out?

    That is the only question you should have asked him!

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree about the need to teach more programming skills in school ICT lessons. A great programming learning environment for this is Processing. It's free, highly extendable and available for Windows/Mac/Linux. It's ability to work with Arduino hardware makes it really exciting for kids to work with - they can control robots or grab data from sensors etc. As an employer in the IT industry I would love it if all of the young people who come to us had just *some* Processing experience. It would give me the confidence that they are able "think" like programmers, even if ultimately their role in the business is not as a programmer. I would also have to say that some of these propriety programming tools (Microsoft/Adobe) are really not that useful. They seem to be more about locking people in to a propriety way of doing things, rather than developing general programming expertise.

  • Comment number 24.

    Shopping list for programmers of the future:

    1. Modern Web browser - Opera, FireFox or Internet Explorer 8.
    2. Notepad.

    The combination of javascript and the canvas object means that kids can, without additional software, do all the things - and far more - we could on the computers of the past.

    To my mind the blockage happened when computers came without a built-in programming language, especially one which could easily draw graphics.

    Languages, like MS basic, which revolved around the realm of text were fine for business, but rubbish for kids.

    As far as I know, the Atari didn't come with a language at all (without buying one) - talk about a dampner or computing creativity!

  • Comment number 25.

    Even in an environment where they primarily taught Office, it's inexcusable that they are introduced to some programming - e.g. macros in VBA (not a language I like, but still), they could be introduced by demonstrating the techniques for recording macros (point and click), and then to and examination of the code created by this technique, and from there to simple editing, and finally to creating small macros from scratch, by hand. This is not tricky, and could easily be integrated into the syllabus.

    Probably far more relevent though, would be web-based programming using PHP, Javascript and similar technologies. Again, there exist a plethora of free tools and utilities for these, open source, languages, and similarly there are a plethora of sites that have excellent tutorials for these, aimed at a school level.

    The problem with a monolithic curriculum is that it is very hard for it to adapt rapidly to the times, and IT/ICT/Computing/Whatever moves very, very fast.

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh, forgot to mention...

    Elite, what a game. I whiled away many evenings learing to dodge Thargons and Thargoids, such fun. Never quite got into the sequels as much though. EvE online comes close to recreating the experience of the original game, but not in such a friendly way.

  • Comment number 27.

    From my perspective as a non-techie gamer, I really hope Dave Braben (and Ian Bell) get recognised for creating what I consider to be the greatest game ever. I have recently played a version on a spectrum emulator and it stands the test of time really well.

    So came on - how about an updated version!!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    While Microsoft software is ubiquitous in schools and colleges there will never be the freedom necessary to properly teach children how to program and to learn how their system works underneath, in fact it's expressly forbidden to do so - I never learnt how the software interacts with the hardware for example.

    In short an open source solution needs to be implemented, perhaps a GNU/Linux computer (system) especially in these times of austerity there are no licensing costs

  • Comment number 29.

    re: Comment #18
    "The days of two people knocking out a classic like Elite are long gone."
    I would deign to disagree.

    Let's leave the definition of "classic" aside for a moment, because surely it's easier to be a classic for a mid-late 80s game with no advanced commercial competition at the time and high retro appeal from the 90s onwards.

    We haven't yet abandoned the days where small groups can procude hits. You pointed out yourself that the PC is king and it applies for this too; Steam recognises and promotes "indie" developments and even localisations, a few of which have been widely successful.

    Even unsupported developers can still take off; The most obvious and relevant example, Minecraft with over a million sales from a solo effort, shares many similarities to Elite.

  • Comment number 30.

    Whilst Elite and Frontier were classic games, it's interesting that David didn't have the foresight to continue with his genre. As has already been mentioned, Elite's successor is Eve Online. I've always felt it a shame that David hasn't got a role in the development of what is, in my long gaming experience, the most challenging, rewarding and evolving gaming experience currently available. It took a couple of chaps from Iceland to take the baton and run with it and I'm thankful they did! Incidentally, a large proportion of CCP's developers and British, so at least we still have some involvment.

  • Comment number 31.

    Wow. Lots of opinion!

    We DO need to teach computer science in school. I leart BASIC at home, like many people. I was also taught BASIC at school. Along with LOGO. When I went to college I was taught Assembler (x86), C, Pascal and Visual Basic. Notice, I wasn't taught Java.

    At the moment, in my world anyway (corporate IT development and Consultancy) we're *struggling* to fill posts. All we're looking for is decent beginner knowledge of SQL and C# /.net plus a thirst to learn. It is tough, most applicants only want to talk about Java. Aside from some mobile stuff and IBM's WebSphere how much Java work is there compared to the 1000s of graduates we're pumping out, the majority of whom know Java. We should be teachking skill and languages which are used respective to the volumes they're used in. Not jumping on a bandwagon of open source, Jaba or whatever else happens to be cool.

  • Comment number 32.

    In reality, it shouldn't matter if they know Java instead of C# or .NET.
    The better CS courses will teach the theory and underpinnings, meaning that a graduate should be able to easily adapt to near enough any language thrown at them.

    Of course, I realise that isn't always the case, but the programming language isn't always that important :).

  • Comment number 33.

    For those of you asking about a new version of Elite, I urge you to try Oolite. Gameplay the same as the original but with new graphics, loads of addons and new features.

    BTW moderators, I have no connection with Oolite (which is free to download anyway) other than I am a big fan of Oolite and the original Elite.

  • Comment number 34.

    @SuperSonic4 #28

    Your take on programming is a little out-of-date, as are your views on licensing etc. Just because it is on Linux doesn't mean it is free. Way before Linux was even made my uni had a mix of Microsoft and UNIX development and the university was mindful about what packages etc were made available to us as it's not always free to use (that went for both environments).

    Those aspects aside, software doesn't interact with the hardware any more, hasn't done for over a decade :) Modern computing is all about abstraction and students should be instructed so, especially at school level - interacting with the hardware is the kind of course you would study during further education. There is also nothing stopping you discovering how a Windows system works at a low level, it is all incredibly well documented.

    I'm sorry to say but your post came across slightly biased with not a great foundation in facts.

  • Comment number 35.

    I never meet David Braben unfortunately. I was several years behind him at Cambridge but I did spent the Summer of 1997 programming professionally for another start-up in the city and it's great to read about him and his company being successful.

    Glad to see some debate about ICT in schools.

    The single most pointless thing to teach at school is how to use specific applications. I was (still am?) an expert in ICT not because I could use version 3.42.02 of a programme that is explicitly designed to used by complete idiots. My expertise was that I could explain in general terms every aspect of computing and communications technology from first principles from Maxwell's Equations and the quantum mechanics of silicon atoms upwards. Whether it is machine code, scripting languages, relational databases, OFDM modulation schemes, Discrete Cosine Transform image compression or several hundred other things, I've forgotten more then most current IT graduates know.

    However, the key point is this. If I got job tomorrow that required me to be a wizard with the latest versions of MS Office the first thing I'd do is head down to the local collage and sign up for one of their courses in it. I've been using computers for 30 years and if I need familiarisation and/or training on a new version of software, how does anyone think it will be different for the kids currently in school. We need to teach transferable knowledge and understanding not perishable skills.

    We need to teach people how computers, mobile phones, networks, fibre optics, digital cameras, LCDs and other technologies work NOT how to use a particular make/model.
    We need to ensure people understand the limitations and advantages of written, verbal, visual and in person communication NOT not just how to do it using device or program.

    There is no shortage of brilliant things you could do with kids to explain extremely complicated concepts. In fact I could deliver about 40 hours of lessons on the theory behind information systems without using a single computer or having the kids do anything other than games, experiments and practical exercises.

    This is before introducing things like HEX programming on micro-controllers and progressing on to scripting and markup languages in their full glory.

    Unfortunately, as David Braben is finding, people with the a true depth of knowledge across a wide base are pretty thin on the ground these days - or have changed careers...

  • Comment number 36.

    I think everyone from that era harks back to the BBC times because to get anywhere then you had to be good - whereas now , relatively speaking, you have almost infinite resources to cover your mistakes and inefficiencies. Back then there was no debugger, no however many gigs of RAM sat empty, and it either worked or it didn't, especially if you got down to assembly code. Once you were there, you had to pack days /weeks of gaming into a tiny space and somehow make it work. What a complete legend. He should take up a training post and teach his efficiency methodology to today's messy programmers who could then make current PC's go like a bomb combining these techniques with their knowledge of current platforms and programming langugaes.

  • Comment number 37.

    Fox @31

    Interesting to hear more comments about shortages of programmers. IIRC I taught myself SQL and relational database theory in about 3 days back in '97 whilst stuck hobbling around on crutches. Would need to start from scratch again with pretty much every language now though.

    Currently trying to do fun things like get paid to climb mountains but I might need to return to the real world at some point. Only one issue, it'd need to pay well as I quit my last proper job because I was stuck in front of a computer!

  • Comment number 38.

    Nice article and a shame but unsurprising that its been dropped from the Six bulletin..

    But I think the main question anyone over 28 or so is asking is...
    WHERE IS THE NEXT ELITE?!?!?! The X games aren't really a replacement.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just like to add that I'm 23 and finished my Computer Science course at Cardiff University almost 2 years ago. At A-level I was happy with the amount of programming that was taught (as that is what I love doing). We started with PASCAL because of its simplicity, then moved into Visual Basic and a little in Access.

    At GCSE however, I'm not sure it's necessary. Finished uni with ~150 other Comp Sci graduates and it's impossible to get a job as a programmer.

    There is NOT a lack of programmers, only a lack of positions.

  • Comment number 40.

    To expand on my earlier comments.

    I don't think kids need hand holding to become programmers. They have the creativity and the brains. There is enough info in Google to make anything you want and today's Kids are familiar enough with using Google to find answers.

    I think they need introduction that such a profession exists in the UK and all software doesn't get downloaded from the US.

    Little Big Planet and Klik & Play back in the day have tried to make game creation accessible (with varying success). There just needs to be more heralding of pioneers like Braben (For reference I prefer Sim City), Gates or Rockstar games.

  • Comment number 41.

    Aidy, whilst being rather condescending to SuperSonic4, you seem to have completely missed what he was saying. Linux is free of licensing costs. This is true. You can have the OS on your machine without paying a penny in licenses.

    Linux /= UNIX

  • Comment number 42.

    Approaching Lave with a consignment of Alien Items and Textiles, with Mambas on your tail and a failed Docking Computer certainly did sweat the brow. Frustrating and addictive, it brought trading and aerial combat to the masses.

    Never did find an Anaconda super-freighter...

  • Comment number 43.

    I saw David presentation at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference in London, where he outlined his vision for a project called Raspberry PI, developing an affordable programming device aimed at children. After struggling to find a reference to it on the web, I've just found a Wired Magazine article here: .

    A video of the LWF presentation can be viewed on the conference site:

  • Comment number 44.

    I lost most of my younger days playing Elite, and Frontier Elite 2. We need a game like this for modern computers. I still play both of them on my Amiga 1200! too many games nowadays are reliant on flash graphics. Lets try something new. GAMEPLAY and LONGEVITY!

  • Comment number 45.

    I worked in the games industry for over 10 years. It's a great industry to be in during your 20's, however the industry is so unstable, with little to no career progression in place. Perhaps the factor drop in candidates is due to people going into other industries? Trying to buy a house on a games programmers salary is challenging to say the least.

  • Comment number 46.

    Post No. 3 (and others who want to introduce kids to programming) - take a look at Processing ( just the thing for learning programming. It runs on PCs, Macs and Linux and is Open Source. A couple of lines of code and you can have circles moving all over the screen. It also has its hardware counterpart Arduino - both a programmable processor board and a language - again a few lines of code and LEDs will be blinking and robots scurrying across the floor, but it can be built up into serious applications

  • Comment number 47.

    A big problems with getting children interested in programming is that computers already do far more than in the early 80s

    Back then, if you had a bit of programming skill you could write something that looked like ping-pong or even space invaders, and everyone was impressed. You could probably write a basic game something like that in an evening with a bit of experience (good job, since there was no reliable way to save your work...)

    Can you imagine that now?

    Now, you'd have to write something like Modern Warfare or World Of Warcraft for it to impress, and there's no way you could do that in an evening, or even the summer holidays. To get it done at all, you'd need to use a toolkit which took all the hard work away from you, so at the end you probably wouldn't be that much better at programming anyway.

    No doubt some children would get enjoyment out of re-creating ping-pong or space invaders now, and doing something like that would be a good introduction to games development even today (there's some useful, but basic, maths involved in ping-pong for instance). However, the numbers would be far smaller than 30 years ago, so young people get disheartened before they start, because there's no way they can make anything remotely like the games they see around them from scratch, and using toolkits to do everything for them isolates them from the hard work.

    I remember writing a graphing program for a science teacher on the school's BBC micro in the mid 80s during my lunchtimes. Now, that would just be seen as a waste of time, as you could do it using Excel...

    Computers are far more capable and useful now than they were then, but that, by itself, makes it much harder to get started with programming them, because it seems that there's no point programming for the basic things, and the complex things are too... complex.

  • Comment number 48.

    There IS a lack of developers in the .net world. Really. We've had two open posts for almost a year (this is in East Anglia/Cambridge region). I guess perhaps there isn't the poeple in East Anglia to fill the job roles here, so it maybe a localised problem. But it is definately a problem for most companies I know of in/around Cambridge.

  • Comment number 49.

    @Dodgy Geezer

    Quite the contrary actually, the days of 1 or 2 bedroom coders knocking out a half decent game/app are well and truly back. I'm a 1 man band looking to create my first game for Windows, XBox and/or Windows Phone 7 and I'm not the only one. Creating something for the Microsoft platforms or indeed an app for Android and iOS is very doable with the tools that are given away for free.

    Not sure if the Admins will let these links stand but there is a heathly bedroom coders ecosystem developing out there: A graphical view of all the games bedroom coders have produced for XBox Indie Games Teaches you everything you need to get you going. Is free Microsoft software for all students

  • Comment number 50.

    Also when I was a wee lad we had Maths and Science split into 3 bands of differing levels of ability. Why can't ICT the same be? Those showing a greater aptitude should be offered the chance to go further than just scratching the surface with Office. Like someone above suggested this could be HTML or CSS which are still reasonably simple to get your head around.

  • Comment number 51.

    When I was at Oxford Brookes in the early 00's we used a package Delphi (a form of basic) on the pc's which was used some neat data files to help us guide a robot a round a vertual maze and perform some simple tasks. This was designed to teach basic computer programming. Perhaps something similar should be designed for schools.

  • Comment number 52.

    10 "Elite was awesome"
    20 GOTO 10

  • Comment number 53.

    39. At 1:39pm on 16 Mar 2011, DerekTheWelshMole wrote:

    At A-level I was happy with the amount of programming that was taught (as that is what I love doing). We started with PASCAL because of its simplicity, then moved into Visual Basic and a little in Access.

    At GCSE however, I'm not sure it's necessary. Finished uni with ~150 other Comp Sci graduates and it's impossible to get a job as a programmer."

    Erm, Pascal is a teaching language, pretty much useless in the real world. VB isn't a commercially used programming language. Access is a simple database, not a programming language at all (it does support VBScript, which is)

    Computer programmers need to know how computers really work. This essentially means learning programming in assembler. Once you know that, then move to C++/C#/Java where you'll appreciate what's going on behind the scenes a lot more, and you'll appreciate the compiler doing a lot of the hard work for you, but you'll still understand the nuances of what's going on.

    There are lots of jobs for programmers - but not ones who only know Pascal, VB and Access.

    If you know C, C++ or assembler inside out, you'll find a job in embedded/system programming relatively easily. Unfortunately, most people who know those at all just muddle through without really understanding it, because they went to a college which short-changed them.

    Alternatively, learn Cobol. Big shortage of programmers in that!

  • Comment number 54.

    I agree with many of the comments here about that lack of computer science in schools. I wrote about my own experience of ICT at school on my blog last year.

  • Comment number 55.

    I think a really good point has been raised here. What is the modern equivalent of basic? ie. something that is easy to code, for hobbyists and kids. I would like to write programs for working out family finance etc but am put off by the complexity of modern day languages. I don't want to write OO , just simple code that works. Any suggestions? PS. Elite Frontier - what a game!

  • Comment number 56.

    ICT is there to teach everyone how to use a computer in a work environment. How well is does that is questionable, but it is not there to inspire future computer programmers.

    However some schools are now looking at teaching computer science to everyone not just those who take the subject at A level.

    Look at the following sites: teachers and university departments thinking of modern ways of teaching computing. a way to teach Java Games programming developed by Canterbury University.

    Also OCR have GCSE in computing.

    If your kid's school don't know about these developments, show them these links.

  • Comment number 57.

    @peejkerton #41

    The OS might be free but the development tools are not always.

    OS /= everything you need on a computer

  • Comment number 58.

    @48 / Fox

    Yes sorry I should have made it clear that I've only looked in South Wales/ Bristol areas and found little to nothing. When something does come up then I apply and hear nothing from them ever again. I have not looked so much in the past year or so since I have another job and given up.

  • Comment number 59.

    For a start, for those interested there is oolite:

    Which is going for 2.0 as we speak:

    I love Elite, played it on a 64 mainly. Though I dabbled on the Amiga, and got quite proficient at the odd targeting system on Frontier, handling the mouse with your off hand is no mean feat under fire :)

    I think the whole ICT thing is a little misguided personally, by which I mean expecting a course that teaches Windows apps to school kids to engender the ability/desire to program.

    This is something that both David Harvey and Sir Ken Robinson speak about at length, the idea that "education" is system designed in the 1800's to prepare children to work in industrial, and now post industrial, society.

    I think that it you want to make more of the latent programming talent in the UK, you're going to need to stream those that show aptitude while still in Junior school or entering Secondary.

    I think the wider risk is that people will not understand the devices that they come to rely on. How many people here actually understand the insides of a PC, a smart-phone or a tablet? How many could install a PC from scratch, (with any OS) and configure it for networking, file & print support? Does anyone understand ADSL?

    Compared to the cannon of computer systems that people interact with on a daily basis, programming is the thin end of the wedge.

    It was a bloody good game though, and via oolite it still is :)

  • Comment number 60.

    Awww, you had the man there, you should have asked when Elite 4 is going to come out!! I actually played through Frontier: Elite 2 a year or so again out of nostalgia. Loved that game.

  • Comment number 61.

    Oh dear. I've been encouraging my daughter to take extra ICT qualifications at school, assuming she'd be learning some programming from it. It sounds like her complaints - "It's all spreadsheets and databases - it's boring" were accurate.
    It's a real shame. She got a good start with MIT's Scratch language (to the point where MIT invited her to their first Scratch conference), but the school lessons haven't taken advantage of her interest. Instead, it seems, they are actively discouraging her from learning practical programming skills.
    I shall look forward to hearing more from Mr Braben.

    Oh, and I loved playing Elite on my Spectrum!

  • Comment number 62.

    I think that promoting programming skills has much to do with showing pupils that these tools are available, and the sort of things they can do.
    For example, in these times of national curiculum, and Office this, that and the other, an introduction to, say, Excel VBA macro's, would be an easy way to show one way to program a system they have already learnt, and therefore have some context.
    When I started serious coding, I learnt 'C' first, and found I had to learn as much about DOS & BIOS interupt calls as the language itself (e.g. the context), and this greatly increased how much I had to learn, and the time it took (bit of a newby then).

  • Comment number 63.

    You'd be surprised how many businesses still use Access and VBA (which is essentially VB6).

  • Comment number 64.

    re: Comment #52
    10 "Elite was awesome"

    BASIC found an error in the code you entered. Do you want to accept the correction proposed below?

    10 PRINT "Elite was awesome"

    Do you also want BASIC to insert the code into a bloaty engine, adding a myriad of ugly superfluous visual effects and multiplying the file size by approximately 300?

    - To accept the correction, click Yes.
    - To close the message and correct the code yourself, click No.

  • Comment number 65.

    I was fortunate enough to be at school when the BBC micro ruled and had a maths teacher who knew how to use them.

    The beauty of these machines was that easily accessible and small enough that you could actually do things with it without too much of a learning curve.

    Want to display graphics? The basics (excuse the pun) could be taught in an afternoon. The same with sound. They were easy to attach to external devices and used for measuring in scientific experiments. We even had networking on it and could send messages to each other. Obvious now, but very exciting 20 years ago. We learnt maths, logic and procedural programming that provided a very strong foundation on which I've built my IT career.

    We've moved beyond all that now, but while we can do so much more, teaching it is near impossible because there is so much background that must be explained.

    But in response to the actual article, and to echo a previous comment, Rory should have asked about Elite 4. That's what we really care about...

  • Comment number 66.

    22, Spot on, come on David, when's it coming out?

  • Comment number 67.

    I spent what was quite a sizeable chunk of money back in the day, on the Elite game for the BBC Micro - probably the first game I bought on 5.25" floppy. Despite all the hype it's had both at the time and since, it remains one of the dullest games ever produced. I wish I'd never wasted my money

    Now Chucky Egg - that was a game - and Repton ...

  • Comment number 68.

    Has there EVER been a better game than "Elite"?

    I played EvE online, for some time, but could never get the satisfaction that there was in Elite.

    Would pay good money to see an upgraded, or new version for the PC!

  • Comment number 69.

    Ah the old classic Elite 'space trading game'.
    From an era of games when graphics didn't (couldn't?) matter but playability did.
    Not like today where profits only matter when games are unfinished but released into the gamers world, and then the company either folds or has to drop the price just to sell their product.
    Ah Elite, wonder if and when they're going to do an online version, and I ain't talking about the 'clone' of Eve online.

  • Comment number 70.

    Just teaching MS office to children and at the end calling it a computing course is like teaching somebody to drive by using kids go carts in an indoor track.

    They need to learn basic hardware, basic programming, robotics, command line interfaces and other systems like Linux. Also computers are not just in offices they are everywhere, process control, medical research. space, weather modelling, the list goes on.

    Teach them binary logic, about "and" gates and "nand" gates, teach them about viruses and network security

    Teach them about computing in the real world, not how to become MS next batch of consumers.

  • Comment number 71.

    " ICT curriculum which teaches how to handle Microsoft Office and little else."

    Unless you count learning the legal requirements of data protection and a few other snippets of knowledge, there really is nothing else - not even the most simple programming. I really think the focus in ICT in schools should change.

  • Comment number 72.

    I suspect the problem is expectation. Elite was far and away the most sophisticated game I played at the time, and I'll always have a soft spot for it. But if I was to play it now, I think I'd find it would be like watching those old TV shows from the 60's and 70's that I remember fondly, but are awful to watch now! :)

  • Comment number 73.

    I agree that ICT teaching has lost it's way recently although, with a little care, students can be taught basic programming skills. I currently use Flash Actionscript, Lego Mindstorms and Excel Macros with my classes in an effort to encourage independent learning. ICT teaching should not be about how to use an office program; it is about thinking how to use the tool. A second part of the issue is how maths, science and English are taught and to what level. Lack of learning skills in either of these three key subjects is reflected within all other learning areas. I hope that the next generation of programmers will have come trhough my classroom.

  • Comment number 74.

    Having had problems getting that 1st foothold into the IT industry when I was fresh out of Uni, I'm always willing to look at the CV's of anyone when we recruit.

    But it is disappointing that so many come to us with little programming skills yet telling me they like to play computer games but never have the desire to progress and start doing their own programming. Yet they've heard of the sky high wages you can get in computing and many seem to think they'll be walking straight into a 40-50K job straight away

  • Comment number 75.

    @53 / Paul

    I think you misunderstood the point I was trying to make. I was explaining the way I was initially taught to program in my A-levels and I meant that I am happy with the way I was taught. In university I did A LOT of Java, HTML, C#, bits of Php, C++, assembly, and the list goes on and on. As well as this there were plenty of theoretical modules such as Theory of Programming Languages.

    I did most of my work in Java, and still do but I am sure that if somebody told me to do something in any other language it would take (almost) no time at all to get used to it.

    Being a programmer doesn't mean that you are confined to one or two specific languages.

  • Comment number 76.

    @Paul #53

    VB has now been superseded by .net, but it was very much so a commercially used program. There is still a lot of it out there to this day, chugging along as no-one has had the need to fix it.

    Access does not support VBScript, it uses VBA which is very different.

    @tonbar #55

    Look into Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 (or 2010) which will help you write .net applications. It is as simple, or complex, as you make it. It supports drag and drop of pre-written controls, as well as writing everything from scratch. As well as enabling you to write desktop applications it can also be used for web sites, windows services, you name it.

  • Comment number 77.

    UK games studios are crying out for graduate coders. The problem is we need grads with very strong maths skills (I'll repeat that - very strong maths skills) and this is the component we find lacking in many of the applicants. Interest (passion?) in games is useful, but without matching that to a fundamental ability to use difficult maths, it is not much use.

    The languages etc. are less important, as smart people can learn specific things quickly.

    Grads that have done a hard science degree and then some sort of coding course are golden. The degree proves application and intellect, the Masters or whatever shows an interest in coding.

    Failling that sort of academic path, we need a blinding demo and a thorough interview that proves they did it, as not every genius goes to Uni....but those are rare.

    There aren't a lack of coder jobs available - there are a lack of strong enough candidates to fill them.

  • Comment number 78.

    61. At 2:36pm on 16 Mar 2011, RostokMcSpoons wrote:

    Oh dear. I've been encouraging my daughter to take extra ICT qualifications at school, assuming she'd be learning some programming from it"

    Having seen the syllabus, I really wouldn't encourage ANYONE to do ICT at secondary school. All it achieves is to put people off working with computers. For most people it's actually counter productive. I do expect there are many ICT teachers who get frustrated by the course content as well, so it's not their fault.

    ICT at *primary* school essentially teaches what most people will need to know later (most people won't need to know about databases, spreadsheets etc). ICT at secondary school might be useful for people who are going to be managers in charge of people doing work with computers (as long as they don't do too much work with them themselves).

    The only secondary school computer course which seems worthwhile for people who want to program is the 'Computing' A-level (which does seem reasonably good), but unfortunately a lot of schools don't do that. (ICT A-level seems to be designed purely for masochists).

    I'd recommend anyone who programs/maintains/supports/etc computers for a living to look at the GCSE/A-level ICT syllabus before telling their kids to do it - it's interesting reading (interesting when you realise how you can turn a fascinating topic into a bore-fest when you really try)

  • Comment number 79.

    @Loboexe #70

    Computing in the real world doesn't use command line interfaces, robotics or Linux. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's the reality. Computers have moved on, don't criticise others because you haven't moved with them.

  • Comment number 80.

    #17 - i completely agree with you . This game for the kinetic is nothing compared to genuine great groundbreaking genre creating titles like populous , CIV and elite . These games helped create what is now a billion dollar industry .

  • Comment number 81.

    School ICT is not Computer Science. Those of a more mature persuasion are remembering when there was only Computer Science because every aspect of getting the things to do anything at all was science (and sometimes witchcraft, but that’s not in anyone’s curriculum these days).

    GCSE ICT is really broad and very shallow. ICT is much easier to teach and get passes than computer science, partly because staff and pupils are more familiar with its concepts and applications. It is also therefore more accessible to all students. In many ways, ICT should be abandoned as an independent subject of study in the GCSE curriculum. Much of what is studied is really business, economics and technology and would be better located within those subjects. The rest is what most would consider training and not education (much like learning to write).
    Today, science teachers are as easy to find as arboreally based model equine's waste products, and so are ICT teachers who have the skills and confidence to teach the science aspects of computing. Many do not actually have a particularly technical background, often coming from associated subjects where computing has been heavily used rather than specifically studied; this works perfectly well for ICT. Of the five teachers of ICT at the local academy, only one has even considered introducing some programming, but was discouraged by the head of department.

    Computer Studies/Computing at GCSE are more appropriate starting points for the types of people it is being suggested that are needed, but it’s a niche subject compared with ICT, and requires disproportionately greater resources than dependable old ICT.
    Unfortunately, by the time students reach A-level, the knowledge gap to a technical computing subject is already scarily wide for most, as so schools continue with ICT into A-level as well. The chasm between that and degree level computing is then, for almost all, unbridgeable and leads universities to devote a significant proportion of the first year to “Computing for Dummies” to ensure a common base level of understanding with which to start year two, so and now every one is a year behind.

    No wonder the stars of the programming future are so hard to find. Despite the massive amount of time and money spent on IT in schools over the 30 years we’re talking about, most are still going to have to do it (as teenage boys have always done) on their own at home. Let’s just hope that after 30 years it’s not just the boys.

  • Comment number 82.

    Out of curiosity, do games studios look at the specific modules you do? I have the option of doing a "computer algebra" module in my final year (next year), which judging from the module description its very maths heavy. I'd be happy to do it if it would give me a "leg up" so to speak, but it would be at the expense of another module I want to do.

    (I'm not sure if I want to go into game stuff yet, but it would be nice to have the option).

  • Comment number 83.

    So untrue...

    The local school teaches Scratch and Logo, and some of the children have lunchtime lessons in Javascript. All have their uses and purposes. Even if it just creates a little interest in loops, functions, methods; it's a step in the right direction.

    MS Office 'teaching' has never been at the forefront of ITC. LibreOffice is used just as much. The last ITC lesson I saw had the children playing with robots; robots with sensors and wheels; the exact same robots I played with 25 years ago.

    I was dismayed about HTML 'programming' though. Dreamweaver is a curse.

    You're all sending your children to the wrong schools!

    PS, I no longer code because there's no money in it - strange that.

    PPS, real sorry I didn’t have time to read everyone's posts. Some of what I typed is probably redundant.

  • Comment number 84.

    For a simple idea to get kids into programming, I'm going to take a look at gameduino - . Simple to understand, powerful enough for simple sprite or vector based games... I'd say great to get kids interested in the low levels of computing! (Or at least I hope so!)

  • Comment number 85.

    @ IndaUK

    I wish what has been said is untrue. Sadly it is not. I can dig out my old GCSE ICT courseworks if you want, and my gf's current ICT A level courseworks.
    Plus, the fact that so many people are saying exactly what has been said is evidence that it is not just "the wrong schools".

    I really wish I had the chance to do javascript in school. Hell, even the chance to do HTML would have been nice!!

  • Comment number 86.

    @Aidy #34

    I believe your interpretation of SuperSonic4's post as a little biased in itself. While yes SuperSonic4's post was biased in an anti-Microsoft way (quite justifiably so in my mind), he simply offered Linux as an example, his foremost suggestion was that Open Source software should be given a bigger stage.

    I personally agree with the sentiments of many people about the damage that the dependency on Microsoft has done to the way people learn about computers. In my experience people in general aren't being taught how to use computers, they aren't being taught the fundamentals necessary to understand what is going on on the screen in front of them. They aren't being given a basic foundation that allows them to make informed decisions about the software they use, they are simply being taught how to operate Microsoft products.
    Even if you take more advanced topics like programming and software development out of the equation, this is a dangerously naive way of teaching people how to use and make use of computers. It prevents people from easily adapting to changing software environments, and it makes it difficult for innovative solutions to gain widespread acceptance.

    This argument would apply to any company, people should be taught how to use and understand computers not how to use specific software products, however there is an important point about Microsoft that is often overlooked. Microsoft has one goal, to make money. Every single decision it makes, every product it releases, and every initiative it backs is aimed at one thing, to further its business interests. Microsoft has no interest in furthering technological understanding beyond what will make it money. It has proven this time and time again through its business practices, and through its reluctance to adopt anything it can't control. Microsoft can not afford to allow for a fully open and competitive software market because when it comes down to it, Microsoft are incredibly poor software developers.

  • Comment number 87.

    This debate is really interesting, I am a 26 year old "mature" student studying my second year of a degree in Games Technology. David has hit the nail on the head really well when he says that scientists are not being created by our country even though we have more students than ever due to the recession, mainly because people (myself included) are lured by the type of degree on offer.

    I took on my degree with the honest hopes of being able to study a lifelong passion of mine and most of all to graduate and get a job in the industry. 2 years down the line and I am worrying if I will be able to get a job in programming on any level, parts of this is down to localisation as pointed out by Fox, other aspects come from the modules being taught (I really should have paid more attention before signing up!). I am taught 3 different coding modules in my second year: C#, C++ and XNA. The rest of this year has been bulked out with a module on Play and Games theory (board games etc), 3D scripting for games, Unreal Editor level design and most ridiculously Software Design where they attempted at one point to have us develop in Java but later let us develop in C# as per our other module.

    The problem with this is that we aren't understanding the fundamentals behind what a AAA game title requires and the "hard-core" science behind what we are actually coding, it is more a sense of repetition. At the other end of the spectrum the people behind the course are either so far removed from the industry or cannot keep up with the pace that we are taught absolutely nothing regarding the mobile app phenomenon.

    This essentially means that we are going to graduate with a medium skill set across various languages and find it very difficult to apply ourselves to any specific skill set required for a job. The fact that Java is mentioned so often in the other posts just goes to show how much employers have been sucked into this language at the detriment of others.

  • Comment number 88.

    79. At 4:02pm on 16 Mar 2011, Aidy wrote:

    Computing in the real world doesn't use command line interfaces, robotics or Linux. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's the reality. Computers have moved on, don't criticise others because you haven't moved with them."

    Oh how wrong... Computing in the real world has lots of command-line interfaces, robotics and Linux...

    Just because the average office worker doesn't use them doesn't mean they aren't prevalent. Most computers in the world don't use Windows (or Linux), a lot are robotic controllers (eg washing machine controllers, in-car computers etc). Try and control a Cisco network switch (which basically keep the Internet working), and you'll be working at a command prompt.

    Why teach people what they don't need to know? Most people will use "user interfaces" in their work (not "computers" - the fact that a computer is running the till, accounts system, stock control system, etc, is irrelevant). They will use email, web, word processors at home (all taught at primary school level). People who do work on 'computers' (as computers) aren't taught anything useful by secondary school ICT courses.

    The difference between working with computers as tools, and working with computers as computers needs to be appreciated. ICT is sold as the latter, but doesn't even help with the former because once you know the basics of using a mouse/keyboard, you need to know the specific tool.

  • Comment number 89.

    I was games programming from the late 1970's recently I took the computer honours degree that I promised myself when I was in my 20's.
    I thought about teaching ICT but apparently I dont have a maths O level (They did CSE's at my school)and because of that I'm not allowed to be a teacher. Even though my access course included maths (allegedly) at A level standard to enable me to have the points to get a Uni seat.
    Net result?
    Industry gained a veteran of thirty years and teaching lost one.

    Regarding University grads being cryed out for by UK games industries, you must be talking about those crocodiles tears it exudes from time to time.
    Long hours late nights and relatively poor pay (For the knowlege a games programmer needs) coupled with the "Crunch time" deadlines and the chance that you might be UB40 next week because the company has outsourced to India or China, and you can understand why there is a lack of grads interested in games.
    Why work hard for low wages and job instability when you can get paid well for writing trivial websites with a bit of SQL?
    To be realistic,the glamour of the job died in the early 1990's along with Jeff Minter and to be honest the 'glamour' was the only thing that was worth hours coding for.

  • Comment number 90.

    83. At 4:20pm on 16 Mar 2011, IndaUK wrote:

    So untrue...

    The local school teaches Scratch and Logo, and some of the children have lunchtime lessons in Javascript. All have their uses and purposes. Even if it just creates a little interest in loops, functions, methods; it's a step in the right direction.


    You're all sending your children to the wrong schools!"

    This sounds like your local school is doing extra work beyond the ICT syllabus. There's nothing wrong with that - and I applaud them for it, but they could just as easily do that without the ICT syllabus at all. The ICT syllabus actually says you SHOULD NOT teach any specific programming language - so teaching Javascript, Logo, Scratch etc is breaking the 'ICT rules'.

  • Comment number 91.

    I graduated in CompSci in 2007, fortunately into a job. In 2008 the job was moved and as a result I sought a new one. I think discovered that the number of unemployed computing professionals was nearly double that of any other profession during the months I was searching.

    CompSci courses at universities up and down the country are vastly oversubscribed, churning out rediculous numbers of students seeking jobs that just don't exist. So the problem really is not the low number of graduates around; one suspects Cambridge snobbery from David there: does his company employ graduates from across the UK or just from Cambridge?

    The real issue is the companies that profess to give an 'education' in gaming, IT support etc that give a basic overview and guarantee placement into jobs, shafting the graduates.

  • Comment number 92.

    @Al #86

    Curious that you feel my points were biased and end your own with a badly-informed rant against Microsoft. I'll try and respond only to the salient points.

    There might be an over-reliance on vocational computer training (such as ICT) however that is just being practical. MS Office etc is the most commonly used software people will encounter so why not train on it? When you went to school in England was French the primary language? Of course not…you teach to the target skill sets.

    At a university level such reliance tends to not exist for good reason. Rather than learning a set language you should be learning the fundamentals to programming, and you can then adapt those skills to any language you choose. When I was at university this was very much the case as you often used languages you'll never use in the "real world" for this very reason. Most of our courses used different languages and operating systems so we had an appreciation that it was the programming concepts we were putting into practice, not that we were "learning a language" "on an operating system".

    From the people I know who are at university now this is still largely the case. The idea that everyone is out there learning Microsoft technology is a fabrication set up just so people can have another pop at Microsoft, much as you have done yourself. It is not the case in reality.

  • Comment number 93.

    Re # 89.

    Hats off to Chris Neary who has really hit the nail on the head... I am super passionate about everything game related, have lots of ideas running around my head, but I am not a programming maverick and companies are outsourcing to cheaper countries.

    In addition just take a look at what Canada is doing for its games industry and I don't see how we can compete as a nation...

  • Comment number 94.

    @ WelshBluebird1

    Yes specific modules are important. That will at least get you an interview. The people that pick your CV out of a pile will know what is hard and will be looking for it. Do the stuff you want to do in the evening - as you will have the motivation because you think it's fun/interesting.

    You will also usually be required to do a test of some description.

    Do a demo - feel free to write things that work with some of the available engines that you can use for non commercial demos - such as Epic's UR3 or Unity. An ability to write code that works with existing code is a major plus. Write plug ins to Maya and Max. These will all make you stand out.

    There are jobs for good grad coders in the UK now - lots of them. They are being filled by very well educated Europeans at the moment, as our experienced coders are lured out to Canada.

  • Comment number 95.

    @Paul #88

    You seem to have (deliberately) misunderstood me. I said that computing in the real world does not use command line interfaces, robotics and Linux. You seem to have thought I said that those things are never used anywhere. Your response was 100% what I expected, I believe they even have a name for it; "straw man argument" :)

  • Comment number 96.



  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    95. At 4:49pm on 16 Mar 2011, Aidy wrote:

    @Paul #88

    You seem to have (deliberately) misunderstood me. I said that computing in the real world does not use command line interfaces, robotics and Linux. You seem to have thought I said that those things are never used anywhere"

    I thought the real world was, well, the real world. You seem to think that 'real world' = 'clerical office'.

    I always believed that 'real world' included cars, microwave ovens, data centres, etc. Obviously I'm just imagining all those things...

  • Comment number 99.

    When I taught myself programming on a BBC Micro, I could potentially produce games or other software to match the best on the market. Then, kids could live the dream. Now, sitting and bashing out something to rival Halo is a pipe dream. The nearest thing to programming which grabbed my kids interest was the BBC's Bamzooki.

    At least I learned machine code thanks to BBC Basic's assembler, and other machine-level stuff which has held me in good stead over the last three decades.

    And yes, I did play Elite. I'll give Oolite a try.

  • Comment number 100.

    @Aidy #79

    "Computing in the real world doesn't use command line interfaces, robotics or Linux. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's the reality. Computers have moved on, don't criticise others because you haven't moved with them."

    Paul #88 cover much of what I wanted to say generally, about your comment above, though I suspect the reason you think this is because you view computing through a narrow (consumer) lens.

    However, just because you cannot see the command line doesn't mean it's not there. Take for instance Apple, makers of phones, pods, pads and (still) computers. All of these devices share a common software platform, known as OSX, Website:

    You will see on that page the word UNIX, and even a pdf to download and read. UNIX is the command line:

    It is 40+ years old, incredibly stable & well understood, it's what the bulk of mission critical systems in the world run on. Most of the world's email goes through a UNIX system. UNIX serves most of the world's web pages, and runs most of the routers, from the pedestrian boxes you have at home for your DSL or fibre connections, up to the primary internet backbones. Google run their own version of UNIX.

    UNIX: is a blueprint, an idea of how computers should do things, it is a philosophy unto itself:

    Linux is UNIX, as is OSX, as is Android, iphone & ipad. Underneath the GUI, is the command line. The only thing this is not true of, (though it was at one point, via the DOS shell) is Microsoft Windows, which is only a GUI.

    This is what I meant when I talked about people not understanding the technology they use, as for Microsoft, they are being challenged by the world's biggest PC maker, Hewlett Packard (HP) who plan to ship their Linux based OS WebOS: on every PC they ship starting in 2012:

    As a strategy it may not get that much traction, but the same can be said for porting Windows to tablets or smart-phones.

    Whether you know it or not, most of the internet runs on some form of UNIX, as do most of the connected devices populating the wider world, and much of the dumb stuff that does mechanical monitoring too. This is the "real world" that you talk of, and while the command line may not be evident, I can assure you it was there long before the first GUI.


Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.