I came upon this awesome TED talk on “Why You Should Make Useless Things” by Simone Giertz thanks to Mikael Pawlo. The talk really resonated with me and articulated thoughts I have had for a long time.
I learned how to program BASIC from a book 37 years ago, one year before I actually saw and touched a real computer. A few months later I got my first computer, a Commodore VIC20. The first year I had it I didn’t have the tape recorder that allowed me to save my programs. So for a year whatever I did was ephemeral - as soon as I turned of the computer the program was gone. Sort of like a Groundhog Day version of Global Day of Code Retreat.
I spent a lot of time in front of my computer, so I became fairly proficient writing small programs for myself, mostly in BASIC but also some 6502 Assembly. And they were all fairly useless, but the exploratory freedom made me learn a lot.
Over the years I’ve lost the ability to build something just for the fun of it. Even when I’ve done stuff in my spare time it’s been for some sort of practical use - either to learn something new or to finally get started on that startup idea. But Simones talk is a reminder that just simply building something for the fun of it will be a teaching moment, in itself more valuable than what is built.