ThoughtSTEM Blog

The Economy Coders Have Built

By: Phil Ballew

At ThoughtSTEM, we teach kids the language of computers in order to prepare them for the future. But why? This is the first post in a series of blog posts discussing why we believe it’s so important to teach coding to kids today.

The global economy has come to be dominated by software companies. Facebook, Apple, Google, you name it, you likely use their products on a daily basis. Even companies not labeling themselves “software companies” are constantly producing and consuming software. It’s safe to say that in the world we live in virtually all of our interactions in some way involve the use of software.

For example, imagine your daily commute to work. The car you drive, the train you take, the coffee you pick up on the way. Chances are that all of these activities involve massive amounts of computer programming, even if you are not always aware of it. Your car, for instance, runs largely with a computer operating system called Linux ( This Linux operating system has thousands and thousands of lines of code telling your car exactly what is going on around it, where it needs to go, and what it needs to do. Toyota, for example, is a member of the Linux Foundation and contributes large amounts of code to the Linux “kernel” in order to maintain Linux’s functionality in Toyota cars.

As you sit and wait for your train to take you to work, you look at your phone wondering how long until the train will arrive at the station. You realize the train is running 5 minutes late according to the monitor mounted on the wall. You use this opportunity to order a coffee from the shop across the street using their app. As you walk through the crosswalk, you select the coffee you want, and hit “Buy Now”. Is the train station a software company? No. Is the coffee shop across the street a software company? No - but each of these companies is given an advantage by leveraging software technologies to help make your life (and theirs) easier. Fun fact: a San Diego technology company called CUBIC ( makes the technology for payment systems people use to catch their trains to work all over the world. They employ hundreds of people, many of them coders.

The software arms race has driven the global economy to become so fundamentally software-driven that it is hard to think of a single industry that can afford to do without software. Companies, governments, and individuals must embrace software whether they want to or not. There are countless examples of companies throughout history that have failed to adapt to emerging technologies and quickly failed.

Pick literally any object in the room you are in at this moment and ask yourself, “How did this get here?” or "How was this made?” I guarantee that the story of that object was shaped many times over by hundreds if not thousands of software systems involved in its design, manufacturing, and distribution. From the artist who uses design software to design the shape of the prototype, to the factory worker who operates the machines running thousands of lines of code to produce the final product, to the truck driver whose driving schedule is optimized by a computer: all of these jobs involve software.

This is the economy that coders have built. This is an economy where we now depend on coders and people with a greater understanding of technology to drive this world forward. To be forward thinking today is to understand what technology does and how to control it.

This is why at ThoughtSTEM, our goal is to make sure your kids understand software. Because technology is driving our economy today, we aim to empower young people in our community to be prepared to tackle the challenges of the future by harnessing the power of software.

For more, check out the famous article “Why software is eating the world” (