I grew up just as the BBC was coming into schools, we had one at home, my friends had between them most of the 8-bit machines, we all played around with BASIC, programming some simple things. I didn’t do much actual programming at school, my first formal teaching was at University. Instead as we all moved over to ST‘s and Amiga‘s many of use got into STOS and AMOS, a few even progressed to 68000 assembly. Much of this motivated by wanting to create games and demos. This is how most people around my age learnt programming.
Today, consoles are more popular, we have smartphones with apps, PC’s don’t tend to ship with programming languages installed by default, so simply being a consumer is much easier but we have the web, with all free tools for creating applications, so the opportunities are still around, just different. Culturally programming has become more specialist than in the 80’s, not something for the average person, even as computers have moved into more areas of everyday life.
One person helping to increase the number of people exposed to programming is Emma Mulqueeny (aka @HubMum). She is behind Rewired State and the offshoot Young Rewired State for people 18 and under, if that was not enough she is also involved in Coding for Kids. Also she is an advisor to the mayor of London on Digital issues. So she is making a difference to the way computers are taught in school, maybe in the future we will see less of those articles telling us we need more engineers in part because of the work she is doing today.