by Megan Johnson, intern

If you don’t know anything about coding, you could be missing out on being fluent in what the New York Times calls “the language du jour”.

Anthony Edwards and Michelle Meyrink in "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984).

Anthony Edwards and Michelle Meyrink in “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) – “The computer’s your friend.”

For years, computer programming has had an uncool reputation, bringing to mind images of Revenge of the Nerds (see above picture). Depictions like this made programming seem like it was just for “nerds,” and wasn’t worth learning. But Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) in the above scene says to Judy (Michelle Meyrink):

“Some people, they can create with their hands, but when you’re working with a computer, you gotta build something with your mind. If you’re good, you can do something no one’s ever seen before. It’s a definite high.”

According to USA Today, one MIT student acknowledges this “nerdy” computer programmer stereotype such as the one in Revenge of the Nerds is just not true anymore in the MIT student body and “[students] can make all these things that society values. That, right there, is making the typical geek cool.”

Among today’s students, there will be a new Mark Zuckerberg, creating the next hottest social network, or a new Steve Jobs, inventing sleek and unique tech that has 1,417 people lined up early in the morning. More importantly, there will be new names, new faces, new jobs, new opportunities for today’s generation.

A New York Times article published last year explains the recent need and desire to learn the language of coding:

[People’s] jobs now require being able to customize a blog’s design or care for and feed an online database. “Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the Web”…

“People have a genuine desire to understand the world we now live in,” said Zach Sims, one of the founders of Codecademy. “They don’t just want to use the Web; they want to understand how it works.”

There is an urge now to harness the knowledge that has been so exclusive to computer programmers for years and learn how this technology we use every day works from the very basics of Java, HTML and CSS. It’s a transition from a more passive acceptance that this amazing content is generated every day to an active pursuit of figuring out how that data generation occurs.

Perhaps this explains the popularity of the computer science major these days. The passive-to-active transition is reflected in the Computing Research Association‘s 2011-2012 report through the steadily increasing number of computer science majors over the past five years, particularly the increase of 29.2% between 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, the Department of Labor reports that computer programming jobs are growing at a rate of 12% from 2010-2020 and paying an average annual salary of $71,380. Students who seek to learn computer programming or just how to code will be positioning themselves as more competitive professionally by acquiring these advanced skills.

Computer programming is an industry of growth, so it’s about time we learn to speak its language. The Atlantic Wire explains six different reasons a non-programmer should learn coding, including that it’s fun, it teaches other skills and can be useful to know just as another tool. For our students, we offer Game Programming with Java because we believe that it’s important to expose them to the language of computer code when they’re young so they can get the chance to pursue a new hobby or just acquire a useful skill for their futures.

Whether you learn just enough to say you know it or pursue it as a career, there is value, as the New York Times article states, in learning code.