Computers seem to be a dominant thing in my life. I work with them for eight hours a day, and all my hobbies involve a computer in some way, so I thought it might be fun to look back on where I’ve come from and share a few anecdotes.
We got our first computer when I was in primary school. It was a Microbee. My school was getting rid of them and we purchased one. It was useful for writing programs in BASIC which were stored in non-volotile RAM so we could turn the machine off and not loose our program. Theoretically, it was able to save and load programs using a casette player, but we were never able to get it to work. It also had a word processor in ROM, but there was no way to save your document so that wasn’t much use. Despite it sounding like a pretty useless machine, it sparked a love of programming in me. I remember as young as grade 6 telling people with certainty that I wanted to be a programmer when I grew up.
When I was in high school, we progressed to an XT running MS Dos 3. It was set up to use a utility called Automenu to launch applications so it was a while before I really understood what dos was. It came pre-installed with a word processor and a few games. Anybody remember AlleyCat? There was also a collection called Friendlyware. I remember when we bought our first game. We had no idea how to launch it. We inserted the disk in the drive. Nothing happened. We searched through Auto Menu for “Play Disk” and found the option “Format Disk.” I tried it. The screen displayed “Insert new disk and press enter.” This had to be it! We inserted our new game disk and pressed enter. The drive whirred for a while. It seemed to be working. Then nothing. It was only later that I realised we had just erased all the contents of our new game. Fortuately the shop gave us a replacement disk and we learned how to use the dos prompt.
I also learned how to launch GWBASIC. Once again I was able to write programs. I spent many many hours as a teenager programming in GWBASIC. With some help from a friend (actually he wrote most of it) I made a database application for my father, which he paid me for.
One Christmas, my parents bought me Turbo Pascal 6.0. This was my first “real” programming language, and my introduction to object-oriented programming, a concept I wouldn’t fully appreciate until later in life.
Our next computer was a 386 running Windows 3.1. A while after getting this new machine, I got a Sound Blaster 16 for my birthday, and thereby became the first people I knew to own a sound card. I progressed to Turbo Pascal for Windows and then Borland C++ during my university days.
This story becomes less interesting as it gets closer to the present day, so let me just say that I now work for a consulting engineering company as a programmer. C# is my language of choice but I have to support a lot of legacy Access stuf.
I’ve heard it said that nostalgia happens twenty years after the fact, and there seems a lot of evidence to support this. I guess that’s why I’m thinking about all this. Man! Has it really been that long?