Thursday, June 5, 2008

How I got started in software development

So a twitter friend, Michael Eaton, started something that sounds like fun, and before I could get my answers posted a few others have as well.  So here it is, the Reader's Digest version of how I became a programmer.  Please post your own answers as well, this is a fun way to get to know each other.

How old were you when you started programming?

I think I was about 13 when my dad bought a TRS-80 Model III.  That awesome machine had dual 5 1/4 floppy drives, 48k (yup, 48k) of RAM and no hard drive.  I learned BASIC so I could program simple little animations and things.  The only problem was that if you forgot to boot from a floppy, the drives weren't initialized and you would have no way to save the tiny program you just spent hours coding.  I don't miss those days.

How did you get started in programming?

I don't know, maybe I was always a big dork? :).  I learned it as a teenager since it was the newest thing around, I think that even at that age and time (would have been around 1984) I knew that computers were going to be big. 

In college though I spent the first couple years as a History major, not taking a single programming class.  I did have a laptop though, which was unusual in 1995, and do simple desktop publishing and stuff for friends at the coffee shop.  Finally after the 100th person asked me if I were a computer science major I realized that maybe I should be.

What was your first language?

That would be BASIC, not QuickBasic or Visual Basic but plain old BASIC.

What was the first real program you wrote?

The earliest real program I can remember was a phone number database built using VBA on top of Access.  It was for a small college where I was doing tech support and started as a way for the switchboard operator to have quicker access to find the correct numbers.  Eventually I even built a web interface for it and added it to the school intranet (which also didn't exist before that).

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Lets see (I'll be generous in my definition of language to make the list longer :) )

  • Basic
  • VB
  • C++
  • Java
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • VBScript
  • BHTML (Who out there know where this comes from?)
  • XML
  • C#
  • XAML
  • T-SQL
  • PL/SQL

I know I'm forgetting some but that should be most of it.  I know that some of those aren't 'real' languages, but they seemed to fit for this list.

What was your first professional programming gig?

At the college I mentioned above I ended up doing quite a bit of programming of little utilities and the school website but I was never officially a programmer.  It wasn't until 1999 and I was hired by a web design/consulting company called Mozes Cleveland & Company.  That company grew like mad, had a ton of clients and promptly went out of business in the summer of 2001, like so many other companies of it's type.  I still think fondly of those days, they were fun.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

YES!  Six months ago I don't know if I would have had the same answer but two things have really rekindled my programming spirit: Community & Silverlight.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Never be satisfied.  Always work actively to improve yourself and your code.  Never consider a project complete until your manager tells you to stop, it can always be made better.  Never stop learning, complacency is what lets you get passed over and allows boredom to set in.

What's the most fun you've ever had ... programming?

I actually already wrote about this one in a old post.  Basically being sent to the Netherlands, working on a truly international team and writing some cool code, nothing else has come close... yet.


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programming is cracking me own head so i won't venture into it to learn
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