Thanks Matt. I cringed when I first saw this, but it’s actually quite challenging remembering the past in any detail.
How old were you when you started programming?
My first computer was a ZX80 but I didn’t do much with it. In fact, I think it turned me off computers for a while. The first real programming I did was at high school in the 6th form. Burnside didn’t have any computers in 1980-ish so we used to cycle to the university and submit our coding sheets or collect the punch cards and ‘run’ our Fortran 77 app’s on the PDP.
Later we discovered the DEC VDU’s where we could spend 30 minutes entering the code directly and see the results on the line printers. I don’t know if it was the ozone or the clacking sound but I really miss using line printers as a terminal – they also had keyboards! There is something very satisfying about mechanical interactions with a computer.
How did you get started in programming?
I had a friend at Christs College and being a private school they could afford lots of cool stuff. They had a small PDP. Alex created some pretty nifty graphical applications on the this. After I left school he introduced me to PC’s and it wasn’t long after that I had my own – 8086, 4.77 Mghz, green screen, 256K RAM I think and twin floppies! – no HDD.
What was your first language?
Microsoft Basic Compiler – BASCOM – v 6 I think. I created some large applications with that but gee, it was slow. Before that I tried to learn COBOL via correspondence school. That was like learning to drive without a car so I can’t really count that.
I guess the first real language I used was C which I learnt at Christchurch Poly night classes. I soon realised it wasn’t for me though and discovered dBase and then Clipper. Clipper is/was a dBase compiler (pcode only) and if you don’t know what dBase is then think Access for DOS.
What was the first real program you wrote?
With Clipper I created my first applications that I actually got paid for. It was a system for managing club memberships. I formed a partnership with a friend of a friend and we sold about 20 of those I think mostly to Working Men’s clubs.
The last of my Clipper apps was only decommissioned about a year ago – 15 years from a DOS application is pretty good I think.
What languages have you used since you started programming?
What was your first professional programming gig?
My first real programming job was with a very small 1 product company. The product recorded output from telephone systems and calculated usage and cost. It was called CAPP Plus (CAPP, the original was written in Turbo Pascal and became unmaintainable – for various technical and personal reasons! I re-wrote it with Clipper). It was through this job I met my wife and when the company karked we took over the product and sold it for a few more years until Telecom decided to get out of the business.
If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?
When I was young I always said I had no regrets and while that’s still true – give or take a few stupid ideas that I shouldn’t have acted on! - I just wish I’d started sooner. In the famous words of Oscar Wilde - ‘youth is wasted on the young’.
If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?
If you love it, programming is easy, it’s humans that are hard. Spend as much time learning the business as you do learning your craft. Developers are easier to find than developers with real business knowledge. If you don’t understand the business then software bombs are also a good way to get promotions – or legal trouble.
What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?
I get a big kick hearing that an application you wrote years earlier is still being used every day and you never hear a word from the customer, but the best thing about this career is the opportunity to work with great people and maybe even marry them :)
Hmmmm. The people I choose either don’t have a blog or their site is not working. I’ll try to update later…