Doom maker’s weapon of choice for teaching coding? Apple IIc

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Starting with the BASICs. Photo: John Carmack
Starting with the BASICs. Photo: John Carmack

When you’re one of the closest things the programming world has to a rock star, you might assume that — when the time comes to pass your godly coding powers onto the next generation — you’d hand your offspring a brand new iPad and a crash course in the likes of Swift: the insanely popular state-of-the-art iOS language unveiled at last year’s WWDC.

Try telling that to John Carmack! The legendary coder behind the smash hit games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake (today working at Oculus VR) recently shared a picture of his young son’s home computer lessons. Carmack’s choice for suitable hardware and software? BASIC on the 1984-era Apple IIc.

He’s kicking it old-school!

Shared via Twitter, the picture carries the accompanying text: “Teaching my kids programming on an Apple IIc is like kung fu training in the primitive wilderness.”

Sure, it might be basic (no pun intended), but it’s also great training for any aspiring coder wanting to learn what programming is all about before delving into more modern variations. Or as Carmack tells Cult of Mac, “The simplicity of print and plot with no boilerplate has advantages for your first experience with commanding a computer.”

Carmack has good reason to bust out the retro Apple machines. Like a dad helping form his kid’s taste in music by playing them old Beatles or Rolling Stones albums, Carmack is returning to the computers which inspired him in his youth.

As a kid at Shawnee Mission East public school (one of the first in his family’s part of Kansas to get a computer lab) Carmack taught himself BASIC on an Apple II. Later on, he bought an Apple II GS to start his game-making career, as revealed in the fantastic book Masters of Doom. The results are gaming history!

This isn’t the exact same Apple II Carmack learned on (“My wife got me a bunch of retro hardware for Christmas a few years ago,” he tells Cult of Mac), but it’s still a valuable reminder that — even in an age in which new devices come out faster than ever — sometimes the old ways still work the best.

And who knows? Maybe Carmack’s son will be churning out the must-have iOS game of the 2020s or 2030s.