Usborne Books Revival
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 07 February 2016

Children's book publisher Usborne has launched two new titles about computers and coding aimed at young children. At the same time it has made pdfs of its 1980's computing titles freely available online.

In the era of the home computer frenzy, when the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, TRS-80 and the Commodore Pet were in households in the UK and US respectively, kids in both learned about computers and discovered how to program them with Usborne books. 
 
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The books were a colorful mix of pictures and program listings - with comprehensive and coherent explanations so that you really could learn how to program with them. If you want to take a trip down memory lane you can now do so by downloading the pdfs of fifteen vintage Usborne books.
usborne
 
As well as the above introduction to programming titles, there are five books for games listings and four for playing and writing adventure games. Although the Usborne website points out the programs will not run on modern computers because they were written to run on computers such as the ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro, there may be ways to try them out using, for example the zxspectrum4.net emulator or BBC Basic on a Raspberry Pi
 
usborneadgames
 
Most Usborne computer books were aimed at the pre-teen and teenage market. The final two titles, Computer Fun and Simple Basic in the First Computer Library, were aimed at younger readers. This is this age group that the two new titles have been written for:
  • Lift-the-flap computers and coding, a 16-page board book, is a colourful introduction to computers and basic coding. Flaps to lift on every page take children inside computers and show them how code is written and used.

  • Coding for beginners using Scratch takes children step-by-step through the basics of the program until they can create simple games and animations on screen.

Usborne deserted the computer scene at the end of the microcomputer era so it is really good news to see them re-entering it. These titles are dovetailed with the UK National Curriculum with the marketing blurb noting:

Computer coding is now a compulsory topic on the UK National Curriculum for primary schools: children learn to create and debug simple programs at Key Stage 1.

Scratch is one of the most popular programs used in UK primary schools.

To appeal to the education market, the webpage quotes from a review of the Scratch title that says:

"A super guide to coding for beginners... Written so clearly and simply that even a non-coding adult could understand it."

Let's hope that these two books are just the start and we'll soon see more titles that introduce the fun of computer programming to the 21st century generation.  

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 07 February 2016 )