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Mike Eaton, a member of my twitter tribe, is trying to get to know his tweeps better. As part of that, he asks a few questions to get a better understanding of our background. I figured that rather than answer in his comments, I'll post it here instead.

Then, I got tagged by Jeff Brand... So the pressure was on!!


How old were you when you started programming? 

Ten years old the first time.

23 the second time.


How did you get started in programming?

My parents bought a Commodore Vic 20 (they couldn't spring for the 64). I remember that we had some games that we could load into the tape drive and play, but they all bored me. I started programming in BASIC. I went to computer camp that year and the following year.

Fast forward a few years, and I was at the U of MN majoring in Chemical Engineering. The plan was to double major in Computer Science, but early on in the Chem E curriculum (before I had taken a single C Sci class) we had a numerical methods class where we had to use FORTRAN77. I hated it so much that I swore off programming forever. I used to buy Jamie Thingelstad pizza in order to help me finish those @#%@% programs.

Early into my Chem E career, I was doing statistical process control before there was any good software to do it. So I rolled my own in Visual Basic 3.0 and Access. I was hooked, and eventually got an MS in Software Engineering and crossed over to the dark side.


What was your first language? 


Both times

What was the first real program you wrote?

A data collection app for my nickel plating process.


What languages have you used since you started programming? 

(I don't count FORTRAN)

Visual Basic

Java (briefly)



PeopleCode (is that a language?)




All flavors of DB languages


What was your first professional programming gig? 

I don't know because my Chem E and Software jobs all kind of blended together.


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

Hell yeah! I wouldn't have wasted all that time with Chemical Engineering. I blame FORTRAN!


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

If you don't love it, don't do it. Don't do because your parents would like it if you were technical or you think you'll make a good living. To really do well, you have to love it, because things change so fast. If you don't love it, you will be chasing the people who live and breathe it, and you will never be happy.

If you love it, but don't think you're smart/good/talented enough, do it. We all feel that way every day, and even the best programmers out there have someone who is better than them. If you have the passion for it, you will be good. Passion is more important than anything else.


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

Man, that's a tough one. I love being the dumbest programmer on a project because the learning curve goes exponential. I love figuring stuff out - especially when production is down, they are bleeding red ink at the rate of $50k an hour, and I'm the only one who can get it going again. That is my adrenaline fix.It's better than crack. (At least I think it would be). I love being part of a team that is "in the zone": making progress, trading banter, cooperating, and things are just flowing. I love that there is always something cool to learn.

I was just reflecting the other day how lucky I am that I get to learn and solve problems for a living. I am truly one of those people who can honestly say that I would do my job for free.

Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 8:24 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: How I got Started in Programming : Software Development Meme

# re: How I got Started in Programming : Software Development Meme
Requesting Gravatar...
Thanks for the pizza! :-)
Left by Jamie Thingelstad on Jun 13, 2008 8:50 AM

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