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How I Got Started in Computers and Programming Thursday, 02/28/2013

Posted by Percy in Personal, Programming, Technology.
Tags: ,

After coming across this article, I started thinking about how I got set down the path I’m on. So, if for nothing that to help me remember one day, I thought I’d write it down.

I started playing with computers fairly early on. I’ve got two experiences that stick out in my mind as being formative for the young techie that I was back then. Sadly, I can’t remember which one came first though. So, I’ll just share both.

At some point in my early childhood, we got a Commodore 64. I had fun just playing games on it and such. Rich and I spent many (many, many) hours playing Willow Pattern Adventure But, I remember my Mom sitting down with a programming book, and making the dang thing play “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Now, it took a massive amount of coding to make it play a simple melody in BASIC, but something about seeing a machine do something you asked by typing in the right thing piqued my interest. I ended up finding the book that had the code in it, and started entering it myself. I had no idea what I was doing, but I think that’s where I started seeing what computers could do.

I think that happened around the same time as I started 5th grade, which is the other geek story I have. So, by that time Apple ][‘s were pretty ubiquitous in classrooms. Me and my old buddy GP (@zorbadgreek, about.me page) just started checking programming books out of the library and we’d use all our “activity time” typing the simple BASIC programs we found into it to see what would happen. We spent so much time on the computer that our teacher at the time (thank you Mrs. Chitwood) actually moved us to the back of the room so that we were the closest ones to the computer. That way, whenever we got done with our work and had some time, we could jump right on the computer and start to hack away. Who knew that almost 8 years later, GP and I would be rooming together and starting our Computer Science journey together at Georgia Tech?

There are a lot of events that have come along the path that have shaped my journey into this field, but those are the two earliest and foundational events.

So, what set you on your current path?


1. Jon Masters - Thursday, 02/28/2013

Discovering a couple of ZX81s and an Apple II in the corner of a tiny classroom. I was instantly hooked! The teacher let me borrow the ZX81 BASIC manual and I spent hours pouring over it… oh that, the Whiz Kids TV show and the movie War Games 🙂

2. Richard Hill - Thursday, 02/28/2013

LIKE. Fond memories! 🙂 Don’t forget the BBS days at the infancy of the Internet!

3. sjliver - Tuesday, 04/16/2013

My dad was probably my biggest influence. He worked with NCR from mid 70’s to his passing in 2008. He was always bringing something computing home that I always found intriguing. Sometime in middle school, I attended a summer camp sponsered by NCR at Old River Park in Dayton, OH. It was basically a computer camp having to do with learning BASIC. I remember loving that time. For a lot of the same reasons Scott noted. I can type a bunch of code and take control of my world! Probably something pyschologically wrong there, but oh well. I’m pretty sure that was when my career path began, whether I knew it or not.

I also vaguely remember being amazed at something I saw in 2nd grade. Now, I don’t remember squat from that long ago, but this one stuck. It was some kind of graphic / shape writing software. There was a “triangle” that, when passed a set of commands or keystrokes, would draw shapes. I don’t have a clue what the program was called. Very simple, of course, but that memory has always stuck with me.

Percy - Tuesday, 04/16/2013

Jimmy, you’re sparking a memory about something with the name like “logo” and a cursor called a turtle. I think. Or maybe I’m remembering it wrong.

sjliver - Tuesday, 04/16/2013

A “turtle” does sound familiar…..

Percy - Tuesday, 04/16/2013

Found it – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_graphics
The language is called Logo (apparently a derivative of Lisp).

sjliver - Tuesday, 04/16/2013

Nice sleuthing! I’d say that’s it.

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