Browsing through programming blogs at wordpress.com I noticed an interesting post (inspired by a similar post at toxicsoftware.com) asking people how they got started programming. It turned out this has been going on for a while, with various people answering and passing the questions on to new people, and so on. Even if nobody actually asked me, I decided to answer anyway. I don’t know who started it, but I tracked down what most people seem to consider the original source, a blog post by Michael Eaton, and copied the questions from there.
1. How Old Were You When You Started Programming?
I am not exactly sure. My family got our first PC when I was nine (1989), but I can’t remember how long we had it before I started with programming. My guess would be I was about ten. Before then I had also experimented with some BASIC on the C64. I didn’t have one myself, but some of my friends did. We mostly copied the examples from the manuals and modified them, so I wasn’t really doing much programming on my own at that point. It was not until I had regular access to a PC that I started to do some “serious” programming.
2. How Did You Get Started in Programming?
I don’t remember exactly. I learned to use Norton Commander for editing batch files and hacking save games very early. Later I discovered GW-BASIC—and the manual that came bundled with our PC—which I used to write text adventure games. I think one of the main reasons I started with programming was because I enjoyed being able to control the computer and make it do what I wanted.
3. What Was Your First Language?
MS-DOS batch scripting and GW-BASIC. Batch files was my first introduction to variables, conditions and control structures, but GW-BASIC was what I eventually used for “real” programs.
4. What Was the First Real Program You Wrote?
Again, it’s hard for me to remember, since it’s so many years ago, but I do remember writing a rather long text adventure game that could be played with multiple outcomes and various ways to complete the game. Later on I also wrote more graphics-oriented games, usually cloning classics like Space Invaders, Pong and Snake.
5. What Languages Have You Used Since You Started Programming?
6. What Was Your First Professional Programming Gig?
I guess that depends on what is meant by “professional programming gig”. The first time I earned money from programming was when I won the 4k intro competition at The Gathering in 1997. I had won some other competitions earlier, but The Gathering was the first event where the prize was actually payed in cash.
I also did some programming and scripting while working as a computer technician for the City of Oslo’s school districts during the summer and fall of 1997, but I was not actually hired to do programming. My main job was building computers, setting up servers and cabling networks.
I would have to say the first professional gig was when I started working full-time as a game programmer in 1999.
7. If You Knew Then What You Know Now, Would You Have Started Programming?
I don’t know, but probably, yes. I never planned on becoming a programmer, it just happened. I don’t think I would have chosen differently, because I only did what I thought was fun and kept on doing it.
8. If There is One Thing You Learned Along the Way that You Would Tell New Developers, What Would It Be?
Programming is about solving problems. To be good at it you have to practice it, at lot. Try and fail, and when you fail, try again. Stay up-to-date with current technologies and always try to educate yourself by reading books, discussing problems with your peers and experimenting—a lot. Technologies always change and (good) programmers never stop learning.
9. What’s the Most Fun You’ve Ever Had … Programming?
Actually, I have so much fun programming that I already wrote an article about it.