The other day I read a story about a town that is trying its best to regulate the electronic-game arcade business. It seems that a lot of townsfolk are convinced that the arcades are breeding grounds for juvenile delinquents and that kids who waste their quarters in them will, in the end, waste their minds, too.
While there may be something to their fears (and as a parent I must admit my heart is on their side), you ought to know that the electronic-game phenomenon is not all bad news.
The truth is that lots of kids who never before had the slightest interest in computers are fascinated by them today, thanks to those flashing lights and macabre sound effects. In fact, high school and junior high schools fortunate enough to have computer classes are finding them filled with kids who've traded in the dream of writing a hit rock 'n' roll single for the dream of developing a best-selling home-computer or arcade game.
It's not often that an opportunity comes along to get kids interested in something that will serve them well throughout life -- in this case computer programming -- and which also happens to be fun.
Believe it or not, if you've got children and a personal computer -- even if its the cheapest one available -- you can cash in on that phenomenon.
Just hustle on down to the nearest good bookstore and buy an anthology of game programs written for your computer so your children will have to type the games into the computer before they can play them. It will teach them a lot about programming -- and it will save money, limiting visits to the local arcade and to the local computer store where game softwaresells for $10 to $50 a program.
When it comes right down to it, the principle holds true for you, too. If you've been nervous about learning how to program, you should spend some time browsing at that same bookstore looking for program anthologies that might interest you -- like home financial programs or small business applications. As you type them into the computer's memory, all that jargon starts to make sense. And, after a while, you'll find that you've learned enough to make simple modifications to programs in the anthology to make them more useful to you.
I am astounded at how much bookstore shelf space is taken up now by books on all facets of personal computing. If the personal computing industry has exploded, so has the how-to personal computing book market. There are books that will teach you how to program in whatever computer language you want; books that will teach you how to use your Apple or Atari or ZX81 in ways that their creators never envisioned.
You can send $1 to the YES! Bookstore (1035 31st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007) and ask them to send you their directory to books on personal computers called "Computers: A Selected Guide." They ship world-wide.