During my short stint in college -- the first semester of an engineering program -- the main language being taught was Fortran, and the machine being used was a Vax mainframe. After dropping out and getting a Commodore 128, I learned a little BASIC and more 8502 and Z80 assembly programming, and later some C. A few years later, the first Internet provider opened for business in the area, and they had a Unix system (SunOS, I think) that you could shell into as part of your account. So I started learning shell/awk/sed (still logging in with a terminal program on my C128), and that led pretty quickly to Perl.
I think it worked out for the best. I might have learned some useful programming theory and algorithms and such had I stayed in college, but the language and OS were already on their way out. On my own, I stumbled into languages and systems that I'm still using today, so very little learning has been wasted since then (except a few days I once spent learning ActionScript because I was thinking of writing a Flash game). I did learn Java when it was the Next Big Thing, which I try to stay away from now, but I still consider that useful since it taught me that OOP isn't the answer to everything.
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