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To the untrained eye, computer code can seem utterly impenetrable. Fascinating, maybe, in its intricacy and even technological ‘exoticness’, but too complex for the uninitiated to even know where to begin.

Which is why seeing a master at work – like Microsoft engineer Haiyan Zhang in this week’s Big Life Fix – is such a revelation.

How To Solve Anything With The ‘Full Stack’

Few programmers are able to create completely. To those of us who code a little, or even quite a lot, the experience is often one of tinkering, focussed on one element alone, or of being involved only at certain stages. It’s rarely to comprehend the whole, or build from scratch.

In harnessing the ‘full stack’ of technologies (from ‘back end’ logical programming languages and technologies which act as the *brain* of a program, to visual ‘front-end user’ interfaces and graphical designs), skilled and experienced programmers like Zhang can solve complex problems with stunning effect. (On their own!)

Solving a problem like little Aman’s memory loss was a glorious example of what code can do.


Empowering Aman to Remember

Zhang meets Aman, whose memory now eludes her on a minute-by-minute basis following a car crash, and determines to provide two apps which will restore her power to retain information.

The photo and audio scrapbooking app Zhang creates

First, she creates an app that records her teachers’ instructions as text, audio and imagery. Second, a digital scrapbook for photos and audio messages. The results of the former are transformative for her learning, and of the latter truly joyous to watch as she rediscovers happy memories previously lost.

BBC Big Life Fix: Children In Need 2017 Special

This is a rare chance to see how one person, with all the technological components that are now available to us, can understand and resolve a human problem using code.

I wholly recommend watching the program before it fades into the iPlayer archives!

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