How I Got Started in Programming

I haven’t really been tagged, per se, but enough of my blogroll has participated in this meme, so I thought I’d weigh in.

How old were you when you started programming?

I was about 10, I think. Read on for the details…

How did you get started in programming?

A year or two after my dad bought us an Apple IIgs, I pulled out the BASIC book that came with the computer.  As many people did, I just started typing in the programs listed in the book.  Not everything worked on the first try, I would usually make a typo or two as I transcribed the code.  When I got to the checkbook balancing program, I tried for days to get it to work correctly, but failed.  I got so frustrated that I just put the book down and never picked it up again.  It turns out that I wouldn’t program again until I got to college.  The enjoyment I got out of the programs that I did get to work stayed with me, though.  Enough that I knew by the time I graduated from high school that I wanted to major in computer science.

What was your first language?

This seems to be just about the same for every person who answers this question:  some flavor of BASIC.� I have to say though, I think C++ (the first language I coded in at college) had more influence on the way I think about programming.  Maybe that’s why I chafed at having to use VB at my previous workplace;  C# just seems more natural.  I need them curly braces!  :-)

What was the first real program that you wrote?

I’m not exactly sure what “real” means in this case.  I’ll take it to mean, “having some actual value outside of academic exercise,” in which case the first one would have to be my senior capstone project, Shticks.  At Harding, every semester the participating seniors are split into teams and given a board game to turn into a computer game.  Our semester, it was a game called Creeper, published by Out of the Box Games.  (You may know them as the publisher of Apples to Apples.)  We used a Flash control hosted in a C# WinForm.  The game engine, AI, networking, etc. were coded in C#, and the animations and presentation logic in ActionScript.  (Yeah, I know, yikes.)

What languages have you used since you started programming?

I feel I need to distinguish languages I only used in college from language’s I’ve used in real-world projects.� In college only: C++, Perl, Java, x86 Assembly.  Real-world: C#, VB.NET, JavaScript, COBOL, VBScript, PHP, and currently learning Ruby to help out my church with a Rails-based church management system.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I got my first programming job right out of college, at a company called Data-Tronics, the in-house IT shop for Arkansas Best Freight.  I did lots of mainframe COBOL, quite a bit of classic ASP, and some VB.NET, all related to the transportation industry.  I worked there until about two months ago, with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

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

Absolutely!  I think that I wouldn’t have taken the break between 10 and 18.  I also wouldn’t have waited as long to really tune in to the programming community, which I only did about a year and a half ago.  Before that it was just kind of a job.� One that I enjoyed, more or less, but not one that I was truly passionate about.  I have to credit Dot Net Rocks, Hanselminutes, and Jeff Atwood of for being my gateway drugs, showing me that building software was something that I truly could be passionate about.

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

Plug in to the community.  Read blogs, listen to podcasts, go to user group meetings, start your own blog.  You can get so much more out of software development than just a paycheck if you’re willing to put in just a small bit of extra effort.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had… programming?

I have to say, making that game in college was a blast.  It was my first taste of building something of substantial size and something that other people could (theoretically) use.  Plus, making games is just fun anyway.  :-)

Tag, you’re it!

I’ve enjoyed hearing other people’s stories, so I think I ought to keep this going.  I’m going to call out:

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