Minecraft: The New Legos?

When I was very young, in the late 70s, my favorite toys were Legos. Specifically the Lego Space sets of the era. Each set was put together to the instructions at least once, but after that they quickly became other toys that I liked better.

Sometime in the early 80s our family got our first computer: a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer. My dad was adamant that it wasn’t for games. It was to be used as learning tool for, among other skills, programming. I did have a couple of games, though.

One game was both a learning tool and a game to play. It was a special mode inside a typing tutor program where you defended the Earth from falling letters (like Missile Command) by typing them with your hands still on the home row.

Oh, how things come full circle.

For Christmas I gave my “Little Brother” one of my old computers so he could learn programming for our robot project we’ve been developing. I gave it to him early so he could work on the graphics for a project we started to be a wedding gift for his older brother.

I wasn’t terribly surprised when the very next week he had already installed Minecraft on it and was playing every second he could. He wants me to get the game as well.

I think I will.

Last year I backed the Kano project on Kickstarter. It’s a kit where you build your own computer using a Raspberry Pi. It’s meant to teach programming to kids. Among its tools it includes a Minecraft game that can be automated/programming using Python. From the reviews I’ve read, Minecraft on the Pi suffers from the slow speed of the Pi.

But now* there is LearnToMod from ThoughtSTEM. It’s a Minecraft mod that allows players to write code in either Blocks (based on Scratch by MIT) or JavaScript. Among the many examples is a bow and arrow that creates Portal-like, well, portals.

I figure if a game of Missile Command can help me learn typing, maybe Minecraft can help teach programming.


* The game is scheduled to come out in January, 2015.

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