If you want to succeed in life, reading and writing have always been necessities. Both have been requirements for most jobs for quite some time, but now that we’re living in an incredibly fast age of technology, if you want to be successful, people need to be able to read and write code.

I’ve never thought of myself as too tech-savvy of a person. Sure, I played video games, and I knew how to use a computer better than my parents, but that’s not saying much when my mother’s solution to all computer problems is repeatedly banging the mouse against the table. However, I did always see the importance of computers. They’re the way of the future.

During my freshman year at Plattsburgh State, I took a web design class. I expected black screens full of confusing green text like in the Matrix series. The class didn’t teach anything too advanced, just some basic HTML coding for simple websites. I was surprised how easy the class was and proud I could actually use a computer for something more than looking up videos of people getting hit in the groin on YouTube. In a few short weeks, I was making websites with pictures, links and multiple pages.

The thick blocks of texts full of chevrons and slashes may seem like a totally different language to some people, but we have actually used it before. Remember Myspace? It was the popular social networking site of the mid-2000s before Facebook became all the rage. Myspace allowed users to have unique and stylish profile pages. All you had to do was search for a theme on Google, copy the code and insert it into your own page. For the longest time, my Myspace page had an awesome Batman theme.

Comedic writer Donald Glover, also known by his rapper alter-ego Childish Gambino, is an advocate for learning to code. In one video on YouTube, Glover is talking to his fans and said: “Learn to code. Coding is going to be what keyboarding was like 40 years ago. People were like ‘nah I don’t need to learn keyboarding,’ but now that’s everything.” If you don’t take the initiative to learn coding yourself, Glover suggests you find a friend who can code.

Glover’s words struck a chord with me. Not only do I appreciate his comedy and his music, but now he’s encouraging us to get a grasp on our current and future technology. And he’s not saying we all need to be like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, he’s just saying coding is becoming a more essential part of our economy and we should keep up with the technology.

Computers are not just all coding either. There are dozens of programs you should learn how to use if you want to secure a job later in life. If you don’t know how to use Microsoft Office, you need to get on that right away. We’ve all been using Word and PowerPoint since grade school, so we’re pretty good on documents and presentations. Countless essays and slide shows featuring the dreaded swivel effect will attest to that. But Publisher and Excel are the two programs that can be job-specific.

Publisher allows you to create projects such as pamphlets, brochures and newspapers, something I probably should’ve learned a long time ago but am still having trouble accomplishing. Excel lets you make charts and spreadsheets. I know numbers can be confusing — that’s why I like to write — but ask any economics or accounting professor, and they’ll tell you being able to properly use Excel is a highly sought-after skill to employers.

The year after I finished the web design class, I became the teacher’s assistant. Among the group of 20-something college students was Pat, a 60-year-old former Seabee in the U.S. Navy. I always wondered why a retired guy as old as Pat was in a web design class, and he told me if you exercise your body, you also have to exercise your brain. Pat is evidence that computers aren’t just for young people. Our parents should be learning about our new technology too, instead of just relying on the younger generation for assistance.

You won’t see me competing in coding competitions like in “The Social Network” anytime soon. You don’t have to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but that doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of computers. A basic understanding of code and essential programs are still important skills to have. It’s not like everybody who can read and write has to be the next Mark Twain.

Email Griffin Kelly at griffin.kelly@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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