Saturday, May 12, 2007

Soldering and machine code

I should probably interject here that a year or so before I really got into programming my brother Neil bought me a kit radio for my birthday. It was a small battery powered AM radio, which did not look like a kit at all when completed. It could easily have passed for a commercial offering you would buy at a department store.

This kit was great fun to put together, and it helped me learn how to solder. I would use this skill as I got older for many purposes, some of them computer related.

I wish there was more of a kit culture today. While you can build robots with Lego Mindstorms and similar systems, it makes sense to learn things as fundamentally as possible.

In a similar way people studying computers should consider learning at least a simple machine code. For example before I had any opportunity to program in machine code I read a book on Z80 machine code. Eventually I had some chance to write 6502 assembly. I never mastered assembly language but it was valuable experience. I suspect that many young people studying computer science today are not exposed to the bare hardware of the machine these days. Universities should be held to account for this IMHO.

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