Being or becoming an autodidact [dev]
When I was young I used to say that anyone can program [computers]. Writing software requires mostly logic, and everyone — I thought — must have it.
It needed years and I had to meet a lot of people (probably also because many of my friends were/are also geeks like me) to invalidate this. And still, until today, I only downgraded it a bit, to almost anyone can program.
There are indeed some individuals who just can’t perform logical tasks consciously. While they can be great artists, soccer players, and moms or dads, some psychological barrier seems to exist limiting them down when it comes to mathematics and similar topics. I don’t understand (nor like) this, but I accept it as the natural truth.
I’m therefore not going to say here that all people can be or become autodidacts — able to learn something (or anything) by themselves. But I think most of them, indeed, can — just that only few of them have tried.
As a general rule, I think that if someone has a [good] reason to do it and he or she has [enough] fun learning something, it is almost always going to work.
For some people a school or university can be indeed useful, but — in my opinion — only if they already want to learn to fulfill some need (a goal) and if they find it fun. Colleagues and teachers — the social aspect of formal education — may also play an important role regarding the fun part, and so can be the information received and the skills developed there themselves — it all depends on the person and context, I guess.
Myself, I also liked school [as entertainment] but — arrogantly enough — I have never “let it interfere to my education” (just like Mark Twain, it seems.)
I learned programming computers because (starting as a 12 years old kid) it was better than gaming and because I’ve been eager to be able to develop any application that I wanted, whenever I wanted. From simple sorting algorithms fed with my colleague’s names (to check whether the teacher has ordered them correctly in class’s catalogue) to card games played with my entire family (evening fun) and later up to commercial solutions too (I used to tell my…