Obama Becomes First President to Write a Computer Program


Adrianna Mitchell, a middle-school
student from Newark, NJ, explains a
coding learning program to President
Barack Obama during an “Hour of
Code” event in the Eisenhower
Executive Office Building on the
White House complex in Washington,
DC, on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Barack Obama told the
world that everyone should learn
how to code. And now he’s putting
his money where his mouth is.
Earlier today, to help kick-off the
annual Computer Science Education
Week, Obama became the first
president ever to write a computer
program. It was a very simple
program—all it does is draw a
square on a screen—but that’s the
point, says Hadi Partovi, co-founder
Code.org, an organization that
promotes computer science
education. “All programming starts
simple,” he says. “No one starts by
creating a complicated game.”

Last year, Obama delivered a
YouTube speech last year to
promote Computer Science
Education Week, but didn’t write
any code himself. “Learning these
skills isn’t just important for your
future. It’s important for our
country’s future,” the president
said in the video. “If we want
America to stay on the cutting edge,
we need young Americans like you
to master the tools and technology
that will change the way we do just
about everything.”
Obama was echoing the sentiment
of the growing code literacy
movement, which seeks to expand
computer science and programming
education throughout the world.
Code literacy advocates argue that
with information technology
embedding itself ever deeper into
our lives, everyone should learn a
bit more about how computers
operate. A whole industry has
sprung-up around the idea, with
companies offering everything from
children’s games that teach the
fundamentals of programming to
intensive three month full-time
“bootcamps” dedicated to teaching
people how to code well enough to
land a job.

Code.org introduced the “Hour of
Code” campaign last year with the
aim of convincing all students to try
just one hour of programming and
showing them that anyone can
learn the basics. As part of the
campaign, the organization created
a website that compiles many
different hour long tutorials, most
of which were created specifically
for the campaign.
Obama wrote his code part of event
today organized by Code.org, which
brought brought 20 middle school
students from the South
Seventeenth Street School in
Newark, New Jersey, to the White
House, where they met the
president and worked on Hour of
Code tutorials. Partovi says the
president himself didn’t complete
the tutorial from start to finish, but
instead went from station to station
watching the students work. He
did, however, complete some of the
exercises, which involved both using
Google’s Blockly tool, and writing a
line of code using the programming
language JavaScript.

Obama joins New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, who tweeted in
2012 that his New Year’s resolution
was to learn to code, among major
U.S. politicians who have taken the
first steps towards code literacy.


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