What Made Me A Programmer?

Vic 20 Boot Screen

This is what did it!

I was standing in K-Mart back in early 1983 waiting for my girlfriend to get off work.  I got tired of waiting in the fire lane, so every night I would hang out in "electronics" until she finished with her store-closing chores.

I walked past this screen and hit the enter key.  It said READY.
I typed the word READY and it came back with a message that stated it was unable to READ "Y". WTF!

I asked the store clerk what it meant to READ "Y" and how you'd use one of these things.  He had no clue, but showed me the book for the Vic-20 and the C-64.  The next night, I not only learned how to READ "Y", but I also had "Welcome to K-Mart" scrolling across the bottom of the C-64 screen.  The NEXT night, I had "Welcome to K-Mart" scrolling in different colored SPRITES across the screen. WOW!  GOTTA HAVE ONE!!!

Being a poor college student, I could only siphon enough money (from what was supposed to be book money) to purchase the Vic-20.  GOT IT!

I got back to the dorm, hooked the thing up to the TV and continued the quest to make that thing now do SOMETHING.
I discovered the Scott Adams Text Adventure Games.

  Within a couple of days, my next-door-dorm-neighbor (Joe Estes) saw it and said,

Joe: "I have one of those". 

Tom: "Oh yeah?  Can you PROGRAM IT?  Can you write a game like THIS?"

Joe: "Yeah, I wrote a text adventure game called 'NUNS' where you have to go kill NUNS, but I'm not finished with it".

There was a sound that erupted in my brain that can be best described as a Hanna-Barbera mix of boings and whistles ending with the coconut noggin knock (kinda like this).

"SHOW ME THE CODE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Well, I've since learned to enjoy that sound.  It's the sound of discovery! 

...but I usually can only hear it when I'm programming.



posted @ Friday, May 23, 2008 3:44 AM

Comments on this entry:

# re: What Made Me A Programmer?

Left by Roger Snowden at 6/3/2008 8:50 AM
Wow, does that provoke some memories. I was exposed to programming back in high school, around 1966 or so. We had a computer club, but I joined mid year, so nothing made sense. Moreover, nobody was articulate enough to explain it all.

Later, in the early 70s I was working at a bank in Georgia, we got some Burroughs programmable calculators in, for loan payment calcs, etc. I was curious, so called and ordered a user manual. Learned to hack the thing and write small pointless programs.

But, I was gut-hooked. I spent the next few years burning bridges and slugging my way toward the industry. That happened when my neighbor, a contract programmer, started a systems house. Offered me a gig selling systems, and he would teach me the technology. I bit, and starved for a few years, but learned well.

I played drums in a local band back then, just to keep food on the table. Effort paid off in time, I gravitated upward quickly. Having a financial background simplified things greatly.

Opposite of most cases, I knew what the system ought to do, and just had to learn how to make that happen. Most folks knew code, but tended to build crap, without solid "problem domain" knowledge.

Anyway, your story reminds me of sooo much.

Including my first Oracle DBA gig in KC, when an odd message appeared on my screen, "fresh brew".

You know the rest of that story.

Later, dude.

Your comment:

(not displayed)


Live Comment Preview: