Author Topic: How did you learn to program?  (Read 383 times)

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Offline MasonMac

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How did you learn to program?
« on: July 19, 2018, 07:51:44 PM »
This is just a general (more so for steve) question to any programmers on this site if there are any (besides steve), when did you gain an interest in programming and how did it progress into actually programming?
 

Offline sublight

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2018, 10:15:53 PM »
I always liked designing puzzles/simulations to solve, and my Dad moonlighted as a programer. The combination of wanting to be like my Dad and wanting to design bigger simulations than was possible with pen/paper gave me a strong interest in programing long before I was capable. Dad gave me a book on Basic when I was maybe 6 but I didn't have the background to understand any of it.

In practice I didn't actually learn to program until I got a TI-83+ graphing calculator for Algebra-1 and started messing around with the built in editor at home and in math class. An adhoc blend of trial, error, and instruction manuals led to my first Ti-Basic program, my first function, my first for loop, and then my first memory leak when I tried mixing my original crude goto statements with newly discovered for/while loops.

TI-Basic lead to formal classes on C/C++, Java, and software design theory in College which led to internships in IT departments for sink-or-swim introductions to real world scale programing which led to my current job as an embedded systems software engineer.
 

Offline Panopticon

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2018, 11:13:13 PM »
I have always been pretty good with details and pattern recognition, but spent most of my life bopping around between dead end retail jobs and being unemployed, now at age 35 I got overcome with a powerful urge to not stand on my feet to work anymore and am taking programming classes at a local tech school and should graduate in a couple of months. We'll see if that translates into actually getting a job in the field but I am hopeful.
 

Offline Erik Luken

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2018, 12:13:45 AM »
Back in the mid-80s my dad bought a Radio Shack Color Computer. You had to type all the programs in (or load them from a ROM cartridge or tape). That led to computers and electronics in general, and a job at Gateway 2000. Which led to a programming job internally. And on, and on. :)
 

Offline Steve Walmsley

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2018, 06:12:17 AM »
I was selling computers in my mid-to-late-20s and became interesting in programming. I went on a 3-month full-time course to learn C on UNIX and subsequently picked it up on DOS as well, so I could write an assistant program for Star Fleet Battles. Somehow I got a job programming C++ on Windows 3.1 (I just read the C++ programmers guide - no google then). I was asked by my employer (Digital Equipment Corporation) to learn VB3, as I was writing VBX controls in C++ to be used in VB3.

To speed up learning VB3, I decided to write a simple system generator in my spare time for a pen and paper game called Starfire. I kept adding more and more features and that eventually become Starfire Asistant, which in turn inspired Aurora. So you could say I really started programming Aurora in 1993 :)

I relatively quickly moved through team lead, project manager, programme director, etc. and ended up running one of the UK's largest IT departments from about 2001-2004. Then packed it all in to play poker for a living :)  Once I went down the management track, I didn't get chance to do much programming (apart from Starfire Assistant in my spare time). However, when I played poker I had a lot of free time so that is when Aurora really took off and I got back into programming in a major way.

Once I went back into a proper job again (in 2011), my free time dropped off quite a lot so development is slower now than the noughties. However, I did start to pick up C#, which eventually led to the decision to create C# Aurora.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 06:15:37 AM by Steve Walmsley »
 

Offline sloanjh

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2018, 08:06:13 AM »
Wow Steve - I never knew you worked for DEC!!  I used to love EDT back in the day (and did a lot of my physics coding on it).

When I was in eighth grade my highschool had a 2 week "spring session" in which one would take weird classes.  I took a basic class.  To date myself, the equipment was a 110 baud paper tape teletype that would connect to a Honeywell timesharing system.  This was the 70s version of the cloud :)

After that, my high school had a PDP-11 that I might have played around with a bit.  I also found some old "structured learning" manuals for Fortran IV that my grandfather had in the garage (he had worked for Chrysler); I read them a little but didn't absorb anything.

Fast forward to junior year of college.  I had a summer research job set up with a physics professor who simulated quarks and gluons on computers.  My roommate knew both Fortran and Basic, so we sat down one afternoon and he told me "this construct in Basic is that construct in Fortran".  After that it was on the job learning through the physics stuff.  I learned C late in grad school by taking a stab at what Steve would call Harpoon Assistant (this was just before the commercial Harpoon program came out) - I got a SAM to steer itself onto an incoming aircraft.  I also tried to write a simulator of an economic system where towns both produce and consume several different products (at different efficiencies) and they money they get from selling their stuff to each other went to buying raw materials from each other to make the next iteration of stuff.  I never got the timestep to converge though - it kept trying to go into inflationary or deflationary spiral.

From my point of view, the best way to learn to program is very much what Steve did - find a toy project you'll enjoy and code it up in your free time. 

John
 

Offline Steve Walmsley

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2018, 08:45:04 AM »
Wow Steve - I never knew you worked for DEC!!  I used to love EDT back in the day (and did a lot of my physics coding on it).

I was working as a consultant as the resident C++ 'expert', which reinforces the old concept that you only need to know 10% more than the next guy to be an 'expert' :)

It was a tradtional 1990s client-server setup with VAX/VMS as the server and Windows 3.1 PCs as the client. We were automating the programme control rooms at the BBC so they could be run with far fewer people. In fact, I even left an easter egg in the code. If someone at the BBC had ever pressed a very unlikely 3-key combination, then millions of viewers across the UK would see "BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY" appear in the centre of their TV screens :)

Sadly, I suspect that 25 year old code is now superseded and my potential moment of glory will never happen :)
 

Offline boggo2300

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2018, 04:51:51 PM »
Sadly, I suspect that 25 year old code is now superseded and my potential moment of glory will never happen :)

Are you sure about that? it is the Beeb after all
The boggosity of the universe tends towards maximum.
 

Offline ZimRathbone

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Re: How did you learn to program?
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2018, 08:46:33 AM »
In the late seventies, my dad brought home an Apple II from work.  Now my dad was a very clever fellow, he could speak Latin and Greek (not sure how fluent he was in Greek, but certainly he spoke quite readily in Latin - he even had a motto "canticum est, ego sum cantor"  which in the Glasgow idiom is "Wan singer, wan song!"), and for a time taught Roman Civil Law at university.  However as a technologist he did leave a little to be desired... so I got to play as I *could* RTFM. And I found the code for "Lunar Lander"...and so it begins.

When I got to Uni I helped a (much richer) friend build up a ZX80  (IIRC it cost about 80 quid - or as I put it, 160 pints of beer!)  I was also learning PASCAL and Fortran at the time.  I wrote a program to handle a strategic campaign for Star Fleet Battles, which collapsed after I left Heriot Watt (where all the source code was).

I did some development of a stores system for a plumbing company I was working with (as a storeman - not a programmer) in my spare time (on an Acorn Electron in BBC Basic) and a bit after that (intervening stints as Barman, Industrial Cleaner and Law student) worked for BPX as a database assistant, primarily data entry of geological data but later creating datasets and maps for the geologists.   From there joined the NHS (National Health Service for the non UK) as a real programmer...in COBOL.  That lead to the MENTOR systems which ran the Lothian Pharmacy, Supplies and Personell and Patient Funds systems for all the hospitals in the East of Scotland (ah the Joys of PICK....I even got to do Y2K five years early!).  From there to KSCL and telecoms billing systems and mediation devices (first encounter with C and Unix) then over to OZ where I spent a lot of time in the telco billing area in various guises before moving into project management.  Now mainly program for fun.
SlĂ inte,

Mike
 

 

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