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David Ellesmere: Computing Club can help develop Ipswich's next generation of programmers

Like many software developers of my generation, I learned to a program a computer sitting in my bedroom as a youngster, typing away on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, writes David Ellesmere after his visit, last week, to Creative Computing Club.

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David with Creative Computing Club founder Matthew Applegate.  Photo credit: Tim Driver - www.driverphotography.co.uk

This was a hugely popular computer in the 1980s. Relatively cheap and easy to use, it brought computing to ordinary people. Although very primitive by todays standards, it was a machine that seemed to possess endless possibilities.

Writing a program and getting the computer to do what I wanted gave me enormous satisfaction then and it still does today.

A few youngsters did really well and went on to make a serious amount of money from the programs they created in their bedrooms.

This is a phenomenon that seems to have died away over the years. Many more people have computers now, but they are using them rather than programming them.

There certainly seems to be fewer youngsters writing code.

This does create problems. Many of the firms Ive worked for have had difficulty recruiting software developers.

And young people who decide they want to go into IT can find it hard going at university if theyve never done any programming before.

So I was very happy to go to the re-launch of Creative Computing Club last week.

This is a Community Interest Company set up to give people new digital skills in a fun and informal learning environment. Although the main focus is 11-16 year olds, there are also courses for under 11s and for adults too.

The emphasis is on making things, having fun and - by all accounts - eating cake. Participants are encouraged to work together and help each other. This helps to build confidence and social skills.

The founder of the club, Matthew Applegate, is inspirational and there were some amazing tales of youngsters who had benefitted from his help.

I was also glad to see my old employer, HTK Ltd, sponsoring Creative Computing Club. This should be a no-brainer for IT companies in Ipswich. The more home grown talent we have the easier its going to be for them to fill their vacancies. Other IT firms please take note!

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