10

What was one of the first or earliest things that got you really excited about programming? How old were you at the time? If it's been a long time since that fateful event, what has maintained you interest - or what new things strengthened your interest?

I remember doing writing really simple programs on my T1-99/4A when I was in 2nd grade. But what really kept me going was programming music and graphic applications on my Commodore 128.

11

If I told the truth, nobody would believe me. But I'll try anyway.

Back in the mid 1960s, I was about 3 years old. My adoptive mother worked swing shift at some firm that had one of those big newfangled "computer" things. They got all the modern equipment. Hard drives and, get this, TELETYPEWRITERS - they didn't want those "old" (ASR-33) teletypes. Anyway, she used to take me to work with her at night. I'd get to watch the terminals a bit and I found them fascinating. When I got tired, I'd curl up in a sleeping bag in a room nearby. I have no idea when she'd bring us home but I always got up for school the next day.

One day I asked her how old she'd be when I turned 18. She refused to tell me but showed me how to "figure it out". They had a new BASIC interpreter on their system and she coached me through writing a program to figure it out. (A whole 3 line if I remember correctly). This isn't as weird as it sounds when you consider that she'd already taught me to type by drawing the numbers and letters on my fingers (so I could theoretically practice without a typewriter - which was not always around).

Pretty much from that time forward, I was a technophile. By the time I got to middle school and high school, I knew I wanted that for my career and finally got to get my hands on some computers more often. Whether it was the old PDP-8 at school or a more advanced PDP-11/70 running BASIC+2 at my mother's office, I eagerly took any time I could to poke, play and learn.

I keyed in programs from 101 BASIC Computer Games and countless issues of Creative Computing (some of which I still have) whenever I had 'spare time' from doing data entry work on weekends.

Discovered I had a knack for programming and it's been my vocation in addition to my hobby ever since.

6

I have to go with the little turtle in Logo :-)

5

TRS-80 Color Computer II, my sister had one, and I used to sneak into her room and play with it. Since she wasn't into it, she had no ROMs or anything, so I had to look through the book to make it do anything. I would type programs in by hand from the samples in the book (several pages of code at a time) and then I would sit there and modify them and see what happened. Finally things started to 'click' and I realized I could make new programs and make different things happen on my own.

All this was usually in an hour or so when I was alone before catching the school bus (I was approx 6 or 7 at the time). I would lose everything every time I left, because I wasn't supposed to be using her stuff and she would have beat me up for it. (Having a sister 8 years older than you can be tough!)

From there, I always did my best to be around a computer writing some kind of code...

4

Writing text-adventure games on the C64. 4th grade, I think.

4

I was 9 and my primary school had a BBC Micro (all of this probably makes no sense to non-Brits - but the BBC did a computer literacy program during the 80s which got computers in every school). I programmed a picture of a space shuttle using about a million Draw and Move commands, including a stick man, a car, and all the scaffold next to the shuttle (with NASA down the side). That was my first real programming effort. From there, I got a Tatung Einstein and continued programming things like an electronic Beatles album, an electronic version of an adventure book and other such things.

3

Just trying to make boring repetitive tasks quicker.

3

GWBasic aka GOTO!

3

When I was about ten years old, my father, who worked for IBM, took me to an open-house event at his office. Tucked away in one room was a guy who let people play a "Lunar Lander" game on a terminal.

The game was text-only. It just kept telling you your current altitude and velocity, and then asked you how many pounds of fuel you wanted to burn for the next ten seconds. If you ran out of fuel or hit the ground at too high a speed, you died.

It hooked me. It was something about the fact that there was this abstract model of a small feature of the universe inside the machine that got me excited. I wanted to build my own little universes.

The Scott Adams and Infocom text adventures where great motivators too. It all went downhill when they started adding pictures.

3

A friend of a friend of mine made a simple PGP page with a primitive shoutbox on it long time ago, and at that time I didn't even know there's something else than HTML for webpages. Do I need to say that my first webpage used images made with Paint?... and in BMP format.

And I was like "wow so cooool" so I started learning PHP (at that time I only knew writeln and readln in Pascal) and shortly I needed some database so I learned MySQL as that was mostly used back then.

Next I got intereted in C/C++. At school we were learning Pascal but at home I was learning and reading books about C/C++ and also I had my exams in C while everybody else in Pascal. Then some more PHP which got me to learn JavaScript and CSS too.

And as me always being curious for something new I started with Python, then some Java and after that some C# and who know what will get my interest in future...

Basically if and when I wanted to do something I tried to do it myself. I didn't ask anybody else to do it for me. If I didn't know how I learned, I googled, asked forums, mailing lists, etc...

2

The book The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins (the evolutionary biologist responsible for The Selfish Gene) wrote a very cool computer program that illustrates how evolution works. From reading the book I got the idea to apply the same approach to music composition, and I've been a programmer ever since.

2

When I was 7 my brother taught me a few commands in basic. I was amazed. So I started reading up on it and started to write simple multiple choice quiz games, such as who was the first prime minister of canada, a, b, c, etc. Then the interest just grew from there.

2

Seeing a friend typing magazine listings into his ZX81 (probably around 1982). Santa brought me a Dragon 32 for christmas that year....happy days!

2

Typing in games on a ZX81 with no tape drive (so I had to type them in lots). Eventually I started wondering what I was typing in...

2

Growing up in a poor family, I was amazed at the concept of producing something from nothing.

It was pretty clear that I was born to be an engineer of some sort. As a child, I spent most of my time building things - Legos, K'NEX, "traps" in the woods, excessively elaborate snow forts, etc... I was in middle school when my parents had to get rid of cable TV and Internet connectivity. I didn't have any money to buy materials to build "stuff" with, so I went to the public library, picked up some books on Linux/PHP/HTML, and went to work building a web site.

Without the Internet, I had to learn a lot of things "the hard way" (i.e. accidentally dropped a large database table without a backup, copy/pasted lots of code...). Several months had passed, and I completed the web site just as my parents could afford Internet access once again. I launched the web site right off of my home PC.

The site turned out to be moderately successful and actually turned a decent profit via AdSense advertising. It was hugely popular among the younger folk in my town and I became somewhat a local celebrity. It was able to pay for the cable/Internet bill and that's all I needed.

I graduated from high school and I decided to go to college to hone my skills as a programmer. The site turned out to be a maintenance nightmare so I had to give it up. I have since graduated from college with a degree in Software Engineering and I am employed at the engineering company that's a block away from where I grew up.

I'd like to say my story is the best but then again I'm biased. :P

1

The movie WarGames. Unfortunately, I never did break into my school's grading records using my pesky VIC-20.

1

I got a Commodore 64 for my tenth birthday in the early 80s, followed by a BBC B a year later, and that was it - especially when I got the Beeb; as a commenter said above, it was tied in with the schools in the UK. The Beeb possessed a good BASIC language, and a built in assember; you could embed assembly easily into your BASIC program.

That machine taught me lots. The first time I realised I could write graphical images using assembler and it worked about 3 million times quicker than my BASIC loop was a bug moment.

Edit: That should be "big" moment, but the freudian slip is too good to correct. LMAO

1

I learned how to program on a Honeywell 6000 mainframe when I was in high school. It was owned by the school district for doing payroll and other administrative things. If they weren't busy, they would let us load our stacks of Hollerith cards. We learned Basic and Fortran and RPG4.

It was the late 70's and we thought we were just the most sophisticated kids in the world. It was a magical time...

1

A good friend got a TRS-80 when I was in 7th grade. He loaned me the user manual and I started to read up on BASIC. I started to give him had-written code for him to bring home and type in, so I got my first experience with remote debugging. I was trying to create a D&D character creator, IIRC.

A few months later we were at Sears, and I saw the computer display. I started writing a little program on the VIC 20 just to pass the time, and it amazed my parents and the salesman. Dad picked it up a week later, and the die was cast.

All,the VIC-20 -- how I loved that little beast. 5K of memory that could be persisted to a cassette tape drive -- and it took 30 minutes to write that much. Of the 5k, 1.2k was taken up by the BASIC operating system. That left me with 3.8K to code with, and now I doubt I've written an email that takes up less space. Ahh, the memories.

1

My uncle had a ZX81 when I was about nine years old. I think he had a four stroke engine display and a flight simulator, with only a horizon! Then he showed me a little game he had written to smash two block graphic steam engines together. I was hooked! I begged and begged until my parents dolled out 80 the year after and I got my very own ZX81. The rest is history...

1

In Grade 7 (1981) we had one TRS 80 in the science room. Every Friday we had a two hour activity session -- Things like electrical shop (Building motors in Metal Shop), Anthropology (Noted documentarian showing off his stuff), extra sports, cooking, gaming, etc.

One of the options was something called "Math Digressions" Which was about the nerdiest title ever. It consisted of us writing programs on the TRS 80.

The one nice thing about that flavour of BASIC was the set command. You could set a pixel directly via screen co-ordinates (set(0,0) would turn on the upper left) which was very easy for a 12 year old to understand. The character space mapping that commodore used was too complex at that age.

I started spending my time after school at the local Radio Shack. I'd come in with programs I had written out on paper and type them in. I had a working blackjack game by the end of grade 8. The Shack guys didn't seem to mind. I think it was corporate policy to let the kids in as long as they didn't act up; It allowed them to show the scared adults that even a child could do it.

It wasn't until grade 10 that I was again allowed to take a programming course in school. We started off in HYPO (an 8 bit assembly simulator), then Waterloo Basic, which was a fairly structured basic flavour, and the school had a policy "GOTO = fail", which actually instilled some good practices.

In grade 11 we moved on to PASCAL and C, which I hated at the time. (too many hard to find characters!).

In University (at various times), I ended up studying Fortran, C++ and Java.

I'll echo what wcm said. It was a magical time. And I think that people my age (35-50) are the most computer literate generation there will ever be (as a whole -- you'll always find gifted individuals). We learned when computers were becoming ubiquitous, but still hard to use. We had to conquer the dos prompt. We had to try multiple interrupt jumper configurations on our modems to get them to work. We actually had to understand this stuff.

I teach part time a 2nd year Data Structures using Java. I still get chills at the coolness of a recursive binary search tree, or a queue based breadth first search. Kids today just don't give a damn about this stuff. They want instant messaging.

1

My life may have taken a very different track if there wasn't a programming manual included with the Commodore 64.

1

My really first progamming experiences were using the formulas and VBS inside Excel. A Year after that I started an apprenticeship in software developing... I was 16 or 17 Years old.

1

Ahhh, I remember it! gorilla.bas and nibbles.bas. Awesome.

1

Atari 800XL and a Compute! magazine.

DATA 0,0,0,2,30,4,5,0,0,0,0,255

ah man, it failed the check sum on line 287847! Who needs a floppy? Just don't turn off the computer! Let's connect to freeNet with our 300 baud on our acoustical modem!

I was never a good programmer until after InfoCom games like Wishbringer. Then again, I was only 7 or 8 years old.

0

Science Fair project on Commodore 64 magnetic disk and tape media

0

Playing with BASIC on an old XT8086. Because getting it to do something interesting was easier than getting out of the BASIC interpreter at the time. (The magic exit-word was SYSTEM.)

0

I was thrown in at the deep end while doing another job. The scheduling tools we used for managing consultants' time was hopeless, and I knew I could do a better job. So I taught myself PHP and mySQL.

I've improved a lot since then.

Hopefully. ;)

0

creating a level pack for nibbles in QBasic

0

I was going to Texas for Electrical Engineering, and took Turbo Pascal, and found I love coding. So I caught the bug from there.

0

My father was a programmer going back to the early 1960's and always pushed me toward the field. For a Boy Scout computers merit badge, we read together a simple tutorial on Fortran (it was in a 4"x6" binder, with lots of cartoons and simple explanations -- I was probably about 11 at the time)

A few years later (Aug 1977 -- I was 14), one of the very first personal computer trade shows was being held in Atlantic City (just a few hours drive from our home in Northern NJ). Dad convinced mom it would be a cool weekend vacation, so while mom and my sister went to the beach, dad & I saw the first-hand actual computers that you could own and keep in your house: the Apple II, the Radio Shack TRS-80 (later known as the "Model I"), and the HeathKit which was very cool (and disappeared very quickly....)

0

Apple II games.

And first programming language: Basic. First "big" program, a dig dug clone :)

0

LOGO!

And perhaps on a more honest note, it gave me a lot of bragging rights :)

0

Two words: Apple Basic

My childhood friend and I were always hacking away little Apple Basic programs at his house. Then I took Adventures in Supercomputing in high school, which pretty much sealed the deal. We learned to work with UNIX, had a tour of a super computing facilty in Boulder, CO (they had a total storage capacity for the entire center of 2TB - which included all the disk and tape storage of a huge data center), I actually was sitting at lobo.psd.k12.co.us when it crashed and fell silent to the world forever :-( (no, I didn't do it)...

0

I bought a magazine with a basic program to type in for my Texas Instruments TI99/4A. It didn't work. I re-typed it, it didn't work again. I got my brother to read out line after line, no mistakes in typing, it still didn't work. It took me 5 days to debug it, but the seed was sown!

0

I loved to play Wing Commander, but my installation discs were 5 1/4''. I used TurboPascal to write my own setup.exe that was able to install from 3 1/2 '' discs.

I must have been 17 or 18 back then, long long ago...

0

My father worked for IBM most of his career so I had access to computers early on. I got into programming with BASIC back in the DOS 3.2 days and then my parents bought me the Borland Turbo C++ compiler and a book and I was off and running. I think my 12th birthday present was the Borland C++ compiler for Windows (It came on 20+ floppy disks I think).

The Internet was my downfall, though. I got a modem and a Compuserve account when I was in my early teens and that was it for programming for a long time. :P

0

I wanted to play video games. It was pretty much all I wanted to do when I was younger.

I knew that my parents would not just buy me a computer to play games so I needed a hook. I convinced them to buy it by telling them that I would learn how to program. Little did I know they would hold me to it.

Once I got in it I found it fit with my natural fascination of trying to figure out how things worked and I was hooked.

0

When I was 8, my farther created a basic program (for C64) with that I had to train mental calculations. It did not take long time for me to find out, how to print out the result of the exercises too.

Until now I am really bad at doing mental arithmetic. But who cares...

0

1973 I started a CSE in Computer Studies. We had one hour of teletype modem connection to the local Education Authorities main frame.

We used to prepare punch tapes during every spare to then upload during our allotted hour. It was magical to create BASIC code to calculate average test marks, tally heights of class mates etc.

What really sold me was when visited the mainframe on a school trip.
It was like being on the Starship Enterprise!

My passion for all things computer related soarded. Went to Uni to learn how to build them - Electronics Degree.
Think it was my first Summer home a neighbour had bought a self assemble Sinclair Z80 kit.
We spent hours writing stuff for it, owning my own was only a pipe dream!

Now I'm continually haressed by my wife to get rid of some off them! :-)

What keeps me going?

The sense of magic and wonder that comes from turning a few(or not so few) keystrokes into a resulting action, whether be that be a remote actuator or the result of a calculation appearing on the screen. Even though I know how it all hangs together from the ground up it still memerises me.

0

I, like I suspect most programmers of my age, started with BASIC on one of the home computers of the time (in my case mostly a BBC B at school; it was a few years before I had my own computer). In those days, of course, you couldn't avoid BASIC even if the only command you learnt was LOAD "" or the equivalent. Even people who weren't particularly technically minded tended to learn the basics of BASIC, and it's not surprising that those of us who were got hooked.

I have been worried for a while about where the next generation of programmers would come from. Modern PCs do everything they can to shield you from any opportunity to program, and if you do make the effort, the learning curve to make something worthwhile is quite steep. Yes, so long as it's seen as a good career you'll get people training as programmers but they won't be the best people - where would the people who start as kids and love it come from?

Reading this thread has been very interesting, because it has answered my question and re-assured me that there will be another generation of programmers, and most of them will probably start with web applications.

0

There were 3 TRS-80 in my physic class at secondary school. I got hooked and spent most of my lunch time playing with BASIC. I even skipped some courses to spend my time at the computer ;)

0

When I was 11 we went on a family holiday and my Dad took a copy of K&R that he'd just bought; naturally I read it from cover to cover before he had a chance to pick it up. It was a few years before we got a computer I could use C on.

0

I started out in college in electrical engineering wanting to build computer hardware. I switched to software development after a year when I realized the only course I had enjoyed the was the intro to programming course they made me take.

0

An employer that didn't know I was there, a UNIX box, a net connection, and more than enough time to waste....

0

An employer of mine used WordPerfect macros to automate a lot of the work we did. I started programming by improving a lot of the macros that were already written. Then I started writing new macros.

Eventually I started learning Python and a little PHP as well.

0

In school I used to program my TI-83 to solve problems on my Math/Physics tests. It worked out so well I thought I would just do it for real.

0

In school a bunch of us played around with electronics. We first built FM transmitters, synthesizers, and amplifiers with analog components, and then started using CMOS digital gates. One day a friend (who is now working for Apple) showed me a series of articles in an electronics magazine that showed how one could program a computer in Basic. We didn't have access to a computer, so we started writing programs on paper, which we swapped and discussed how we solved particular problems. We then found a Tandy dealer who would rent us a TRS-80 by the hour. Needless to say, I immediately discovered that I had taken huge liberties with the syntax of Basic on those programs written on paper. Over the summer we worked for the Texas Instruments home computer distributor so we could use those marvelous computers as much as we wanted. We got hooked for life.

0

Boredom at school aged 9 or 10, lots of free time, and the availability of BBC Micros combined with an irritating lack of games. Making text adventures was also way more fun than writing short stories.

Also, being able to make something (even if it's virtual) is particularly appealing if you are hopeless at drawing and already chopped the end of your finger off in carpentry class. I think that's still what keeps me interested.

0

TI-86 when i was in 8th grade. Probably the only language I've ever learned where GOTO was acceptable.

0

Coding Quake mods. Seriously, the first time I saw C was in the form of QuakeC. From there I moved onto "real" C when the actual source code was released.

0

Logo!!!

I had maybe 8 years or so. My father had started a software company, and we had a computer at home, where I usually played Digger, Pacman or some game like that. Then I started with Logo, and quickly got fascinated with that.

Later I just watched my father program (it was Turbo Pascal, IIRC) and started asking questions. Got my first Pascal programs to have a menu when starting the computer to ask a password and later launch games.

I started working with my father, developing in C++, when I had 15 or so. 12 years ago.

0

Wiring boards on an IBM 403.

0

Begged my parents for an Atari 800, c.1979, with an Atari BASIC cartridge and tape storage device. Whoppin' 48K RAM.

0

Like many, I got started with BASIC, trying to re-write this awesome text-based RPG called "Castle" that I played constantly.

But the thing that got me really interested in programming was a game called Omega -- it was an awesome tank battle game where instead of controlling the tank at runtime, you wrote the AI code that controlled the tank and then watched it do battle. Logging into the game was a simulation of logging into the network of some faux-secret-government-agency thing, there was the tank design mode where you selected armor, weapons, and accessories, but the clutch piece (and the vast majority of game play) was the coding: it was in a proprietary language much like BASIC, with commands like "scan", "turn", "fire", etc. The manual for the game was basically an API reference.

I loved this game and had no idea how much I was learning at the time. It hit a sweet spot--I wish I could generate that level of motivation in my work projects nowadays!

If anyone else played this game, or knows of any (much) more recent games that involve programming simple faux-AI things, I'd love to know. It might breathe some new life into my programming life!

0

Writing BASIC on the commodore64 then a large time off of computers altogether coupled with a teacher strike occuring the day of filling out an application to teacher's college and a friend with a school calendar with a computer programming section!

0

Well, this will mark me as an "old guy", but I got hooked on computers when I was a kid when I read "Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine" by Jay Williams.

Here's the synopsis from the Wikipedia:

Danny uses a computer that Professor Bulfinch has created for NASA to prepare his homework. With his friend Joe Pearson and his new neighbor, Irene Miller, Danny has some success with the machine before it is sabotaged. Danny figures out what is wrong with the machine and corrects the problem.

Then a couple of years later, I got to play with a primative line graphics micro computer and played some text based "moonlander" (I crashed a lot).

0

inspiration: watching Mr. Spock do amazing things with a computer on the old Star Trek series

start: at age 13, my school was given a Data General Nova 2 minicomputer, and all students had to get a Programming in BASIC textbook. The math teacher was supposed to teach programming, but we had a substitute for the year that didn't know how - so a few of us just read the book and learned on our own.

did you know that 2 instances of a mulit-terminal Monopoly game polling for moves in shared files without a wait-state can cause the whole system to crash? We didn't know either... ;-)

0

Hypercard

0

In sixth grade, i was a total math and electronics geek, and my parents and teachers were always trying to think of things that would interest me. One day i was given a personal tour of the Oakland County school system's headquarters computing department. They had a mainframe of some kind, with magnetic core memory that you could see through glass windows in large cabinets, teletype machines, etc.

One guy showed me the process of writing, compiling and running short FORTRAN programs. (It was all capitals in those days) I asked if he could compute logarithms of numbers - something i was curious about at the time, bent on finding out what the magic was behind printing those tables of logarithms. He wrote a short program, ran it, and it printed a few values. Studying the printout later, i was disappointed to find the program merely called a LOG subroutine, a complete black box hiding the magic. I was really determined for the next few years to learn how computers calculated logs, square roots, trig functions and all that. Maybe that incident is also why i strongly prefer open source.

0

My brother got a ZX Spectrum for Christmas. I liked to play with programming creating such masterpieces as Etch-a-Sketch. First paid programming was a utility to generate BASIC programs with data statements that allowed assembly language programs to be published in magazines. Got that published in Amstrad Action when I was 12. (If anyone has a copy of the magazine it appeared in, please let me know via my web site contact form!)

0

My older brother gave me an HTML book when I was 9 and I learned HTML. Then at a "technology camp" (which wasn't really "camp") when I was 10 I learned QBASIC. And for the next few years I spent hours a day (or night) learning and programming in QBASIC on my computer, until I finally started learning other languages.

0

Got interested in programming since grade 6 when I get my first AMD 166MHZ 32MB 8GB computer and played first computer game using it; wanted to be a game programmer ever since. But I turned out to be a business application developer =\

0

My school counter-strike server needed to be L-3-3-T, so I made a website for its Message of the Day welcome. Cutting and pasting HTML got me what I wanted quickly, and I was always looking to make the HTML more perfect through semantics and xhtml etc.

My second website used PHP and similarly I loved the early wonders and continually improving.

I was 17 and considered I'd be step behind against people who start at age 10, but that didn't matter because I enjoyed it.

I got a PHP job after school, and later changed my University course to CompSci, where I'll be starting in 2 weeks!

0

I was taking a physics class in high school where the teacher required an end of year project. The intention was to have an extensive research, presentation board, handouts, etc.

Since this was the mid 90's and computers were still relatively new in school, I asked the teacher if I could write a physics computer program instead. Much to my surprise, he agreed to it. The day before it was due, I spent a few hours writing a basic unit conversion program in Turbo Pascal.

I got an A and spent a fraction of the time as my classmates. At that point, I was hooked on programming.

0

I started in an electrical engineering course. I hated it, so switched to software.

0
10 PRINT "HELLO"
20 GOTO 10
0

An Old thread yeah. I was interested in programming around 16 or 17. We were very poor but my mom convinced my dad to buy me a C-64. I was on it round the clock. I hate to say it, but programming lost it's interest when everyone started abstracting. I mean, look at programming today. It's a joke! Pick one from a million languages? Nope, that doesn't work. Want access to a parallel port? Hah! How many lines of code does that involve? USB? Nuts! Hah. I still like to program PICs in assembly. As the saying goes, where the rubber meets the road.