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Learning to Code – on a budget

Peter Rombouts
August 25, 2023

Vacation time in the Netherlands also means sometimes kids (especially mine) get bored… And how nice is it to have a kid wanting to code? In this blog I will set apart some of the simple, turn-key solutions to start learning and coding, and on a budget!

Budget

What about that budget? Well letting your 10 year old start coding on a € 3000,- laptop is a bit silly. So what alternatives do we have to actually code without spending too much money to start with? Let’s say our budget is nihil and we only look at the hardware already lying around any engineers house.

I’ve selected four scenarios for this coding experience learning journey:

  1. Chromebook
  2. Online tools and playgrounds
  3. Raspberry Pi
  4. Old Intel laptop

Chromebook as developer station

A couple of years back you could by a Chromebook for under € 250,-. Nowadays they are a bit more expensive but still pretty cheap and reliable. Basically it runs Android so you can install any app from the store. One cool thing about Android is that there are many apps, and for example Pydroid 3 let’s you code on your device! Obviously there are many more tools online available, so the next paragraph ‘Online tools and playgrounds will give you even more choice of coding.

Online tools and playgrounds

  1. GitHub Codespaces
    Basically a full setup in the cloud, GitHub Codespaces enables you to develop in a browser based setting.
  2. Python Playground
    If you do not want to install anything or create accounts, Programming Hero has an online Python Playground to get you started. Not really handy if you want to save your stuff and keep on working or sharing, but is is doable.
  3. CodeCombat
    One of the ways to learn coding is using an online gamification site, like CodeCombat. There are too many to list, but this one actually is really fun and has different levels for beginners and up!

While this list is far from complete, it gives a basic insight in what you can do online.

Raspberry Pi

If you hook up a mouse, monitor and keyboard to your Raspberry Pi, you’ll have a very cheap computer running Linux (Raspberry Pi OS). Preinstalled (based on your version) you will have a plethora of choice.

  1. BlueJ Java IDE
  2. Python 3
  3. Scratch

And you will have the ability to install even more, be it the Linux versions. Think of Visual Studio Code, etc. These IDEs actually work great and get you started on a shoestring budget.

Old Intel laptop

One of my favorites is picking up an old laptop (in my case HP ProBook i3) and installing Ubuntu! This way I’ll have an actual up-to-date desktop OS, with the ability to install tools like:

  1. PyCharm
  2. Visual Studio Code

To follow all sustainable goals we have, reusing the old hardware gives it a second life, saving scrapping the hardware. And Ubuntu (or other flavors of Linux) really work well on older hardware without a problem.

Conclusion

Learning to code can be easy and cheap. Just check out your old hardware, put some time into setting it up and have fun! As the world get more digitized every day, having basic coding skills will be beneficial for everyone. And the younger you are, the easier it is to learn something new!

Want to have some help with setting your dev kit up? Want to have a list of books to start learning to code? Do not hesitate and contact me!

About the author

Senior Technology Consultant | Netherlands
Peter Rombouts is a Multi Cloud Solution Architect (Azure and AWS) with a strong focus on the Microsoft Azure platform. Supporting enterprise organisations in the Netherlands as consultant, lead developer and architect. Currently employed as a SIG Certified software consultant, Microsoft Certified Azure Architect, AWS Certified Solution Architect and certified Scrum Master in the Netherlands. Proj

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