Programming as a Craft

Day 12 of National Blog Posting Month #NaBloPoMo

Last week I had the pleasure of attending FF Conf in Brighton. I was partly inspired to go to the conference after watching a talk from last year’s event: Programming With Yarn by Lily Madar.

Watching this talk coincided with a visit to my local museum in Trowbridge, which has an exhibition on the weaving industry that was prevalent in the area many years ago. Wandering around the exhibition, seeing the old Jacquard looms and the original punch cards used to “program” them (one of the early examples of computing) I was struck by the similarities between what we think of as programming today and other crafts. Lily’s talk touches on this in the context of the history of programming, as well as the similarities that knitting and crochet share with programming as we know it.

My own introduction to programming was teaching myself to program the lighting desk at the concert venue where I worked. It had a GUI, but the principles of variables, functions, loops and state were all applicable. I didn’t think of it as “programming” until much later when I became a web developer, but that’s absolutely what it was.

Nowadays, programming is often thought of as an elite skill that only a few have an aptitude for. Many creative people I know dismiss the idea that they could learn to code. But I’m convinced there are many transferable skills from other crafts and creative industries that would be an asset to any programmer. We aren’t so special.

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