I’ve been left slightly dissatisfied with the unstructured nature of the Scratch teaching materials. While it’s quite fun to teach a cat to dance – it doesn’t seem to be building up to anything.
I’m also working with AppsForGood – it’s a project run in secondary schools which aims to get students to research, design, and build a mobile application which will be useful to them or their community.
One of the things I love about it is the students are often trying to solve their own real-world issues. There’s a definite sense that they have identified a problem and are working towards a goal.
That’s when I remembered The Byte Brothers! In the mid-eighties I somehow chanced upon the mysterious sounding The Byte Brothers Go To A Getaway by Lois & Floyd McCoy.
“The Byte Brothers” were a series of “solve it yourself” adventures. You read the story, and had to attempt to solve the mystery using BASIC. A typical puzzle involved working out average speed, learning how to use loops to generate “I must not cheat in class” lines for detention, and decoding Morse code.
They stepped through the code as they went – explaining how it all worked and what you could do to change the program. You coded as you went along, until you completed the task.
I loved them. I was a sucker for adventure books, and I adored the thrill of being able to solve a crime using my trusty BBC Micro.
The books, sadly, seem out of print. There is virtually no information on the web about the Byte Brothers, nor Lois McCoy. Even Wikipedia is silent on the subject.
I think it’s time to resurrect the spirit of the Byte Brothers! Is it possible to create a series of mystery short stories which can solved using, say, Python?
I think so! I’ll try to write a few solve-it-yourself adventure stories and publish them on here. If you want to write a story – go ahead. If we get enough momentum behind this, I think it could really engage kids (and adults) into learning to code.
So, stay tuned for tomorrow’s exciting story “The Python Pals Program A Problem”!