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Programming Education

How Did You Learn How To Program? 623

theodp writes "'Every programmer likely remembers how they learned to code,' writes GeekWire's Taylor Soper. 'For guys like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the magic began on the Teletype Model 33 (pic). For others, it may have been a few days at a coding workshop like the one I attended for journalists.' If you're in the mood to share how and in what ways your own developer days began, Soper adds, 'cyborg anthropologist' Amber Case is collecting stories to help people understand what it takes to learn how to code. Any fond computer camp stories, kids?"
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How Did You Learn How To Program?

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  • Compute! Magazine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:18AM (#43850341) Journal

    When I was 10 I had a Ti-99/4A and subscribed to Compute! magazine. I'd type the BASIC programs in each month, and through the process of typing in thousands of lines of code, and then wanting to make modifications to the games (adding more lives, etc), I simply began to understand how the software controlled the behavior of the computer.

    • Another "upvote" for Compute!. Between the magazine and the books, it was the key to 8-bit 6502 geekiness.

    • In high school I took a math course that required graphing calculators. The course tought simple programs to graph curves. Wasn't long before I was doing more complex stuff. Its a shame smart phones don't come with a programming app pre installed.
    • Yes, Compute Magazine. I remember that fondly. Well, maybe not so fondly as I had to debug my code and find my typo amidst the lines of transcribed code. But it was an awesome way to learn the basics of programming and logic. I never did beat that "Goldminer" game.... i remember that one most of all.
    • Grade 5, dad gets an Atari 800XL.

      I asked for games, he bought in few books that had code for games in BASIC, 1000s of lines had to be punched in and saved on cassette tapes.

      Soon enough I learned how to cheat with friends where I would get an unfair advantage during game play, the rest is history.

    • We had an Apple II (then IIe) and my dad subscribed to Nibble magazine. This was also the glory days of Byte magazine and Beagle Bros. Every month I'd take the magazine and type in the programs in it. Then I'd spend hours debugging my code for typos. In the process I learned about program flow, subroutines, memory location calls, etc. It was better than any programming class I've had.

    • Man, that brings back memories. When my brother and I were little (like 6 or 7), mom was getting her education degree. Her professor let us hang out in this room (closet) where they kept their TI-99 with it's tape drive. It had been usurped by some Apple computers in the main computer lab. We would transcribe the programs from 3-2-1 Contact magazine (So it had to have been between 85 and 88).

      We would do the same thing as you, tweaking things here and there. I remember having 100 lives in the snake game. Or

  • 2KB of RAM BABY! Unit with so little processing power, it didn't even have a BASIC tokenizer, you essentially typed the program pre-Tokenized with hard-coded keywords on the keyboard.

    The real one though was the Commodore 64, and the fine line of books from Compute!, including the "Mapping the C64 and C64C" and the "6502 Assembly Language" book.

    • by stevew ( 4845 )

      You had so much room! I learned to program on an Ollevetti Programma 101 in 1971. It was essentially a programmable calculator with 120 possible instruction locations. It used RPN sort of.. and as you went beyond 60 or so instructions you started eating up register storage in chunks until you used up have the available registers with program storage!

      The language looked something like

      AV ( A label)
      S (Stop for Input)
      M+ (Add the Input register to the Accumulator)
      A This was literally a diamond symbol and

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward


        250 of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the road...

      • I started about the same time on a Ollevetti 401 I believe. A glorified numeric key pad for input and a red light, a green light and a cash register style tape for output.

        I believe you will never really understand how a computer works until you have done two things:
        built a compiler/parser and have done machine language programming (which was what you did with the 401).

    • 2K??? Only a young whippersnapper would think 2K was restrictive.

      PS: Back when it was called the ZX81 it only had 1K and the display could take 768 bytes of that. People still managed to program it...

  • LibertyBASIC and then moved to game programming with Bloodshed Dev C++. The good old days for me. Now it is mostly business glue in .NET with C# in cubicleville.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:19AM (#43850377)

    Bought a C64 to find out about this "computer thing". When Basic turned out to be dog-slow, taught myself assembler.

    • C64 for me too but I used mine to telecommute to the local university for my CS degree, which included some programming coursework. Nothing like a 1200 baud modem and software 80 character screen emulator connected to a PDP 11-70 BSD system as a C teaching testbed. Loved it.
    • Amstrad CPC6128. I have vague memories of some character in a magazine calling himself "the hairy hacker" too, you don't get columns like that anymore.

  • BBC (Score:5, Funny)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:20AM (#43850383) Journal

    BBC Basic on a BBC and then asm to make it faster.

    Really, BBC BASIC wasn't a bad language. Allowed proper structured programming with functions, procedures, local variables etc.

    I still remember that CHR$(141) does double height text in teletext.

    This has not been a useful thing to remember.

  • I first learned to code by reading the BASIC manual of my Sinclair ZX-81 and laboriously typing out programs one keyword at a time on that little keypad (after assembling it myself). It's amazing what you can do with 1K of RAM.

  • That was the name of the textbook, and we did it on an HP 3000 timeshare minicomputer in 1976. First high school in the city to get its own educational computer system, I think. The class was "Computer Math", and it changed my direction from architecture to computer science. Spent 4.5 years at the state's science & technology campus helping my engineering major friends with their mandatory FORTRAN class. :-P In Computer Science in those days we did a lot with PL/1. Got a job in a small shop after g
  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:22AM (#43850413)

    On a commodore 64 and later on a pc. After doing a few programs, I started breaking the code down, making changes. I must have been about 7. When I was 9, I took an official BASIC course at the local junior college in their college for kids program. In high school, I took Pascal, then majored in Computer Sciences in college where I learned C, Cobol, Java and Assembly.

  • TRS 80 Model I (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:23AM (#43850429) Journal

    TRS-80 Model I with 4K of RAM. I was 6 and the thing came with a wonderfully put together BASIC programming manual. The beauty of the system is that you didn't need a lot of theory (any really) to get started.

    10 CLS
    30 GOTO 10

    This was amazing to me. I ended up writing a few games, some math function and anything else I could do in 4K. Later on I went into programming as a career before turning to the dark side of management.

    • Same here. I could never get the cassette drive to save my program, but you'd only find that out when you'd try to load it back and discover it wiped out the program in memory with nothing off the tape. After typing the same program (it was a space battle game with ASCII ships) in about 50 times, it all started to make sense.

      Then we got the Atari 400. Color. Glorious color.

    • by invid ( 163714 )
      I tried to write a Dungeons and Dragons game on the TRS-80 at our high school. I quickly lost track of all the GOTOs. Thus began my lifelong hatred of BASIC.
    • Similar story, except that the TRS-80 I used was the local Radio Shack's in-store demonstrator.

      I thought it took a lot of nerve on the part of the 14-year-old shoe-gazing math nerd to attract the attention of the store manager and ask if I could interrupt the in-store demo program to type in these programs I found in the Geometry textbook our school was using. And he agreed.

      I think it paid off in the long haul for him; I bought my own TRS-80 from the same guy less than a year later and wound up sinking seve

    • Model I as well.

      I didn't own one, but I added features (or fixed bugs) on the BASIC games that they had running on the floor model at the local Radio Shack. The store manager "paid" for specific changes in the form of discounts on purchases.

      I eventually wrote a complete Monopoly game for the Model III, including graphical dice rolling. It wouldn't run on the 16KB version, though, as it was about 28KB.

    • Same with me, but I was about 13 and it was a Model 1 Level 2. I thought it was 16k, but could be wrong. The difficulty was that on mine, the k, r, s v, a and many other keys would randomly double or triple itself when typing. Which means I was using the backspace about 5 times per line. I would call it deep training to be persistent...especially the few times I worked all day on entering code I found in a magazine to only sit back, stretch out and accidentally kicking the power supply and deleting all my w
    • Ha! Know the feeling well. I like to think that I hacked and R/E'd my way to computer programming by reading the source to hundreds of thousands if not millions of line of code. I was 9 (1978) when I located this rabbit hole and knew then this is what I'd do for the rest of my life. There was no Google so I largely would trade pirated games or find cassettes that contained programs written in easily translatable BASIC commands which I quickly picked up. Every 'RUN' magazine was read from cover to cover.

  • Bashing programs from magazines into Zx81 and Spectrums.

  • Talk about an 80's flashback. I learned basic on a CoCo, the color computer from radio shack. Picked up Hot CoCo, Rainbow Magazine and others and my technique improved a lot. Then I got into OS-9 and learning the basics of linux, pascal and a number of other things. Just wish that assembly had made more sense to me at the time. It's also when I started hardware-hacking my machines for better memory and a variety of other things that radio-shack never intended to support. I want to give a shout out to
  • I got a ZX Spectrum when I was 13 this was when having a home computer was a relatively new idea. So I taught myself on there, then on the shite commodores (Vic 20 and the Pet with the built in casset tape drive) they had in school (I was better at it than the maths teach who taught computer studies though he always beat me at calculus :D). Then I got some actual work experience (Dbase II on a Dec laptop circa 1985) then I went to college and learnt some more (Cobol etc) and I'm going to stop now because
  • First a VIC20, where coding a loop to print "Asshole" was the pinnacle of achievement :) Then moved on to C64, where I became more proficient in Basic and some of the graphics and sound stuff. But it was the Amiga (first 500, then later 3000 and 4000) where I taught myself C and later C++. From there about a year using Windows, and then to Linux.

    As I look back, I now notice that almost every system I was ever drawn to was programmer-centric. I never realized it back then, and even into post-secondary ed

  • I never did (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coldsalmon ( 946941 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:26AM (#43850489)

    What little "programming" I've done (bash scripting, HTML, MySQL, a bit of Scheme from SICP for fun) doesn't really count. What I've learned, I've taught myself based on information found online and in books. I know enough to write some useful scripts for my office Linux server, but I leave the real programming to real programmers.

  • It was 1972 and I had just gotten out of the Army. DEC hired me to work at their Oakland, Ca. office and had sent me to the mill for 3 months of training. The one-week class on PAL-3 assembler was the best part of it. I also puttered around with FOCAL a bit.
    • About five years after you... on a PDP 11/40, learning BASIC as part of a program somewhat like Running Start (which didn't exist back then). Then, in college, I had a job writing code for a chain of music stores - this time on a TRS 80 of some sort. The computer i learned FORTRAN and a few dead languages on at the university was a PDP 11/70.

      I probably still have some programs on paper tape, somewhere...

      But to be honest - while I learned the languages at school, I learned to program by doing. Usually at a j

  • by 16Chapel ( 998683 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:28AM (#43850513)
    That's how.
  • Started with BASIC programming class in high school on Commodore PETs. While in school got lent a TRS-80 at home for a bit (was a donation they didn't have any use for) so I was reading a lot more books and magazines than the class curriculum. After graduation earned enough for a VIC-20 and started getting into assembly language (ahh. hand assembly, that was fun).. and just kept going from there.

  • I got my 1st computer, an Atari 800XL from my grandmother in Germany as a First Communion present. When I got bored of playing Donkey Kong, I took a look at the manual, wrote the first example, and ran it. I was so amazed, that I started tweaking the numbers in the code and saw which effect they had. That's when I discovered the power XD
  • My dad would order disks and little booklets from computer shopper for me that would contain BASIC programs. Plus he taught me what he knew from work, although I think he used a language called JCL there in the limited capacities his job required.

    Then I picked up Perl in middle and high school.

  • And, at about the same time, Basic on a CP/M machine at my high school...

    Later more Basic on Commodore 64, moved on to Pascal and Modula-2 on Atari ST.

    • And, at about the same time, Basic on a CP/M machine at my high school...

      Later more Basic on Commodore 64, moved on to Pascal and Modula-2 on Atari ST.

      BASIC on the Spectrum for me as well. I think I was about 8-9 when I started. Did a bit of machine code (numbers, not assembler!) but didn't get into it. Got a BBC Micro, still programming in BASIC, IIRC I had some assembler routines to handle sprites taken from a magazine.

      Things really took off when Dad got a PC around 1991. I started with GW BASIC, but then got my own machine and Borland C 2 a few years later. At that point I bit the bullet and started playing with assembler, and wrote my own graphic

  • by glsunder ( 241984 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:33AM (#43850567)

    I had a commodore 64 and learned from the manual. The earliest thing I remember is copying the balloon sprite code and modifying it to make a simple car game. Then saving it to.... CASSETTE tape!

  • The machine was a workstation that I used at my father's office. I think is cost the government something like $8,000 and it had a green screen with something like a 20 MB hard drive and 1 5.25 floppy drive. I went to the DUCK 2 week summer camp (Duke University Computer Kamp) twice in '82 and '83 and that's where I really learned how to truly write software for the first time in BASIC. I was 10 years old. The second time I went to the camp I learned how to program in Pascal using the Borland compiler (
    • by bytesex ( 112972 )

      Hey - you must be me! (Except for the DUCK). Did you also go on to learn C using the Borland C Compiler?

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:36AM (#43850615)
    X's and O's on a blackboard. We had to develop our own playbook, with blocking schemes and pass routes included. It turned out to be really easy, because my team had a fullback who could...wait. Uh, never mind; that was football camp, not computer camp.
  • First experience with programming was my uncle teaching me a few commands in C64 BASIC. Where I really learned to program was on a Radio Shack MC-10 with 4k onboard and a 16k cartridge for a whopping 20k! Say what you will about the quality of the Radio Shack/Tandy computers, but they had some of the best manuals going, and I must have read my MC-10 BASIC manual from cover to cover a hundred times.

    Where I think I really crossed the line and became an actual programmer was when I was loaned a VIC-20 with a b

  • on the definition of "program". To preface, I'm not a programmer, but I can write basic code. I did Apple BASIC in elementary and middle school. Dabbled in Pascal, C, and VBA in college. I would plant my "learned how to program" flag in my last year of college, when my roommates and I downloaded Slackware floppy images over a modem, downloaded Merc 2.2 source code, learned to compile it, then rewrote 80% of the code.
  • by way2slo ( 151122 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:38AM (#43850655) Journal

    A friend and I wrote a text based Baseball simulator on our own. And we did it without using "GOSUB" because we didn't know it existed.

  • I convinced my mother to buy a Laser 128, which for those not familiar was a apple ][ clone priced more like a C64.

    Anyway, got it home and the only software it came with was a copy of Copy II+, a disk cloning product. It did come with a nice reference manual though.

    Money being tight and all, my supply of games/etc was very limited. So instead I started reading the manual, and trying to understand all basic keywords and technical jargon. By the time I was in HS, I was pretty proficient with that machine havi

  • First learned it the wrong way - VIC 20 / C64 - Basic (with the C64 'programming manual')

    Then learned the right way - PDP11/23 at the high school where I started programming first in Pascal and later in C... - in fact, I didn't really study it - It was not mandatory teaching but the school had a PDP11/23 clone and they offered "voluntary" courses for pupil. I couldn't join so I complained so loudly until they gave me an account on that machine "just to shut him up" - and I started learning programming "the

  • I first learned to program in BASIC on an Apple II.

    I just wonder how kids are going to have the opportunity to learn to code by the time iPads and other closed devices have displaced general-purpose home computers for a large chunk of the population.

  • 3-2-1 Contact Magazine had some little BASICA games and the like in back that you could type up and run... still have a soft spot in my heart the one where you were setting up a sea turtle preserve. After that, I was on to taking a hex editor to Rogue to try to change all monster damage to 0d0. Still didn't beat the damned game.
  • When the disk drive broke I started messing around with BASIC.

  • on a Burroughs B6700 mainframe, with punch cards, in Algol

    We also had a minicomputer. To boot it, you entered the boot code in binary, with toggle switches. After booting, it loaded the OS from paper tape

  • on an ELFII [] (assembled myself) with the trusty RCA 1802 assembly manual at my elbow.

    BASIC ? Compilers ? pffft, whatta bunch of pussies...

  • I was extremely interested in being a Chemist like my father until in 9th grade; we were given our calculators for math and science courses. A couple of kids with older friends shared some very simple games with everyone. Everyone else thought it was cool that they could play games in school. I did to for about 5 minutes until I found I could look at the game as a set of weird psuedotext lines. The cool part came when I changed the numbers then the game changed. At that moment, I went from Chemist to P
  • When you accidentally hit the table the 16KB memory extension it used to erase the program before you could save it to tape.

    After that, Basic and assembler on Commodore Plus 4, then Amiga, Macintosh Plus, and Pascal, CommonLisp, and Prolog on various university machines - Sun workstations and Next cubes, if I recall correctly. I've never programmed professionally, though, and am currently being paid for doing logic by hand on paper as opposed to using a theorem prover. :-)

  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:44AM (#43850747) Journal

    I had previously dabbled in logo, basic, Applesoft basic, et cetera.

    Heard we were being deployed to Wake Island for a downed aircraft recovery (interesting term when the aircraft is in 17,000+ feet of water...)

    So, I bought a little book titled "Learn C in 3 days" - []
    Then I bought a copy of Turbo C++.

    Installed it on the log room computer when the Chiefs weren't looking and coded away the long trip to Wake Island from Hawaii at 8-12 knots (and the way back.)

    I'd always been good with computers before, but after this I was totally hooked on coding.

  • The good old Apple II (not a GS or C to C+) . My elementary school had an Apple II lab with like 25 machines and everyone learned how to type on the computer and play educational games like number munchers but the lucky ones in the gifted and talented program you got to do all sorts of stuff with them. I lucked out and got to program apple soft basic, logo, and even got exposed to the Lego logo environment. Then my family got an Apple II C+ when I was in 4th or 5th grade and I just ran with it reading all s
  • by brausch ( 51013 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:44AM (#43850751)

    My high school was part of a pilot project for rural schools in Minnesota in 196x. We got boxes of pre-punched, numbered (in columns 73-80), FORTRAN statements and would assemble programs from them. The teacher would send the student programs down to the Univ. of Minn. via bus and we'd get the printouts back for the next week's class. It got me hooked for life.

  • In 3rd or 4th (1990ish) grade we had an amazing computer teacher, started out just drawing cool designs, then learned more, and ended up making a digital clock from scratch, meaning I had to create procedure to draw the numbers and a control program to trigger the process with time delays.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:46AM (#43850779) Homepage

    Logo at computer camp when I was 11, followed by basic on a TRS-80 color computer, then eventually basic on a 8088 machine, Pascal, PDP-11 assembly and C in university, and some interesting chances to do some bare-metal programming along the way.

    I still don't meet a lot of people who have done interrupt-level programming and accessing hardware directly via registers and writing your own interrupt handlers.

    Good times.

  • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:46AM (#43850783)
    I remember this lol, I was at home on the computer and opened QBasic.exe. I remember looking at the window and being like WTF? So I went out to the library and got a book on QBasic and that was it! I moved from QBasic to ASM and HTML then to C.
  • I wonder if anybody else remembers some issues of Ranger Rick having BASIC program listings? My first program was typing in one of those, which ended up playing a tune from Bach on the computer speaker. I was really blown away by that.

    I made so many typos that it didn't work the first 3 or 4 times I entered it.

  • Started in 1972 with 110 (?) baud dialup on an ASR-33 teletype from Junior High to the High School's DEC PDP-8 [] mini running TSS88. IIRC it had 8K 12-bit words of memory. Had to dial (yes, rotary dial) the phone number and put the handset into the Acoustical Coupler. Off line storage was to paper tape. Started with BASIC, then moved on to assembler and FOCAL. Then in High School they upgraded to a PDP-11 running RSTS/E. Wow -- was that thing FAST! <grin>

    Typed in many, many basic programs from D

  • It was 1972 and I was in the 8th grade. Our math teacher thought it would be fun as we flew through the course requirements.

    My first major project was in 1979 and I had to debug a stats suite written in Fortran. Translated that into BASIC for a Tektronic Graphing station and then again to BASICA for the PC.

    Does hard-wiring lab setups count? What language would that be?

    In grad school I used an old PDP8 to control the lab. ( Did anyone ever come across SKED? ) And by then, I was reading every computer bo

  • debugging Excel macros.

  • The best language to start with.
  • I first learned *about* programming when I was 10 (1977) by reading a small paperback book about the Basic language. I wrote on paper with pencil to learn some very rudimentary programming. I didn't learn on a real computer until 1979 or 1980 - at my junior high school - and that was originally using an Atari 400 or 800. We also learned on an IBM card reader connected to a university unix server using only a wide-carriage printer as the output, no screen at all. I also learned on a Tandy TRS-80 and an Apple

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:52AM (#43850847) Journal

    "The three great virtues of a programmer are laziness, impatience, and hubris." ~ Larry Wall

    Why you learned is as important as how.

    1987, Apple IIe, 4th grade. My brother comvinced my dad to buy one for the house 2 years before and after one of the first "we've got to computers in the classroom!" pushes there was one in every classroom too...collecting dust because the teachers didn't know how to use it.

    My brother had taught me "Hello World" in BASIC, and that combined with the Basic Apple BASIC book let me write terrible programs where the computer would ask you a name, and when you typed it in the computer would say '$name is a nerd!"

    I discovered I possessed at least the first of Larry's virtues in order to avoid boring social studies projects. We'd get week-long projects where you had to "make something" about the states, or the presidents or the biosphere, so kids would make flash cards or a mobile or whatever. I wrote a quiz program ("Name That State!") that would ask you, at random, from a set of hard coded questions (ripped from the book) about the states and then tell you if you got the answer right or wrong and tallied your score at the end. This was wizardry to the teachers and I got an A.

    Well they didn't really understand code reuse, and so when the next week I'd hand in "Name That President!" which was the exact same program with the questions swapped out, A again. That same code got reused for at least four years in different classes. "Name that type of cloud!" "Name that Biome!" "Name that Export of Honduras!" (Hint, it was probably 'bananas').

    You'd think at some point they would have caught on and told me to do something different. Maybe they did but didn't say anything. But I kept getting As so I kept turning in the same stupid project with a 10 minute change. Kind of explains Windows, too I guess.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by meta-monkey ( 321000 )

      After submitting this, I realized that if in 2013 a kid wrote a program at school that asks for a student's name and then calls him a nerd, he'd probably be arrested for cyber-bullying and banned from using computers for 7 years.

  • When I was in high school, I had access to a PDP-11, and when I went to college I worked on a VAX 11/780. The VAX was an amazing machine. It *never* crashed no matter what us college kids would throw at it. Of course, let us never forget that computers of today owe a nod to the VAX architecture.
  • First with Apple ][e , self taught by books at 12yo:

    In the order:
    - Applesoft BASIC , spaghetti code
    - 6502 Assembly, no assembler, spaghetti code
    - 6502 Assembly with LISA assembler, still spaghetti code

    Then on PC, with school courses at 18:

    - Turbo Pascal: the revelation of structured programming

    Later: OO programming (by courses and books), and then many languages self taught.

    What I see is that I needed a good mentor to get rid of bad habits and silly programming techniques.
    Self taught with language re

  • Back in the early 80's, I remember the scene clearly. Math class, there was a computer (TRS-80 Model III) in the back of it one day. Teacher had each of us during class type out:
    10 PRINT "OUR NAME";
    20 GOTO 10

    Needless to say, i was hooked. Started teaching myself basic, and started hexediting. Didn't know what assembly was (wish I did), but I loved looking at programs with a hex editor. Which lead me to being able to copy copy protected samples my typing teacher would get later when I was in high sc

  • Actually maybe even before that, it happened incrementally. Back in the mid-60's my Father and his business partner had a consulting firm they ran out of the basement. They built all sorts of custom hardware for mostly the Air Force. He taught me basic electronics, and then when he went to work for another larger company we'd go into work on Saturday and I'd type in FORTRAN programs onto punch cards for him (but I didn't know what they did exactly). Eventually, sometime circa 1970 he was working for a place

  • ZX Spectrum Basic. I was 6 at that time.
    First I learned how to create cool looking patterns using series of PRINTs and graphical symbols.
    Then I learned how to use DRAW, PLOT and CIRCLE to create pictures.
    Then one of my parents showed my how to use FOR loop to draw a sinusoid.
    Learning BASIC on Spectrum was quite easy even without any manual. Due to a fancy input system all the keywords and functions were printed on the keyboard. I learned what they do by trial and error.
  • It was Apple II basic. Then QBASIC, then Visual Basic, then ZZT, then Kilk & Play, then Games Factory, then C++ and assembly, then C#.

  • by snookerdoodle ( 123851 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:58AM (#43850923)

    I've taken classes in Basic, C++, Java, other languages. I've read "exceptional" and "effective" and other books to improve my craft over the years.

    But building from the ground up in an introduction to digital logic class way back in 1978 still had the most profound impact on my ability to know what's happening in a computer and on my ability to understand what's really going on "under the hood", even 35 years later.

    It literally started with diodes and transistors. Building 'and' and 'or' and 'nor' (and...) gates. Hooking them together to make a flip flop. Then taking pre-built gates and making a counter. On to a simple cpu (that only knew a couple of 'instructions', IIRC). When I built an 8080 based computer, I actually knew how it worked. There has always been something comforting knowing that, deep down inside even the most powerful processors, it's still just a bunch (ok, a WHOLE LOT) of gates.

    Unless this whole quantum thing gets properly defined and implemented and catches on. Maybe I'll get to start over.

  • Strictly speaking, I started with a TI 50 step programmable calculator in the late 70's but I would say for me, it really started when I got an Atari 400 and used to type in the game listings from Computer & Video Games mag in the UK. When the game wouldn't work, I'd compare my version with the magazine and after a while got to recognise what commands did what. Then I got a book on Basic and learned it properly. I also picked up 6502 assembler. Then I moved on to Lattice C & 68k assembler on the Ata
  • Video Genie EG3003 here. TRS-80 clone. I was 19 or so and into electronics. Friend of mine had a lightning strike nearby, fried his system. We tried for weeks to repair the machine until he gave up and bought another one. I was stuck with the smoldering remains.

    So I cut each and every TTL chip from the two boards and replaced them one by one. That got it back to life! So once I has a computer, now what.
    Well, my friend was into Z80 assembly programming and after studying his code I made small changes, which

  • I punched in TI BASIC code from the magazine pages and saved my programs on a cassette tape. I also learned some TI LOGO. That was in 1983. In '84, I remember programming in Atari BASIC in a school club.

  • In '77, my dad got a TRS-80 (model 1, level 2, cassette drive). My brothers and I (well, mostly me) learned basic (Dad would buy us a game at RS if we demonstrated a working program). When my programs started to look more peek & poke than print, he got a debugger so I could edit the machine code directly in hex.

  • I am not really a programmer, but I can do some programming. I got started with various forms of BASIC on the following:
    • Apple ][ (+ C E and GS) -- School
    • TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 (16k IIRC) -- Mine
    • Mattel Aquarius [] -- Mine
    • Various Commodores (VIC-20, C64 and C28) -- Friends
    • TI-99/4a -- Friends

    I learend some assembly on the Apples but not much. I was always more of a hardware hacker. I could rewire, jury rig, and repair like no ones business. I could get a cranky tape drive or out of speed floppy bac

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @12:07PM (#43851053) Homepage

    ... NOT being distracted by Facebook and Twitter. Good thing those and the whole internet were not around back then.

  • by Remus Shepherd ( 32833 ) <> on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:10PM (#43851869) Homepage

    My dad was a big dreamer, and he saw lots of potential in early arcade games. We had a Pong game in our house in 1979, because my dad thought he could rent it out. Eventually he offered to buy me a game system to get me off the Pong game, and I asked for an Atari 400, mostly because I thought it was better than the 2600, so I could lord it over my friends. My friends weren't impressed because of the smaller game catalog, but I nearly melted that chiclet keyboard as I taught myself to program in BASIC with it. By age 13 I had designed my own version of Breakout (better than Pong, because I could play it by myself) and was working on adventure games.

    Buy a kid a computer with any programming language, and they will learn it.

  • by miknix ( 1047580 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @02:18PM (#43852657) Homepage

    I started when I was around 12 years old, on a Philips VG8010. I believe my friends had 386 PCs at that time. I did not have a lot of games on tape so I started reading the computer user's manual (which teaches programming). The book was a really good introductory material because I managed to learn pretty much everything by myself ... well except sprites, which was only a few years later that I actually managed to understood how they worked :P

    Nobody else here starting with a MSX ??

  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @02:24PM (#43852725)
    It's really simple: I was curious. The first time I saw a computer I couldn't help myself, I had to find out what you can do with it. And there was no turning back. It also helped that since I was a 6 grader we had after-hours optional computer classes in school, which wasn't usual back then. My first pc was a c64, as fÅ'r many others. I've been using, learning of, or working on computers continuously since then. The point is, you have to make programming interesting for youngsters to care, otherwise they'll just stick to simply using devices. And today this is harder then most would think. We don't have the interesting-factor anymore to make coding fun, since pcs and all kinds of devices are too common now.
  • by geezer nerd ( 1041858 ) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @07:55PM (#43855867)
    In 1960, as a freshman at Carnegie Institute of Technology, I was given the opportunity to enroll in the first undergraduate programming class offered there. I thought it would be interesting and something that other people were not doing. The class was taught by Alan Perlis, a well-known thinker about programming and languages. (He later was the first winner of the Turing Award.) We learned to program the school's IBM 650 in SOAP (Symbolic Optimizing Assembly Program), which optimized the layout of the program instructions on the magnetic drum memory so that the next operation was ready to pass under the read/write heads just when the previous instruction had finished (a mind-blowing concept that later was useful when programming CDC machines with multiple functional units and independent execution). Later came an early form of FORTRAN. By the time I graduated, the school had changed machines and was mainly using a form of Algol. I only took the one course as a freshman, but I fell in love with computers and software, and found a way to incorporate programming into my chemistry degree, working with the resident theoretical chemist.

    My graduate work was in computational quantum chemistry, and I had a part-time job in the university computing center. Gave me the opportunity to dabble in lots of different things. We got one of the earliest CDC 6600 supercomputers and learning how to get the most out of that beast was a challenge.

    By the time I was done with my chemistry PhD, it was pretty clear to me that computing was where I should spend my career. The university was starting a Computer Science department in 1968, and I was invited to be one of the first faculty. I taught mainly in programming languages and programming techniques. I was mainly self-taught. I had long-since left academia before I got my first home computer, a C64. In 1984 I had a chance to buy a FatMac at the Apple employee store, and the rest is history.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington