Learn how to code or be left behind

Updated: 2013-03-06 17:34

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)

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Hacking has changed over the years. When I was a kid, it mostly referred to fouls on the soccer field. After I got a job, it was something bad journalists did. Now, it's US companies accusing China of hacking and vice versa - tit for tat in the realm of cyberspace.Learn how to code or be left behind

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While governments are bound to deny responsibility, post Cold War spy games and realpolitik suggest they would be remiss if they didn't plunder what they could and jockey for advantage with a few clicks of a mouse.

I mean, really. As if the Pentagon hasn't got an army of programmers eavesdropping on every keyboard click; there isn't an equivalent squadron of geeks in Beijing's Haidian district; or the individuals at Britain's cyber-crime unit in Cheltenham sit around all day drinking tea and eating biscuits.

As the pimply Q puts it to James Bond in his latest celluloid outing: "I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field."

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Whether it's a "white hat" or "black hat" approach, computer skills are essential, not just for a country's security, but a company's profitability. Further, coding is not just a language for experts, but increasingly a lingua franca.

I'm belatedly learning the new language of code in a free online course hosted by Code academy. Dipping into the conjugations of HTML and Java script helps with work, creating websites and navigating the Web, but also addresses my ignorance of what's going on around me - a little like when I first arrived in China and didn't know how to speak the language.

I am certainly keen that my two kindergarten kids are as familiar with technology as they are learning Mandarin and English. They have mastered the user-friendly iPad, of course, and are as up on the apps as I am. Playing around on smart phones and computers is second nature to them, but before long I want them to know something about the programming that underpins all these devices. Frankly, Spanish can wait.

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