An Ode to Code: Learning the Universal Language of Today

Once the province of computer geeks alone, coding is going mainstream. Kinvara Balfour heads to East London school Decoded to see what you can learn in a day

In the last 15 years, I have assisted in the launch of several tech start-ups. My first foray into the web world came in 2004, launching US website in the UK. Since then, I’ve advised websites big and small. I have a series on iTunes. I speak about tech trends at conferences around the world. But I have a secret. Despite all those years I’ve clocked up from the internet’s early days, I don’t know how to code.

As the internet continues to transform our lives, the need for code—the foundation upon which every letter, number and image is processed through the world wide web—is great. I honestly didn’t know what coding was. Is. Does. I think it’s my love of Silicon Valley that made me take the plunge. I want to do Hendriks and Bachman proud. So I booked in to Decoded for its famous Code_in_a_Day course.

With a presence in UK, USA, Australia and The Netherlands, Decoded is a “school”—a spacious studio in East London which teaches code (without patronising you) in crash course form. On that day, I joined four other students (2 CEOs, a gamer, and an MD from a big bank) and learnt much. Not enough for me to launch the next Alphabet Inc. (yet), but enough to feel excited. Encouraged. Empowered.

The morning session on the “History of the Web” was a highlight. As was the food served (it’s almost worth booking in for that alone). I built an app. In one day. I learnt JavaScipt, HTML and CSS. Each is different but works in unison. Coding is precise: put a semi colon in the wrong place and the entire stream won’t work. It’s complex but, paradoxically, refreshingly simple.


And it got me thinking: If I’m learning this now, how long ago did Page, Brin, Zuckerberg and Wozniak do so? My school failed me big time on the tech front.

It is clear that schools must teach code as a compulsory second language to all pupils and from an early age. It would help if parents had an understanding of what their children are learning. In the future they will, because they will have learnt it too; but we are at an extraordinary period in the history of mankind when one generation has no clue about something that the younger generation knows everything about.

While this is so, I think it pays for everyone to meet somewhere in the middle. I’m going to continue my coding education and will appreciate the work of Silicon Valley (and Silicon Valley) more than ever before. I’m headed back to Decoded for the Digital Leadership course. And everyone—as in <b>everyone</b>—is welcome to join.

Decoded; @DecodedCo

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