Quote: from a recent CS convert at Princeton; "it was a few hours work and it did something whereas with homework you're just answering questions. Also I really liked the systems part -- figuring out how computers worked"
Video: This is Why Computer Science Is Awesome -- Keith Schwarz
Quote: "Software is the most malleable of media. With just bits—which are nothing, really—a software engineer can build castles out of thin air. Entire businesses, industries even, are created with nothing physical at all. Software's substrate is the stuff of pure thought.

Other engineering disciplines are constrained by the surly bonds of the physical world. To design a new plane, the aerospace engineer may spend years designing a model. A model! A software engineer can go from idea to reality in a day. As an intellectual pursuit, software is enormously rewarding.
Software engineering is unique. I am excited to be a part of it."
Robert Love, Software Engineer at Google. Quora: In your own words, why is software engineering exciting?

Anyway, regarding educational programming languages:
I started by using the Lego mind storms programming environment -- I wasn't so into programming at that point I think because I hadn't made the jump of abstraction from building Lego's in reality to building even more powerful machines digitally. Then it went on to learn a little bit of Visual Basic, but that didn't really get me anywhere. Then I learned this game design platform called stage cast creator (which is really awesome http://www.stagecast.com/), which visually teaches you how to make simulations of object in a world, almost like a multithreaded Java application.
I learned a program called multimedia fusion, which allows me to do game design on a higher level. All the while, I worked with the star craft campaign editor and continued to build robots, which taught me the thinking behind programming problem solving. When I finally got to actual coding (in 7th grade, when I started with JavaScript in earnest, after taking a web design class and hanging out with friends who are into it), it is very easy to apply the same techniques of debugging etc. that I had developed in these other areas. This rapidly took off of the curiosity to learn Java etc. I saw the NetBeans IDE icon on my desktop as another, infinitely mysterious game to explore when I woke up early in the mornings. It turned out to be the best game of all!
I think that these sorts of language that you proposed a little bit too abstract for most beginning programmers, -- if you're going to learn how to program, you should learn how to do it in some context that is the even more visual, or directly pertinent problems at hand (for instance, writing programs to your math homework etc., which, incidentally, is I think in some ways the best approach to learning the actual material).
The most important bit is that people have to be having fun doing this -- people have fun building Lego's all day, because no one's forcing them to do it's so they can learn at their own pace. the important thing to realize is that this is often much faster than the curriculum that is traditionally taught, because when you are excited about something, your learning capacity is exponential, not linear. Retrospectively, this is why I think my AP computer science class was in part so awesome -- we started by learning how to program robots for Robo code, and we ended the year by having a Lego mind storms Robo sumo competition. Moreover, throughout the year, we had to do projects that were pretty cool -- for instance writing artificial intelligence for connect four"

Having Fun with Computers College Essay
Why I Program College Essay
See also: edugaming scratch notes:

How to Get into Web Development
Middle School Web Projects!
http://codeacademy.org/ Mission-based JavaScript tutorial from the ground up.
w3schools.com Learn Web development by doing:play with interactive examples

hackthissite.orgLearn more about computer security by completing hacking missions in a controlled environment!
codepad.org Test code in nearly any language online.

RoboCode: Game in which you program the AI for battling robot tanks in Java! Tutorials (on Java, Trig, and Robocode)! Great for AP computer science or beginning programmers!

Lego Mindstorms!
And check out this quick, awesome intro video from the old version of Mindstorms! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlKg0pXWywg
My middle/elementary school Mindstorms projects

Don't you just want to throw your imagination at challenges like the DARPA Grand Challenge?
The DARPA Grand Challenge is a prize competition for driverless vehicles, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the most prominent research organization of the United States Department of Defense. Congress has authorized DARPA to award cash prizes to further DARPA's mission to sponsor revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and military use. DARPA has technologies needed to create the first fully autonomous ground vehicles capable of completing a substantial off-road course within a limited time. The third event, The DARPA Urban Challenge, which took place on November 3, 2007 and was broadcast via webcast,[1] further advanced vehicle requirements to include autonomous operation in a mock urban environment.