Coding and Its Value

Has anyone ever seen the movie “The Social Network (I’m assuming you have, if not check out the video below)? Do you recall the raucous scene in the middle of the movie when several students engage in a hacking/coding competition for jobs with Facebook? That’s what I think of when confronted with the term, “coding.” Obviously, I have had very limited exposure to it, but if I was asked to describe it in three words with my level of experience (or inexperience), I would say, “Complex, scientific, useful.”


The history of coding can be traced back to the creation of the internet and the first published website circa 1981. In the 1980s, hypertext coding was used until the World Wide Web came into being in 1994, and HTML replaced it becoming the coding language. In this age, web design was very simple, and there was little variation in text, layouts and graphics. In the following years, HTML 2 and HTML 3 would be launched, and animated images emerged thanks to .gif, and Flash. Today, there are coding tools such as Flash, Cloud9, CodePen, CSSDesk etc.

Over the past few years, the pervasiveness of learning the practice of coding among general audiences has risen at impressive rates. As this New York Times piece substantiates, coding classes have never been more popular, and companies are being launched to help the swarms of young and older professionals to acquire this skill. Many see it as “a critical investment into one’s future. . . and a great way to increase your earning capacity.” This trend also points to an upsurge of interest in technological fields.

From the New York Times article: According to the Computing Research Association, the number of students who enrolled in computer science degree programs rose 10 percent in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.


The value is certainly there to learn coding, but my question is just how necessary a skill can it become? Will there ever be a time where all professionals will need to learn the skill to be considered “qualified?” At any rate, maybe I better pick up some night classes this summer..

6 thoughts on “Coding and Its Value

  1. Great post Adam! I (regrettably) did exactly what Dr. Kerr recommended and did one of the coding tutorials on and it was painful. The tutorial does a great job of explaining and going through all the steps of coding, but the entire time I found myself asking the same questions you posed at the end of your blog. Is it an essential skill in the digital age we’re living in for people in fields like history to fully grasp skills such as coding?

  2. I wonder the same things about coding myself. Is it really a skill that will be necessary for most professional occupations in the future? I bet by then there will be tools to make the programming process easier. Just as we can navigate the internet today without understanding exactly how we are doing so, there will likely be shortcuts to digital design in the future that will render the process inanely simple.

  3. Great post, Adam! I agree, while coding seems very useful, just how useful will it be–will it remain a specialized job, or will it end up being something that we all should know how to do? At the very least, it seems from class last night that it is important to have the basic understanding not only of what it does and how it works, but also its potential. If we as historians are not informed and aware of the technology, how can we make sure that digital technology will develop in a way that is useful to our practice?

  4. Adam, bonus points for posting a clip with Andrew Garfield. I have to agree with Dr. Kerr, might be your best bet here. More and more people are getting degrees in computer science so it seems like we will not have to bite the bullet and learn how to do the coding ourselves. But what if you work in a tiny house museum and can’t afford to hire a coding person? Or what if you are a history professor in a hallway of other history professors and your course website is screwed up and you have no idea what to do? As much as we all hate it, I think it’s going to be beneficial for all of us to learn some basic coding or at least know the jargon. That way when we are stuck waiting 3 hours for the geek squad we can at least start the healing process!

  5. I think that what our guest speaker, Patrick Murray-John, said was true. We may not need to be completely qualified coders (and thank goodness for that…I couldn’t figure out how to do anything in our class practice that day) but we do need to be familiar with the vocabulary and the ideas behind coding so we can successfully interact with the specialists. Coding is an inescapable part of our world, and in order to work with the right people and communicate so we get what we want and need, it will be important to have even the most basic understanding of what coding is, how it works, and what the possibilities are.

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