1 in 4 developers started coding before they could drive
It’s never too early — or too late! — to start coding. Of the roughly 39,000 developers surveyed across all professional levels, more than a quarter of developers wrote their first piece of code before they were 16 years old.
Meanwhile, of all the developers who started coding after the age of 26, 36% are now senior or even higher-level developers, growing quickly in their careers.
When did you start coding?
Unlike generations thereafter, if kids of the seventies wanted to see innovative technology, they’d have to build it themselves — they had no other choice. There were no widespread resources to teach them how to build software. Almost half of all developers (47%) between the ages of 45 and 54 started coding before they were 16 years old. Meanwhile, developers between 18 and 24 today are the least likely to have started coding before 16 (only 20%).
Developers between the ages of 45 and 54 were among the first to get their hands on relatively powerful PCs, like the Acorn Archimedes, TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Apple II. With limited to no access to formal education, young people in the PC Revolution had an unusually strong drive to learn to code on their own.
Current age vs. Age started coding
Of the 17 countries represented in the survey with at least 100 respondents, the UK stands out with the highest share of developers who started coding as young as 5 to 10 years old. The majority of those developers are in their 30s and 40s today.
When these developers were schoolyard kids, the Acorn Archimedes, a Cambridge-based PC, hit the scene. Thanks to a partnership with Tesco in which schools received these PCs in exchange for shopping at Tesco, more kids had access to computers. This initiative spread across Europe and Australia.
Today, this culture of forward-thinking education has persisted in the UK — it became the first nation to modernize its curriculum by requiring kids as young as 5 to take programming classes.
Which country has the highest share of developers coding between 5 and 10? *
It seems like every year there’s a new hallmark programming language, framework or library that proliferates across developer blogs. First, it was all about Backbone.js. Now, everyone is raving about AngularJS and React. Self-teaching is the norm for developers of all ages. Even though 67% of developers have CS degrees, roughly 74% said they were at least partially self-taught.
On average, developers know 4 languages, and they want to learn 4 more. The degree of thirst for learning varies by generations — young developers between 18 and 24 plan to learn 6 languages, whereas folks older than 35 only plan to learn 3.
Since programming is centered on independent research aimed at solving new challenges, self-teaching is a major part of being a successful developer. In choosing what to learn next, the best guiding principle is to plant yourself in one discipline and learn tools as a means to grow. Tools will always change. Ultimately, it’s curiosity and genuine interest in programs that should fuel the drive to learn new tools and adapt to tech’s evolving landscape.