In Valid Logic

Endlessly expanding technology

How did you get started in software development?

I decided to take a stab at the "How did you get started in software development?" Had typed this up a few weeks ago, but hadn't finished it off for posting.

How old were you when you started programming? How did you get started in programming?

My first "programming" was probably around the 6th-7th grade. A neighbor of mine wrote a lottery program in BASIC, and I was interested, so I got my own copy of Visual Basic (2.0?). At the time, my mom had gone back to college to finish off her degree, so she bought VB for me through the college. I remember being astounded in the bookstore at the wall of software they had and the discounts.

What was your first language?

My first language was Visual Basic. I've moved on since.

What was the first real program you wrote?

This one probably needs a little bit of backstory. In 1994, I found the internet through Prodigy Online (ooo), after realizing it had more to offer than Prodigy, I left Prodigy for an ISP. Around then, I also discovered web design and started HTML. I created a website called Gamers Inn, which grew for a few years and was pretty good, though eventually got notified about trademark infringement as some company had that name trademarked and they wanted the domain. So I renamed it. Then I got another trademark infringement, renamed again. Then I think I got one more, and I gave up and closed the site down. Ahh, the early days of web 1.0 when companies were discovering the internet and liked to think trademarks included instant ownership of domain names. I was only like 14 at the time, so when a lawyer from AT&T contacts you about a trademark for a child company of theirs, I complied, and I also paid for my new domain name out of pocket (which was like $50/yr back then, I believe).

Anyway, during the course of working on the site, I got involved with a group of gamers who played the game Descent online (Kali/Kahn days) and they had their own player ranking schema. When I joined, it was all spreadsheet based, though I rewrite it as an automated system in Perl. Players would have a match, each would submit the results, it would compare them and then recalculate standings. At the time, I hadn't really used SQL yet, so my "database" was a flat text file. I was also working on rewriting it in C. Web app using plain C? *shutter*

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Visual Basic, Perl, C/C++, Assembler, SQL (MySQL and MS SQL), ASP, PHP, C#, and most recently, Ruby. I can read VB.NET, but don't write it anymore. I can read Java since it is quite close to C#, but only wrote a little towards the end of college, since they were slowly cutting out C++ and moving entirely to Java. Sadly at college, I never got exposed to .NET, I learned it on my own as I was doing ASP at my job at the time, and got into .NET from learning ASP (thinking ASP.NET was like ASP... thankfully, no). At my job though, they didn't want to touch .NET, "we're all J2EE" (aside from the one ASP app I worked on).

What was your first professional programming gig?

Around 1995, I was paid $150 to write a little Perl script for this hospital that one of the guys from the gaming group worked for. He was their IT Director and they needed something for making baby photos accessible online. Nurses would take pictures of newborns, FTP them to this server, then parents could give distant relatives this codephrase (a directory name) and it would display the photo and stats (from a text file) to the relatives. I don't know if it was every actually put to use, but I just thought it was cool that I made $150.

As far as getting a paycheck, it was 2001 when I got a Student Assistant job with the CA DMV. They found out I knew how to program, so I took over maintenance and further development of this ASP application after the contractors who wrote it left. They didn't have any staff employees who knew ASP/SQL (they were all J2EE and Cobol), so they had me take over. Of course, they couldn't have a student assistant as the owner of this "enterprise application" on paper for higher ups, so they actually assigned it to this other guy who was taking HTML and javascript classes at the local JC, both of which were useless for the application (it did very, very little javascript). I was getting paid $8.25/hour to maintain it while the staff employee got paid ~$60k/yr and read more newspapers end-to-end a day then anyone I've ever known. Don't work for the government. But it was a great learning experience, got me into .NET by starting me on ASP, and was a good example of both how to and how not to run projects.

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


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

Coding is not developing. There is far more to it than "the code". In college, I met a number of bright people, but some of them would completely miss the mark because they only thought of the code, and not of the program. Users use the program, not the code.

What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?

Fun is hard to define. At the DMV, when the application I was working on was first going into production, it was kind of fun. I wasn't responsible for it, so I wasn't stressed (it was late and overbudget, of course), I was just working on some extra reporting stuff. Had a lot of fun building some of the elaborate SQL queries. I was oddly excited at my first 12 hour day (which I couldn't get paid overtime, but my boss worked a deal so I'd get time and a half in PTO). The early days at Telligent were a lot of fun, when it was just like a half dozen of us, and I was doing stuff like the FTP and NNTP add-ons. It was fun to see Outlook Express working with content from a web site.

I've always enjoyed my own little hobby development. I hadn't done much for a long time, but been doing some Ruby here and there now and like it a lot. Not doing anything groundbreaking, but just working on some stuff that I'd get to enjoy (maybe blog about it soon).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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