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How Did You Learn How To Program?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the emacs-plus-glibc-infotex-manual dept.

Programming 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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Basica (1)

ThinkDifferently (853608) | about a year ago | (#43850333)

Basica on DOS on an 8088 clone PC. Then I had to UNlearn that and learn how to really program in college.

Compute! Magazine (5, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#43850341)

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.

Re:Compute! Magazine (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | about a year ago | (#43850371)

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

Re:Compute! Magazine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850791)

I still have my "Mapping the Atari" book.

Re:Compute! Magazine (2)

StrangeBrew (769203) | about a year ago | (#43850447)

That was my start as well. Enter the lines of code as is, then begin 'tweaking' things to make it more to my liking. Unfortunately I often hit the memory limit before I'd accomplished what I had wanted to.

Ti-82 Pre-Cal math class (2, Interesting)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#43850487)

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.

Re:Compute! Magazine (2)

CimmerianX (2478270) | about a year ago | (#43850539)

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.

Re:Compute! Magazine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850585)

I cut my teeth on the TI 99/4A as well. Great little system!! I still have it and it still works. Every now and again when I'm feeling nostalgic I'll fire it up and play.

Re:Compute! Magazine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850629)

I wrote an algorithm to redefine the TI 99/4A character graphics on the fly so that I could run the Apple / Commodore graphics routines that came in K-Power, Compute and one other I am having difficulty remembering right now.
I was so excited when I saw the "ripple" or water drop graphics appear on my TI's screen, even if it too 5 times as long to generate the image.

Timex Sinclair 1000 (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | about a year ago | (#43850345)

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.

Re:Timex Sinclair 1000 (2)

stevew (4845) | about a year ago | (#43850631)

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 meant print the Accumulator
V - Branch back to AV..

Does that sound like fun??

Hello world! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850349)

Good times with a T!-83 in the back of math class...

LibertyBASIC (1)

cosm (1072588) | about a year ago | (#43850375)

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.

C64 (2)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#43850377)

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

Re:C64 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850499)

I started off on c64 too. Ours had a tape drive, the kind that stored info on an old audio tape. Learned a lot on a trash-80 too, but I think my breakout to really understanding code was on a tab works system, there was something about .bat files that really spurred my imagination. I miss the good old days when Leisure Suit Larry was considered high end graphics and cutting edge game play.

Re:C64 (1)

OffTheLip (636691) | about a year ago | (#43850571)

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.

I can't but I have a 100k piece of paper saying I (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850381)

I can't but I have a 100k piece of paper saying I can and that is how I got the job said our code is a mess and they keep passing over people who can code and don't have that piece of paper.

just kidding.

BBC (5, Funny)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43850383)

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.

self-taught, of course (2)

kiick (102190) | about a year ago | (#43850389)

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.

Commodore Vic 20. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850391)

Commodore BASIC was bloody horrible even by the standards of the 1980s, but it was my first programming language & I still have a soft spot for it somewhere. I was only a kid though, and my programs were simplistic and crap.

BBC basic was next, followed by GFA basic on the Atari ST. Then I went to uni, got an introduction to structured programming via PASCAL, taught myself C and eventually learned all the things I was doing wrong.

I think if I made the mistake of finding any of my early code I would probably end up with bleeding eyes & vomiting :)

Re:Commodore Vic 20. (1)

O-Deka-K (1520371) | about a year ago | (#43850731)

Commodore BASIC was bloody horrible even by the standards of the 1980s, but it was my first programming language & I still have a soft spot for it somewhere. I was only a kid though, and my programs were simplistic and crap.

I did this with my C64 when I was around 8. I remember going through the BASIC tutorials in the manual (when home computers came with programming manuals). Later, I would go down to the library and take out books like "Write Your Own Adventure Programs for Your Microcomputer" and "Write Your Own Fantasy Games for Your Microcomputer".

I also had a subscription to Commodore magazine. Still have them in a box somewhere.

Kids and the Amiga (1)

glrotate (300695) | about a year ago | (#43850401)

Did a bit on the Apple II before the Amiga, but Kids and the Amiga was a tremendous book.

Basic Basic (2)

chiangovitch (1371251) | about a year ago | (#43850405)

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 graduation and was in the right spot at the right time just when Unix got commercialized and I got the task of figuring it out. :-D

A P L \ 3 6 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850409)

Hacking up genetics algorithms, and word processing, Junior High, 1969
(Before that was a Wang programmable calculator, not sure that's programming :-) )

I was just 10 years old (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | about a year ago | (#43850411)

QBASIC on I think a Toshiba T2200. I thought my Dad was a brilliant programmer, but actually he was converting old BASICA games from a different system. I learnt from those snippets.

Re:I was just 10 years old (3, Interesting)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about a year ago | (#43850475)

QBASIC here, at 8. My dad actually made some brilliant MS-DOS batch file scripts so we could store games in ZIPs on our 80MB drive and only extract them when we played them. Later iterations even scanned the game directory for changes after the game exited and zipped up only changed files into a separate archive. So if you wanted to reset a game just remove the second archive.

3-2-1 Contact (2)

gravis777 (123605) | about a year ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about a year ago | (#43850429)

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.

Re:TRS 80 Model I (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850587)

Trash-80s rule. Did yours have a hard card? Don't mean to brag, but ours had a 20 meg hard card in it. 20 meg! It was like having an endless storage library.

Re:TRS 80 Model I (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850727)

The Model IV is the first to come out with a hard card as far as I know.... and yes I had the IV and the 20M card. The Model I, I upgraded to 16K.... as far as I know that was the limit.

-- MyLongNickName

Re:TRS 80 Model I (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about a year ago | (#43850669)

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.

SOFOR on Punched Cards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850435)

SOFOR == Southampton University Fortran. It ran on an ICL 1901a and we punched our own cards.

Then it was An ASR-33 connected to the Open University (UK) or Hatfield Poly DEC-10's and we used Basic.

Now I write software that runs large parts of an airport.

Typing, lots of typing (1)

CodeheadUK (2717911) | about a year ago | (#43850443)

Bashing programs from magazines into Zx81 and Spectrums.

On a CoCo (1)

nefus (952656) | about a year ago | (#43850445)

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 Chris Burke for making the first and best commercial hard-drive interface for the Coco... thanks Chris, you were a game changer. I've often wondered why people made fun of my chicklet-keyboard back then on my first battleship gray coco but now all laptops have them and its considered trendy. *laugh*

On a ZX Spectrum (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43850449)

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 this is starting to read like Mien Camp :-/

BASIC Variants, Progress 4GL RDBMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850453)

Apple II BASIC, T.I. 99/4A Basic, Extended Basic, Super Extended Basic, GWBASIC - all while in middle school through highschool.

During my Sr. Year, I started working as an intern for a small company learning to program in Progress 4GL RDBMS (1986), sh, awk, sed on a Burroughs XE-550 running Centix (UNIX that loaded over the top of CTOS).

TRS-80 (1)

somsip (2881563) | about a year ago | (#43850455)

Sat in the local Tandys (Radio Shack) all day, every Saturday on their TRS-80 Model I, and later the Model IV. With thanks and much appreciation to the store dude Chris, who allowed me to do this week in, week out, as long as no customers were affected.

College. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850467)


QBasic on 486DX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850469)

I got a diskette with two games (Nibbles and Gorillas) written in Microsoft's QBasic back in the 90ies when I was 8. Got me started... but I wanted something with a compiler so I learned Pascal - Borland's TurboPascal was still around back then and later I used the Delphi IDE for ObjectPascal. Added PHP, Perl, bash and R later, but never quite managed to learn C properly.

self taught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850481)

I learned by reading books and self study. My school had a terminal to a mainframe in a collage in a different city, and only seniors were allowed to take a programming class.

I "borrowed" the programming book for the system and made a copy of it (my dad had a home office with photocopier), and read through the whole thing. I would then "sneak" into the computer room and run games and programs.

I eventually saved up my summer earnings to buy an Apple IIe to continue learning to program. By the time I got my first official computer class, I was already well versed in basic and assembly, and had even hacked my apple to add new key words to the interpreted basic.

Commodore computers (1)

sa666_666 (924613) | about a year ago | (#43850485)

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 education it took a while to realize that CS was my destiny.

I never did (5, Interesting)

coldsalmon (946941) | about a year ago | (#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.

PDP 8 field service school, at "the mill" (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about a year ago | (#43850491)

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.

Re:PDP 8 field service school, at "the mill" (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43850651)

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 job where I wasn't hired to code, but knowing how turned out to be handy for the boss.

on an old LGP-30 my high school got donated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850507)

Here's a picture:

Picture not unlike it looked []

Learned machine code and graduated to assembler. Those were the days you learned a machine.

R: Tape Loading Error (2)

16Chapel (998683) | about a year ago | (#43850513)

That's how.

Atari 520ST (1)

revdrmr (1525775) | about a year ago | (#43850515)

I learned BASIC by typing out a clock with an hour and minute hand that strobed from a magazine, it was the most disappointing (no minute hand) and yet exciting moment of my childhood. Two days later I was told that Santa Clause was a lie, between Santa and the missing minute hand it was a disappointing year for a geeky 7 year old.

BASIC Programming in High School (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about a year ago | (#43850517)

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.

Cards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850523)

FORTRAN on cards in 1980. Before the course was 1/2 over I discovered I could
use the teletype and skip the cards. Next was Pascal on a CDC-6600, then our school
got a VAX 750, my advisor and I installed Berkeley Unix, I learned "C" and ...

Atari 800XL (2)

robcfg (1005359) | about a year ago | (#43850525)

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

Linux Manual and a lot of patience (1)

yuukari (2934491) | about a year ago | (#43850529)

I started with a basic linux administration manual and apache2 on a compaq presario 4200. From there I expanded into PHP and then into the real programming languages like C and C++. Anyone remember pico? Yep.

Re:Linux Manual and a lot of patience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850703)

Remember? A lot of people I know still use pico for some bizarre reason.

Trial and error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850535)

I picked up coding somewhat by accident. I had access to a C64 and accidentally printed out a program listing instead of a directory listing one day. I realized that, among the symbols I didn't understand, were words that obviously related to how the program appeared on the screen. Making minor adjustments to the code listing altered how the program ran. Statements like "print" and "accept" were pretty easy to figure out.

After a lot of trial and error I went from making minor mods to existing code to creating small programs on my own. My parents (and an uncle) encouraged me and dug up some BASIC reference manuals for me to try and I found some books in the library which explained a little game making. Eventually, years later, I took formal courses in high school and college which taught proper structure and library usage, assembly, object oriented models, etc, but for the first six years I was self taught by trial, error and some terse BASIC references.

Digicomp I (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850549)

The programmable plastic computer with 3 bits of memory. []

this way (1)

zakeria (1031430) | about a year ago | (#43850551)

20 GOTO 10

wonders how games are made..??

Pascal. (0)

hammeraxe (1635169) | about a year ago | (#43850553)

Enough said.

Apple ][e (1)

drummerboybac (1003077) | about a year ago | (#43850557)

Learned AppleBASIC in elementary school from an old comb-bound AppleBASIC manual, then gwBASIC and qBASIC in middle/ early high school, then finally C++ in AP Computer Science senior year of high school, which was actually the first year C++ was the AP language.

Re:Apple ][e (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43850725)

Applesoft Basic here also. I knew so many peeks and pokes...

Re:Apple ][e (1)

SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) | about a year ago | (#43850741)

Almost identically history, AppleBASIC in elementary, onto GW then QBasic in middle school. On to Visual Basic for a few apps in early high school and then into C++ with AP Computer Science. The only difference was that I was the last year of C++ before the transition to Java.

GW Basic + Computer Shopper (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year ago | (#43850559)

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.

Basic on Sinclair ZX Spectrum at home. (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about a year ago | (#43850565)

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.

Re:Basic on Sinclair ZX Spectrum at home. (1)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about a year ago | (#43850773)

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 graphics library for DOS.

C64 (2)

glsunder (241984) | about a year ago | (#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!

IBM PC-XT 8088 (1)

rabun_bike (905430) | about a year ago | (#43850583)

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 (Turbo Pascal) which was brand new at the time.

Re:IBM PC-XT 8088 (1)

bytesex (112972) | about a year ago | (#43850797)

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

Learning to code on computers. HA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850601)

I learned with a pencil and paper you insensitive clod. The teacher of my C++ class didn't allow computers in the classroom so we had to wright every bit of syntax down, then take it to a computer lab where we did our coding. It was hell. I cried my way through that first class, then changed my major. My second coding class was java script, with the aid of a computer in class, I breezed through it.

Chalkboard (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#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.

My First Experiences (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#43850617)

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 bunch of RAM expansion modules and I decided one day, for no real reason that I can remember, to develop my own BASIC interpreter written in Commodore BASIC. I never got it much more complex than being able to do user input, store variables and do some basic branching, but it taught me much of what I know about array handling, string tokenization and even some low level stuff like a pretty primitive stack and program counter.

Learning to code isn't an event (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850619)

This is like asking a novelist or journalist how they learned to read and write. Even the most basic parts like recognizing the letters and tokens take time. And the higher-order stuff is a skill developing all the time: choosing the scope of your story, knowing your audience, composing an overall written structure, and going back to edit for flow and accessibility. Everything I just described are elements of programming as well as writing natural language. The main additional task of programming is to eliminate groundless arguments and illogical rhetoric that might work to sway human readers but always fails to impress computers.

Commodore 128 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850623)

I started to do some minor programming on the MicroBee computer, for later do some real programming on Commodore 128, after that followed Amiga that lead me to a number of different programming languages. And I was stuck, programming on calculators, PCs and what ever I could get my hand on.

MacroQuest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850627)

I learned to code by writing scripts for the infamous MacroQuest tool for EverQuest. Man, those were the days!

-Phican, Povar Server

It depends ... (2)

jonathanjespersen (1162397) | about a year ago | (#43850633)

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 being computer illiterate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850649)

I failed my "computing workshop" class in highschool on the first month. Where I live, it was pretty common to have had at least some computer exposure by the time you were a teen. Only that I didn't have such experience until I was enrolled in a brand new private school. I was enrolled in this school only for my senior highschool year, so everyone else had a 2 years advantage over me in this particular class. The first month I failed miserably, with a grade of "0". I didn't even knew how to turn on the damn thing, and everyone else was starting to learn Dbase and Clipper to store music playlists. I became so obsessed with learning that I asked my mother's boss directly to give me one of the very old computers they were just about to throw to the garbage. It was an IBM 286, at the time when 486's were starting to pop up on marketing materials. I remember installing the thing in my living room (without an instruction manual, and thinking it was pretty much the same as hooking up the stereo system) and copying MS-DOS and Dbase into a 5 1/4 single density diskette. From there, I learned everything myself by writing the "help" command. With my newly gained MS-DOS literacy, I remember the first time I felt absolute awe when firing DBASE by myself and drawing a screen with one input field for "name". Seeing the program running and knowing I had the actual power to make the computer do whatever I wanted felt like the most mind blowing experience for me at the time. From there, I never looked back. In a matter of days I was already correcting my teacher, and never again I got a lesser than maximum grade in anything directly related to computers or programming.

Applesoft Basic on Apple IIe (2)

way2slo (151122) | about a year ago | (#43850655)

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 learned on an LGP-30 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850659)

You can look it up (apparently anons don't get links), Google images has some nice pictures.
My high school had one in 1966 as a tax write-off. This was before ASCII; we typed on a Frieden Flex-o-writer.
It had 16 (and a half) instructions, a 32-bit word -- the least significant bit was cleared when you stored, so 31 bits in memory.
We first programmed in machine code and only later did we graduate to assembler.
The extra half-instruction: the conditional jump would jump if the accumulator had the sign bit set _or_ the sign bit of the conditional jump instruction itself was set and the "transfer control" button was on.

Father (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850661)

My father sat me on his knee when I was 3. Then, he typed BASIC into his TRS-80. This was back in the mid 80s. I grew up learning BASIC before I learned algebra in school. I was typing in "LET X = 3" before even understanding what it meant.

Morrowind Modding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850665)

GhanBuriGhan's Morrowind Scripting Bible []

I started modding Morrowind when I was 13 (around...2002ish). I had wanted to learn something that would allow me to make more advanced mods (instead of just adding static objects), so I decided to pick up scripting. It was tough going at first, but totally worth it. I continued modding for Oblivion, and got over 40000 downloads on the ones I made, which was quite the confidence boost for a high-school nerd.

I played Morrowind on a single-core 1.0GHz (pretty sure), 256 MB RAM, and a 32MB gfx card. I ran it in the crappiest resolution and got about 20 fps, but I played the hell out of that game. Probably put over a thousand hours into it.

Homebrew 8080 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850671)

Homebrew 8080 with 1k ram, homebrew TV video with 256 bytes and a converted Selectric typwriter. Later, an Altair then IMSAI with a VDM and a real keyboard to Apple II rev 0 without the chroma blanking. Wirewrapping an 8K ram board for the IMSAI was the last of the homemade stuff, what a pain in the ass.

Apple ][e (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850675)

i played this game called Alkabeth where you could get turned into a Lizard Man and have super abilities if you found a witch or something deep in the dungeon. I hacked it to allow me to be lizard man anytime i wanted.

summer of 7-8th grade middle school. (1)

bored (40072) | about a year ago | (#43850681)

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 having learned enough BASIC and assembly to write my own editor/assembler, and a number of 1/2 hearted attempts at my own games.

Apple ][ AppleBASIC (1)

pink_unicorn_slayer (2882161) | about a year ago | (#43850687)

Traded with a neighbor, lawn mowing for programming lessons and computer time.

Right vs Wrong (1)

ImdatS (958642) | about a year ago | (#43850691)

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 right way"... Self-taught.

Closed devices (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43850697)

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.

HyperCard, around 1988, at the age of 6 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850711)

I barely remember. I didn't speak english back then and many things didn't make sense. But gradually I learned english and HyperTalk, HyperCards [] programming language. The concept was simple enough that even with many gaps in my knowledge, I could build something. My first usable program I completely built on my own was a game, "Memory". The first version took like 20min to shuffle the cards. Over a couple of iterations I got it down to something like 5s and was really proud of that. I even implemented computer enemies which simulated "forgetting" cards, or jumbling up where they saw it.
All in all, HyperCard was a lot of fun.

3-2-1 Contact Magazine (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about a year ago | (#43850713)

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.

Dad's old Atari (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43850719)

When the disk drive broke I started messing around with BASIC.

UCSD 1972 (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year ago | (#43850723)

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

Toggle switches + hex keypad (1)

kimanaw (795600) | about a year ago | (#43850733)

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

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

Graphing calculator (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about a year ago | (#43850743)

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 Programmer.

Basic on the ZX-81 (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year ago | (#43850745)

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. :-)

Underway to Wake Island in 1992... (2)

Assmasher (456699) | about a year ago | (#43850747)

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.

Apple II (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43850749)

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 sorts of books and figuring out how to translate QBASIC and Quick Basic programs to run on it and eventually learned 6502 assembly (I still have the book for that somewhere in my collection).

One week turnaround with punch cards (5, Interesting)

brausch (51013) | about a year ago | (#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.

Logo on an Apple II (2, Interesting)

lostatredrock (972881) | about a year ago | (#43850759)

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.

Magazines and an MZ-80K (1)

Dave Wilson (2935597) | about a year ago | (#43850765)

I learned through typing in BASIC programmes from magazines (like Computer and Video Games, Personal Computer World or Practical Computing) into a Sharp MZ-80K. It was a good way to learn how to find typing errors too.

It also taught me the importance of frequent saves; I tripped over the power cable after 3 hours of typing and no backups. After typing everything in again (and saving every 15 mnutes), the game wasn't worth it (Defender written in BASIC? Not a good combination)

Ahh, happy days. And the magazines I listed really show my age.

UNIVAC_1108_110-baud_ASR33_ITTRAN/calctran/fortran (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850769)

Jr high - back when Illinois schools rocked.
The computer was 60 miles away and we "hacked' the phone lock to get more time on the machine.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43850777)

I first started programming on a TI-85, and later toyed around with perl and Delphi. Took a few HTML classes in highschool.

When did I actually learn how to program? College.

LOL ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43850779)

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.

Opened QBasic (2)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#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.

Ranger Rick (1)

stdarg (456557) | about a year ago | (#43850803)

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.

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