This piece aired on KQED-FM.
By Saleeha Bey
When most people turn on their computer they go straight for Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. They see pictures, words, and buttons... but I see the source code behind the screen.
I first started learning the language of computers through an after school program called the Technovation Challenge. Two other girls and I worked to code and design a mobile app that lets users upload pictures of their wardrobe to help them coordinate outfits. Like Cher’s closet from Clueless- but better.... From the color of people’s shoes to the style of their hats-- even accounting for rain or shine-- our app would give users the most fashionable ensemble each day. In programmer-speak: we optimized the outcome from existing variables.
Working after-school with two computer science majors from Cal, we learned a lot about programming but we also learned about perseverance. Turns out some of our simplest ideas required pretty complex code and took days. At times our idea didn’t seem worth the energy it was taking to code. We became frustrated with each other, ourselves, and the whole concept of computer programming. But after just 3 weeks, the lines of jumbled letters and punctuations turned into coherent sentences I understood. And then the process of deciphering code became fun.
Before we knew it, it was show time. We put the final touches on our prototype and presented our app, “Fashion Guru” to a board of judges at the Technovation Challenge. It felt like sending your child off to school for the first time, it was terrifying. But, we won 1st place in the region.
Learning the language of computers opened up a whole new world for me. Now when I launch an app on my phone I think how I could make it better, and when I startup my computer all I can think of are the unlimited possibilities.
And all it takes is an idea, determination, and lots of caffeine.