Wednesday, 13 August 2008

How Did I Get Started In Software Development?

I just been tagged by my friend Mike Hadlow to join with this meme. The question is a very popular topic with us nerds, and for me especially considering my passion for technology.

How old were you when you first started  in programming?

This is a favourite story of mine. I was 11 years old (1978) and in Mr Beardsley's maths class. At the back of the room was a partition, behind which only the 6th formers (16 year and older) kids were allowed. In the fateful particular lesson a series of beeps and other noises were heard. Asking Mr Beardsley about them was the probably the most life changing thing (a part from having kids) ever to happen to me - "That's the 6th formers playing with the computers. Would you like to find out more about that?" Well we started youngsters computer club that week and the rest is history.

What was your first programming language

Sorry I'd like to say machine code but no it was BASIC (PET ISTR then TRS80 then Acorn).

What was the first real program that you wrote

The first program I entered into a computer was from my (then) best friend Mandeep:

10 print "********************* Nuclear Alert ******************************"
20 goto 10

However the first program I actually wrote myself was called fatty, and it was a game to teach my younger brother maths. It had a some simple maths questions like 'what is 15 + 4'. If you selected the right answer a fat man would move along the screen all way across, but if you got it wrong then the man would randomly fall down the screen on his journey across the screen :-) It was called fatty because the man sort of looked, well, fat!

What languages have you used since you started programming

Ok, apart from BASIC and some simple machine code on my home computer I've used Pascal, Modula2, C, C++, Assembler (many varieties), PL/1, PLS, SQL, and of course C# and VB, not to mention PERL, and various shell languages and now iron python. But without a doubt the most interesting language I've ever written in was micro code at university. Here we had to do such things like loading buses with addresses, issuing memory refresh and read instructions, unloading buses etc. Together these  instruction primitives would end up forming a single machine code instruction like load register with contents of memory address.

What was your first professional programming gig

I was hired by IBM for a year during my degree to to testing of network apps, but after graduation I started work at NatWest bank in the UK as a systems analyst but left that after 9 months to return to programming at small company in Surrey, UK. Here I learned C then C++ and became firmly entrenched in the MS world with the first visual studio. I have to say working here was was another life changing experience - I learned the difference between hacking code and engineering software systems (which I'll expand in another post).

What's the most fun you've every had programming

For me its all about the paradigms and abstractions,  and how they affect cognition. It sounds lofty but really all I mean is that I think civilisation is really just the application of one technology after another that leads us from one way of thinking to another. Software is a great medium as we can create new models, use and break them, learn from them and then start over much more easily than say working with, say, hardware.  I have fun with programming nearly every day. But I get the most fun from getting into a tough debug session where you dig deep, learn some, try again , dig deeper and so on, every time building new models and breaking through abstractions to try and understand what was intended and what was achieved.

Who am I calling out?

Peter Goodman and Simon Shearston....

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