How I Got Started In Software Development

personal, code 0 comments suggest edit

It’s a quiet friday afternoon with all of our devs in training today, so I figured I’d take a breather and respond to this meme I’ve been tagged with by Simone, Keyvan, Steve and others.

How Old Were You When You Started Programming?

Have I even started really programming yet? I guess I got my first taste when I was around eight with my first computer, a TRS-80 Color Computer.

phil-with-trs-80

That sucker could display 9 colors, all at once, believe it or not. My programming experience back then was pretty minimal. My dad and I mostly spent hours typing in program listings from books, complete with pages of DATA lines consisting entirely of 0s and 1s. Pretty much typing by hand the equivalent of binary resources. I also wrote simple programs that would draw pictures and my dumb attempts at Zork-like text adventures.

How Did You Get Started In Programming?

Well I would write dumb little programs for my TRS-80, then Commodore 128, then Amiga. But I never wrote any programs of any significance till I took a C and C++ class in college. Even then, those programs were not “real world” programs, but simple assignments. It wasn’t till after college when I had to get a J-O-B that I learned how to really program.

And it was a rough start, writing the most knotty spaghetti ASP code in VBScript ever. It wasn’t till I read Code Complete that I realized that I wasn’t programming yet, I was barfing code.

What Was Your First Language?

English. My first programming language was BASIC for the TRS-80. My first professional language was VBScript. My first Object Oriented language was C++.

What Was The First Real Program You Wrote?

Man, I can barely remember that far back. All I remember was on my first day of my first programming job, a helpful consultant/coworker showing me the ropes. The main thing she taught me that day was when looping through a RecordSet, don’t forget the rs.MoveNext call, or else!

Around that time, I started working on a website for a company called MyLaunch.com which later became Launch.com which later got bought by Yahoo. That was the first large website I worked on and the place I had my first and worse major production bug ever. It was a lot of fun because I also signed up on the site and would interact with the other members, since it was a community music site.

What Languages Have You Used Since You Started Programming?

What is this? Some sort of interview? The programming languages I’ve used professionally are: BASIC, Visual Basic, VBScript, Java, J++, Ruby, C#.

What Was Your First Programming Gig?

As I mentioned before, it was right after college I got a job at a consulting firm named Sequoia Softworks in Seal Beach, CA. We had an office right on main street near the beach above some antique store or something. We later changed our name to Solien. They’re still around, but their site needs some love.

If You Knew Then What You Know Now, Would You Have Started Programming?

Well in between investing large sums of money in the right stocks and getting out at the right time, yes, absolutely! I love to write code and write about code.

If There is One Thing You Learned Along the Way That You Would Tell New Developers, What Would It Be?

Learn to write and communicate well. Software development is rich in ideas and being able to communicate your ideas well will get you places. And keep an open mind. Things you’re absolutely sure about now, you might not be so sure about tomorrow.

What’s the Most Fun You’ve Ever Had … Programming?

Hacking on Open Source projects such as Subtext. Recently, working on my [IronRuby

  • MVC prototype](https://haacked.com/archive/2008/07/20/ironruby-aspnetmvc-prototype.aspx “IronRuby and MVC”) has been a lot of fun. I find it fun to try out new things as well as making old things better.

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Comments

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22 responses

  1. Avatar for Keyvan Nayyeri
    Keyvan Nayyeri July 25th, 2008

    Phil,
    Thank you for accepting the invitation and writing about it :-)

  2. Avatar for troy
    troy July 25th, 2008

    How funny, I got started on the TRS-80 as well... one day my mom brought it home and I didn't really know/understand what it was for. Then I went to the Commodore64, then 128 and then didn't have a computer for a while - until right around AOL got huge! lol

  3. Avatar for Robert G
    Robert G July 25th, 2008

    You used to work 5 minutes from me (in Seal Beach).

  4. Avatar for Simone Chiaretta
    Simone Chiaretta July 25th, 2008

    That's unfair... I tagged you as well, but didn't get the link love back.. sad :(

  5. Avatar for Shannon
    Shannon July 26th, 2008

    Timex Sinclair 1000 in the early 80's here, so I must have been ten or eleven. It had a nice black and white, membrane keyboard, pluggable RAM expansion cartridge. I think I even have some of the old games on cassette... things like tanks and frogger... I learned BASIC on that thing, and then moved on to a Commodore 128 and a *gasp* floppy drive. It was great. Then a 286 or 386 I think. I ran a nice ANSI BBS (Wildcat maybe) off that with a 1200bps modem. And then I went to college and discovered BITNET, C, and MUDs. It was all downhill from there.

  6. Avatar for Joe C
    Joe C July 26th, 2008

    VIC 20 Baby!!!! Then an IBM PC Jr. wioth the plug in BASIC cartridge (LOL)

  7. Avatar for Joe C II
    Joe C II July 26th, 2008

    I got mine in a Vic 20, C-64. Became a foxpro programmer (I know that is dating me), and now I am a "Classic" asp and asp.net/silverlight developer.

  8. Avatar for Bilal Ahsan
    Bilal Ahsan July 26th, 2008

    I started on bbc micro, and i remember sneaking keys to the computer room of our school, when no-one else was interested. I remember peeking and poking on C64, craving about owning a sinclair, trying to code my commodore to control lights of my home, c128 was the next kid on a block, the feel to upgrade 64k can be compared to todays 1Gig.
    hello eveyone plz leave yor mark on my blog http://three6t.livejournal.com

  9. Avatar for haacked
    haacked July 26th, 2008

    @Shannon I think I had a Timex too. Wasn't it kinda small? I never used it though. I used to be on all the BBSes back in the day too.

  10. Avatar for haacked
    haacked July 26th, 2008

    @Simo, nothing intentional. I updated my post to give some link love. :)

  11. Avatar for Simone Chiaretta
    Simone Chiaretta July 26th, 2008

    @haacked... no problem..

  12. Avatar for KristofU
    KristofU July 26th, 2008

    My first computer : a ZX-81
    First program : Mastermind, as copied from a mag, but I never got to run it because the memory - 1KB - was insufficient to hold the entire program. It came down to just

  13. Avatar for KristofU
    KristofU July 26th, 2008

    a couple of lines.
    ( damn laptop keyboard )

  14. Avatar for xun
    xun July 27th, 2008

    "I guess I got my first taste when I was around eight with my first computer, a TRS-80 Color Computer."
    Wow, that is really once upon a time. So not all computer geeks are computer genius who started programming at 16 and made their names at 25. But you probably made your first programming gig before 25.
    Should all people be banned if they did not know any programming before 25?
    Enjoy your blog

  15. Avatar for HaunaBen
    HaunaBen July 27th, 2008

    Nice flashback, I also started with the TRS-80 when I was 10. I remember spending hours typing in listings from a magazine and debugging my typos, only to shut the computer down and lose it all!!
    It took me about six months to convince my parents to buy me a tape drive.

  16. Avatar for Dave
    Dave July 27th, 2008

    Vic 20 and then with its 8k cartridge expansion, followed by C64. I also remember typing in a bunch of numbers from magazine articles that would become some dumb program.

  17. Avatar for mushroom_lb
    mushroom_lb July 28th, 2008

    everyone has a hard life!

  18. Avatar for Brent Brown
    Brent Brown July 28th, 2008

    Long live the CoCo!
    Rainbow magazine for the win! :)

  19. Avatar for Rick Arthur
    Rick Arthur July 30th, 2008

    I knew there was something I liked about you! :) I also started on the TRS-80 Coco. 4K then later upgraded to 32K (more RAM than anyone could possibly ever need). I still remember the day I made the big upgrade and bought (drumroll...) a floppy drive.

  20. Avatar for Mike Borozdin
    Mike Borozdin August 1st, 2008

    I remember my first computer was ZX Spectrum, I remember there were some cool games. I started programming when I was about 12-14 years old, I was learning C/C++, I wanted to write a cool game that would bring me millions of dollars, eventually I started web development...

  21. Avatar for Jeff Schumacher
    Jeff Schumacher August 8th, 2008

    It's amazing to me how many of us started out around 9 or 10 with a vic 20 or C-64 (as I did), or TRS-80. For some time I thought I was the only one who remembered the C-64.
    Saw your recent interview on Channel 9, glad to hear you're enjoying the Seattle area. We are also moving up there at the end of the month from LA. Can't wait for the cooler weather.

  22. Avatar for Sid Savara- Personal Developme
    Sid Savara- Personal Developme August 12th, 2008

    Interesting =). My first language was BASIC, and I still remember the first program I wrote - it let me draw things on the screen like an etch-a-sketch. I thought I was the best BASIC programmer ever. I think I was 12.