Friday, June 06, 2008

Software Development Meme

Called out by Jeff Blankenburg (isn't this like a chain letter from the 80's? ;-)...

How old were you when you started programming?
Trying to remember...I think about 11. Somehow, my Dad had this premonition prediction that computers would become important and bought a Timex-Sinclair 1000 for me--with a whopping 2KB of memory. Reviewing the manual on how to program with BASIC (not sure about those semi-colons...):

10 Print "Hello";
20 Goto 10;
Run

I had written my first program! I tried saving it to the cassette tape (huh?) drive but that never seemed to work quite right.

About the same time, my neighbor acquired a Commodore 64--with a 5 1/4" floppy! (they were loaded ;-). He also subscribed to some Commodore magazine where they listed (yes, this was before the Internet...and before including disks with magazines) 1,000+ line programs which one could type in. Well, we actually did this. That's where I learned to type without looking and when I first "learned" programming constructs. (Wow, that's sad.) One can learn a lot from reading and typing in code.

How did you get started in programming?
I started off in engineering in college (OSU) but quickly washed out of freshman physics. A 1.8 didn't sit well with the family (or me). I flipped to MIS and started making the dean's list. Unfortunately, [curse them] the MIS program at OSU in 1992 still taught COBOL. I'd had FORTRAN with engineering but COBOL was my first pragmatic language. MacPascal was a quick third.

What was your first language?
BASIC.

What was the first real program you wrote?
Technically, see question #1. However, the first program I wrote from scratch was in BASIC on a TI-99 that featured a rudimentary, blocked out face that blinked. For some reason, the school district embraced TI-99's and I got to use them after school and during summer programs [geek].

What languages have you used since you started programming?
(In quasi-chronological order...) BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, MacPascal, JCL, HTML, VB3-6, SQL, VBScript, C#, Javascript, ActionScript, PHP, VB.NET, CSS, ...and some Spanish ;-)

What was your first professional programming gig?

I landed an internship with Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, OH on the Integrated Customer Account Record (ICAR) group as a sophomore (or was it junior?). It was an early data warehouse. Revolutionary...at the time. I think they let me edit a single line the entire quarter and then hack together some JCL to execute it on the mainframe. Scary.

When I graduated, my first full time code came at Crowe Chizek in Indianapolis, IN writing in some 4GL. Fortunately, I quickly graduated to VB3 and Oracle 6.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?
I think Blankenburg responded "Absolutely." I'm likely more a "probably". I've always had a certain "vibe" with software and systems...but I think I could have just as easily become an attorney or an entrepreneur. I like to be the guy to figure out the hard stuff and then let the team refine it. Most of my programming nowadays comes in the form of "figure it out" or "make it better/faster/higher quality" as opposed to "implement it from end-to-end".

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?
Don't be a primadona. There's something to learn with every language and every experience. Some wise person said (roughly), "Go with the experience...the money will come". Oh, and don't participate in language wars. All languages posses benefits (hell, it all seems to go back to 1979 and SmallTalk anyway ;-)..."your" language isn't better than any other language. Right tool for the right job.

What's the most fun you've ever had ... programming?
I have to say that programming has gotten pretty darn fun lately with the innovations coming from Redmond with .Net and the OSS community. But, reaching back in history, I had the opportunity to lead a team building the Art.com e-commerce site on ASP/VB6 back in 1999...the heart of the Dot Com Boom. It looks like they're still using some of the original platform. Cool...maybe those 18 months made a difference.

1 comment:

Joe Wirtley said...

I agree with your "Right tool for the right job." line, unless of course you're talking about TFS ;-)