Bethan’s Gift

Computer, am I weird? Give me a random number. 0=no 1=yes

One. Yes, it seemed to be pretty accurate.

It had been only a month since my parents gave me my first laptop, but life without it seemed now to be a distant, irrelevant memory.

I didn’t even want a computer. Most of my friends got computers before I did. They mentioned playing games, watching videos, talking to friends. It all sounded very boring. Couldn’t you do all of that on a TV or phone? What was so special about having a computer?

After watching a couple of videos and playing Solitaire for a couple of hours, I typed my first question into Google.

“How can I make my computer do something else?”

That’s when I first heard about programming. They don’t teach that at school when you’re twelve. Especially when you’re a girl.

My second question: “How can I learn to program?”

A lot of interesting websites popped up. None of them had anything to do with school. Good start.

In the following weeks I spent all my time between homework and dinner in front of the computer. Sometimes my parents would ask me what I was doing. They thought programming was what those cyber terrorists on movies did. My answer was technically true, but not very specific.

“I’m studying.”

Sometimes I would be late for dinner and they would ground me. A day, even two without the computer. It was annoying and really slowed down my progress. I tried to make up for the delay by programming in my head, testing ideas and then memorising them for the next time I had a computer in front of me.

Soon I had finished my first program: a random number generator that could answer any question. It was like the magic 8 ball I had when I was a kid, except I could choose the number of alternatives and customise them before every shake.

Computer, are you proud of me? 0=no 1=yes 2=what is pride?

Two. We were getting along really well.

“Bethan, your food is getting cold again! If you don’t get off that damn thing you’re getting grounded again: one month without the computer!”

One month was unacceptable. I thought of all I had learned in the past month, of how different I was before I discovered the computer, of how much more I would grow after one more month with it. It didn’t seem fair for them to rob me of that.

Computer, should I run away from this house? 0=no 1=yes

One.

I closed the laptop and went down for dinner as quickly as I could. We had a lot of planning to do the next day.



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