Scott Hanselman

Programming for Absolute Beginners

September 22, 2009 Comment on this post [13] Posted in ASP.NET | Learning .NET | Programming | Silverlight | Windows Client
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You, Dear Reader, very likely don't need this information. I assume you're probably not a beginner. BUT, you likely KNOW a beginner. Share this information with them!

MSDN BeginnerA bunch of people on Twitter discovered the MSDN Beginner Developer Center today. I tweeted it, figured it was a throw-away tweet and it was "re-tweeted" several dozen times. Apparently there's a hunger for Beginner content out there! Who knew? ;)

It's at and here's some of the cool stuff. Tell your 12 year old and your great-aunt, Dear Reader. There may be a programmer inside one of them.

There's several tracks to go down, first the obvious Web Track and Windows Track, but also Aspiring Pro and Kid's Corner.

Web Track

The Beginner Web Developer center has three tiers, so you can start at various levels of "beginner." You can even start at the VERY beginning with no understanding of how the web works and go from there. The "Introduction to the Web" Video is very good! I'm going to send it to my Mom.

As you move through the three tiers you move up to VB and C# then start building a real application. Along the way you'll learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript and ASP.NET. There's also downloadable lessons, podcasts, videos and code.

Windows Track

This section has another nice video (in the absolute beginner part) in the style of "How Stuff Works" with an explanation of what an OS is, how a computer runs instructions, etc. It's a fun video. This section has lessons like "Life Before Mice" and "Problem Solving in Life and Technology."

Aspiring Professional

Taking it from amateur to "professional" is the real trick. I personally like to say that we're ALL amateurs. I mean, if you can get a gold medal in the Olympics as an amateur, then who am I to call myself a professional?

Regardless, there's more than just programming skills involved, there's also working in groups, as a team, in an office and how the software lifecycle works. There's also sections on moving to ASP.NET from PHP and moving to ASP.NET from Classic ASP.

Kids Corner

Do kids always get a korner because kids love alliteration? I assume so. They also get MS Comic Sans and other bright graphics to keep their tiny attention spans. Seriously, though, the videos are pretty cool and worth watching because it's fun to watch an 8 year old explain Object Oriented Programming.

As an aside, there's some really cool changes happening at MSDN...I've seen some artist comps and snuck stuff out before and used your feedback. I'm hoping to get a hold of some new screenshots and some insider stuff on the new low-bandwidth (and other) views for MSDN that will be launching soon. MSDN Libraries are getting faster, as fast as <2 second page load times worldwide is what I hear, so I'll try to dig up details on that also. More to come, soon.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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September 22, 2009 15:57
The other day I was listening to a podcast from .NET Rocks on software complexity (or is developing software become too complex?).

Some of the guests as well as the crowds lamented that there was little entry level information on the web for people approaching Microsoft technologies. Can this be a step in the right direction?

September 22, 2009 16:25
Anything to get people (kids, especially) excited about programming, is a good thing. And who of us couldn't use a refresher here and there?

Along these lines (and Stefano's comment), there have been several in the UG community pushing for more "back to basics" presentations, but I think many people are afraid to admit that they're looking for that. And that's a shame. I've witnessed (sometimes very personally) several people struggling to learn a new advanced topic, who weren't willing to admit (even to themselves) that they didn't understand certain prerequisite concepts. They start to get frustrated, and feel inadequate. And when they try applying what they didn't really understand, they implement it poorly. All because of the fear of admitting that they need some "back to basics", and the perceived stigma for admitting that, especially in our field.
September 22, 2009 17:56
I just wish that they would write the courses in C#. The idea that Visual Basic is easier for kids to learn does not make sense to me. VB.NET is close to C# in all of its capabilities but far more verbose.

Kids can learn 1+1=2 rather than one plus one equals two.
September 22, 2009 18:08
What timing! I was just blogging last night about how there's a need for better teaching in the software development community. A lot of presenters and bloggers assume too much when delivering learnable content and it can be exceptionally difficult for a beginner (or professionals, even, in some cases) to even get started.

I hope this site helps to alleviate some of the pain involved in entering in to the complex world of software development. Thanks Scott for the quick write-up!
September 22, 2009 18:38

I agree I think the kids should learn

2 = 1++;
September 22, 2009 19:43
Hey Scott, thanks for this info. I'm just started teaching a course for industrial engineers in a local university in Panama and got to say timing was perfect. Wish thought, that the "Introduction to C#" be in Spanish, try to mess around with the language settings (es-pa or es-es) with no luck. Also, the video is not in Soapbox.
September 22, 2009 20:37

I think the appeal of VB in this case is that it is almost English, and so would be easier for children to grasp than the various symbols used in C#.
September 22, 2009 23:11
okay okay, I'll be the one to say it. Scott Hanselman, The Ronald McDonald of Programming ;) ;)

Great site!
September 22, 2009 23:15

Sorry to say this but, shouldn't it be:

2 = ++1; ?
September 23, 2009 4:02
It is great to see Microsoft putting some focus on kids. I was very surprised though to not see any mention of Microsofts Small Basic development IDE. That is a very cool introduction to programming for kids. I have introduced my 8 and 10 year old children to programming using it. They love it!
September 23, 2009 23:29
I just linked the Sharepoint for Developers series to my coworkers. We're going to be moving to Sharepoint soon for our document management, so the timing for this works out fairly well.
September 28, 2009 4:09
Great post Scott. I'm about to teach my girlfriend's 13 year old brother how to code, using c#. He is still learning English though, and the Spanish pages of the tutorial seem to be broken or there are no translations (same problem as Rogelio). If you know someone on the team and could pass that on that'd be great! (a bit of a long shot I know) Thanks, Richard
November 06, 2009 12:54
hi, I browsed some of your articles and found you're a expert on programming, hardware and software we need.
I really benefit from your site, thanks very much.

Whatever we do, god knows.
swf to wmv

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.