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Re: I started with...:

by blue_cowdawg (Monsignor)
on May 08, 2006 at 19:02 UTC ( #548067=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to I started with...:

      "What a long and strange trip it has been"
      -- Greatful Dead

I started my programming journey in 1972 programming in Dartmouth BASIC on a Honeywell 1648 Timeshare System that was connected to my High School via acoustic modems connected to ASR-33 teletypes.

Under that system programming consisted of typing up your code on the teletype punching the code simultaneously on 7 level (7 bits!) paper tape and once you were sure(?) of you code, dialing the number for the timeshare system, listening for the tone and quickly putting the handset of the telephone into the cradle of the acousting modem, hitting the "break key" furiously until you got the login prompt, entering your (the school's actually) account number and password as prompted and then at the "READY" prompt entering something like create myprog.bas and hitting the carriage return. You'd then mount your paper tape and send your code over the ASR-33 teletype to the timeshare system and if you were lucky it wouldn't error out while you were uploading your code.

Assuming you didn't error out before loading your code (and here my memory is fuzzy) you'd hit the break key again to signal you were done uploading code (or was it control-C?) and then try to run your program. If you'd coded it correctly you'd get your output from your program and things were cool. If not, you'd have to figure out without the help of any sort of debugger where things were going wrong and correct the problem with some subset of the steps above. It could take a long while to get what today would be a somewhat trivial program to work.

The next step in my journey was the discovery that the timeshare system supported FORTRAN IV. At first I greeted this discovery with the thought that "hey! nobody can cheat on assignments by looking at my code!" since I didn't have to leave my source on the system and this thing called "object code" would be the only artifact left on the system after I deleted the source and you could only run that not see the underlying coding. I soon after discovered there were lots of other reasons to like compiled code and started to write all my programs in that including my first private use application. My first non-school related program took a ton of formulas that I found in some of my dad's books in his library and dimensions and other numerical descriptions of parts from the Estes model rocketry catalog and "fitted" them together and made a stab on the performance parameters (speed, altitude, time in flight, etc. etc.) based on best and worst case analysis. A pretty impressive project for a high school student if I do say so myself! :-)

The next stop on my journey was when the administrative arm of my school got a Honeywell Series 50 computer. This big old clunker of a system was my introduction to card punch systems and was programmed in a subset of the COBOL. A wordy language if there ever was one. I didn't code very much what I would call useful stuff in that language because I could get the job done much easier in BASIC and easier still in FORTRAN so I didn't get too much in love with the language.

The next stop on the journey was when my high school got a pair of PDP-8 computers. That was the year I was introduced to assembler language and boy did I have fun that year. I found that I could do evil things to my fellow students in only 8K of memory. Yes, I said 8K. When we upgraded to 16K later in the year you would have thought we had infinite memory the way we carried on.

My true start as a computer hobbyist was after high school. Somewhere in my collection of memorabilia I have issue #1 volume #1 of Byte Magazine. With the advent of microprocessors and their availability to the general public a whole vista was opened up to me and lots of adventures mostly in assembler and sometimes in other languages on hardware that I built from scratch.

Fast forward many many years and I end up as a contractor working for Bell Laboratories. Unix was my mainstay by then and as far as programming languages were concerned I was do quite a bit of C programming as well as shell scripting.

Cruzing through the comp.unix.sources USENET group I found this curious collection of shar files posted by somebody named Larry Wall for this language I never heard of called Perl. That was in 1989 and life has never been the same since.


Peter L. Berghold -- Unix Professional
Peter -at- Berghold -dot- Net; AOL IM redcowdawg Yahoo IM: blue_cowdawg

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