Like many geeks of my generation, I grew up writing code in BASIC, first on a TRS-80 Model III (2.03 mHz Z-80!) and timeshared mainframes (via keypunch cards and a 110 baud modem!) Back then, every personal computer had a computer language (usually BASIC) built in so almost everyone learned a little programming. Unfortunately today, it's harder to find the places to write code other than the browser (WSH anyone?) and even harder to find users to bother to learn.
I really want the boys to learn to program, not necessarily to become expert developers, but to see what's behind the games they love and to learn a little algorithmic thinking. So, I was delighted to find that Microsoft had built a cool, lightweight version of BASIC called SmallBasic. This free download has a nice IDE (editing environment), turtle graphics, and access to FlickR.
Since I gave to Andrew (11) this afternoon, he hasn't stopped typing in the sample code in the tutorial; better still, he's already started improvising off those programs. Just now, I said "I'm really glad to see you doing this." He replied, "It's fun." and returned to his coding.
I love it when Microsoft does cool stuff like this.