How did you get started in programming?

I found this meme floating around some time ago, and thought it would be fun!

How old were you when you started programming?
Technically, about eight years old.  If you count plotting my initials on an Apple II+ in low-res, point by point, then that’s my first program.

How did you get started in programming?
My first real job programming was in the late 90′s.  I developed an event tracking system in Access for a single’s activity club.  They were a franchise until the franchiser packed up and disappeared, which left several franchisees around the country stuck with a bespoke Notes database.  The IT shop that developed the Notes system wanted more than the clubs could afford to support it.  I grabbed a book on Access and started coding.  A few months later, I had sold the system to five clubs.  I was hooked.

What was your first language?
Visual Basic was the first language I learned to any level of competence.  I’ve since moved on to C# and javascript.

What was the first real program you wrote?
The event and member tracking system was the first money-earning production program I wrote.

What languages have you used since you started programming?
C# is my “daily driver” language.  I also know Visual Basic, VBScript, and javascript.  I have a passing familiarity with C++ and Actionscript.

What was your first professional programming gig?
My first non-moonlighting gig was a contract with Texas Instruments, writing legacy ASP applications in VBScript.  I didn’t like that job very much, but it did demonstrate to me that I could make a living programming.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?
Absolutely.  I’m lucky to have found something I enjoy doing so much that also earns me and my family a living.  I’d still be doing it even if I couldn’t make a dime.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?
99% of the information you need to learn your craft is available online.  I had a few mentors, but once I learned how to learn about programming, I discovered that the best answers are the ones you find for yourself.   That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to others for guidance and advice, just don’t use other people as your first resource for answers.  Don’t be satisfied with “it works.”  Challenge your assumptions, keep looking for the best patterns, and learn from the experts wherever you can.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?
Ah, my magnum opus.  In the early aughts (2001) I developed an asset management system for a managed hosting company in Texas.  They were cramming their server data (over 7,000 servers) into a CRM and needed something better.  They were working on a hugely complex system, but it wasn’t due for months.  I bought several HP Jornada handheld computers- clamshell things with a full keyboard and PC card slot.  All the servers were marked with barcodes.  We scanned the ID information and “U-Top” (the position of the servers in the racks) of all 7,000+ servers in a single weekend, using the handhelds and some barcode scanners.  The data was then synched to a SQL Server using SQL Server CE 1.0.
Then, using legacy ASP and some amazing artwork created by a colleague, we built a rack visualizer.  I developed a web-based system that allowed users to view the datacenter in a top-down view, click a rack, and see the contents of any rack.  You could hover over a server and see its status, and over blank space to reserve  a spot for a new server.  This combined with a tracking system that allowed users to track the progress of a server from the build center to the data center and back, as well as movement of assets within the corporate office.  I learned a lot from this experience, and consider it my greatest overall achievement… so far :)

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3 Comments on “How did you get started in programming?”

  1. jfbauer says:

    Dave, great post, thanks for sharing … I think you’ve triggered me to answer the same questions over on my blog … I’ll make sure to give you credit for getting my mind thinking back to yesteryear …

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