Thank You For A Little BASIC In My Life

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks to an oft-overlooked little item that hearkens back to a simpler time. I’m grateful to the teachers and educators who pushed me to learn BASIC programming when I was a kid, because it had lasting implications on my career -- implications no teacher could have expected back then.

First, I must explain that I’m not a programmer.  I am a marketer -- but one who understands logic and the foundations of digital, which I have corralled into a career in digital media, advertising and marketing.

Sometimes I refer to myself as an “OD,” or “Original Digital.”  I use this term to describe any of the folks who started at the beginning of the digital media revolution and have managed to stick it out in one form or another.  I would guess that many of them learned how to code at some point.  BASIC was where I initially cut my little teeth (before they fell out and were replaced with adult teeth), and later in life I played with UNIX and HTML.



I can’t build much these days, but I can still look at some forms of code and understand what it is intended to do.  It’s sort of like my relationship with Spanish these days.  I know enough to get by, but don’t drop me into an immersion experience and expect it go well.

At a young age I learned how to make the computer do things that I wanted it to do, which gave me a lifelong understanding that whatever I wanted the computer to do, was indeed possible. 

That mindset carried over well to when I entered the workforce with a degree in advertising and a desire to do something interesting with my career.  I was immediately surrounded by people just like me (the other ODs), who created an industry and helped it thrive, watching it evolve to what it is today.

That BASIC programming language taught me logic, which helps me to be an effective data-driven marketer today.  I love looking at the data underneath a campaign and deriving a story from it.  I love hypothesizing an action to take from looking at the data and then determining a way to make that action come to life to provide more data and create a continual circle of learning in a campaign.

Learning to code at an early age creates connections in your synapses that can take a much longer time to develop at a later age.   It was more important to me than the math and science I learned in high school, and at least as important as the advertising and communications work I undertook in college.  That BASIC gave me a foundation on which to build.

I read these days about STEM and STEAM in the classroom, and I have two young boys who have an affinity toward games and technology.  Both my kids have tried their hands at coding in the classroom, and sometimes on apps on their iPads as well.

But now I think I should push them a little more. Kids should know that computers are a tool to do what you need them to do, and that the knowledge of how they operate, and the underlying framework of logic, are important to succeed in their careers and in life.

I wish I could remember the names of the teachers I had in elementary school who managed the curriculum to help us learn BASIC.  I would send them a note to say thank you for their guidance.

Thanksgiving is all about recognizing those people and those moments that have helped you get where you are today.

Thank you to all who helped along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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