Here are two applications to help learn the basics of programming:
- Alice.org (aka, Alice) teaches computer programming by letting you “program” things in an animated virtual world.
- WizBang is a visual programming tool that lets the learner drop and connect symbols.
Both are free to use. Wikipedia keeps a more exhaustive list of visual programming tools, but these two caught my eye: Alice for its entertainment value, and WizBang for its simplicity.
(A note of caution: visual programming is great for learning and relatively simple tasks, but I’ve witnessed visual programming tools becoming an unbearable burden to serious software efforts.)