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March 26, 2013
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about 8 years ago
LabVIEW of course. It's the next step up from Scratch for a general programming environment. It's not Freeware but you can get a student edition for $50 or the LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS which would also work for less than $200.
For text programmers who aren't able to handle icon based flow diagram programming there is also RobotC for education. (Just kidding) Traditional text programmers are notorious about their dislike of graphical languages.
You can do just as serious work with LabVIEW as most other languages. Yes, as you progress you need to understand software engineering like with any other program. Most people who think LabVIEW isn't a serious progam environment haven't spent much time with it.
I've been working with it for close to 25 years. I can get a n 8 year old kid to program and in the same environment I've seen large Systems at places like CERN done in LabVIEW that I can guarantee you are highly serious.
If I put 20 students in a room and can get them all doing some programming and understanding what they are doing and getting exited. If I did that with a text language MAYBE 5 would get interested, the rest wouldn't understand what is going on and decide that they want nothing to do with programming. I work a lot with students at schools since many years and in a classic text language you just won't get many of them interested.
Each language has it's advantages and disadvantages as Brian pointed out before but to say LabVIEW cannot handle "serious" Programming is incorrect. LabVIEW has been around for over 25 years but it's focus is on robotics and measurement systems not designing a new database or a website. It hasn't come and gone. It is still growing and has never stopped. I guess it depends on how you define what is "serious programming".
No public wish lists :(