Tales of the TeenyTyper #1 – A Beginning

TeenyTyper is a small software project I’ve just started up to satisfy a number of itches that need scratching. It’s allowing me to:

  • Get some Java programming in, as my recent day job is the .NET family, and I’m finding my Java skills are on the wane without love.
  • Sorting out in my own head how a distributed Git code repository model actually works.
  • Plug a hole where I am torn over allowing my very young children to play with my computer, and denying them so I can guarantee a working machine when I come back to it.
  • Explore concepts around interest-based learning, espoused by the late educator John Holt.

It’s a kind of synchronisation of a lot of thoughts I’ve been toying with. Things like recognising a personal truth in John Holt’s writing in how my own very young children are engaging with the world; trying to make sense of it, most especially in watching then mimicking the adults around them do adult things.  It’s also an “ahh-hah” moment in hearing the discussion on the war on general computing described by Cory Doctorow:

In hearing Corey talk, I finally got conscious over something I’ve known subconsciously for a while. I love my computer because it’s a general-purpose device.  If there’s a turing-complete problem I want to solve, my computer can support my will to see it solved.  Such power is causing me a real challenge, as my darling children see me doing stuff on the computer, and also want to do the same thing themselves.

In reading John Holt’s work, the idea of children contributing to their learning of language through their explorations of his electronic typewriter stuck somewhere in the back recesses of my mind.

Eventually, my subconscious hit me with one of it’s typical “Ding, I’m done!” moments pointing out that I could write a kind of electronic typewriter for my kids. It could act to turn my overly powerful general purpose computing device into a kind of gimped electronic typewriter that the kids could play with until they got bored and ran off.  Once gone, I could wave TeenyTyper goodbye, and get back to my first love of exploring what I can build with general purpose computing. I found this idea compelling enough to start a new project.

So, TeenyTyper is currently being written in Java 6, using the Swing toolkit for its GUI. I’ve released the code under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons Licence

The open choice of licence matches my desire to let these toy projects out to play all by themselves, coupled with my realisation that GitHub pretty much demands a model of letting the code all just hang out there for everyone to see.

The plan from this point on is to post new articles on TeenyTyper as I learn new things that I’d like to share.  This first post is deliberately a scene-setter so I don’t need to re-introduce the background to the toy in each new post.

So, until my next post, type long and prosper.


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