Saturday, July 12, 2008

How I got started in Software Development

Nic tagged me from a meme started asking about how people got started in software development

So here are my answers:

How old were you when you started programming?

Timelines are a little hard to remember exactly, but pretty young. I saw my first computer an Apple II at about 8 and was instantly captivated. My elderly neighbour had an Acorn Electron which he used to let my brother and I use from time to time. We started by tapping away at type-ins from magazines about that time. Not really programming per se but that sort of knowledge must have filtered through. I guess I would have been 10 or 11.

How did you get started in programming?

An excitement for computers grew from the introduction to home computers above. My brother bought an Amstrad CPC 464 maybe a year or two later. I started coding on Locomotive Basic, doing type-ins and generally experimenting with what BASIC could do. After that I went 50/50 with my brother and we bought an Amiga 500 and I continued to hack away at Basic. My first introduction to real compiled languages was around 1991 when I bought my first PC at about 16. Rocking fast 386SX20!

What was your first language?

As outlined above, I used various versions of Basic for a start, but my first "real" language was Turbo Pascal. Can't remember the exact version but 4.0 seems to ring a bell. From there I got a copy of Turbo C++ and stuck with C for a few years until I found Delphi in about 1995. The thing to remember about those days is that there was no internet, and books and programming information were really hard to come across - where I lived anyway. You pretty much learned programming by teaching yourself and pouring over the help files. It's much easier now to get up and running. Anyway, I digress.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

In roughly chronological order:


  • Turbo Pascal

  • Turbo C/C++

  • Delphi

  • Visual Basic

  • Codewarrior C for Palm OS

  • ASP Classic in VBScript

  • C#


  • Objective-C / Cocoa

Most of my profession career has been using Delphi for the first 5 or so years, a couple of years in COBOL and the last 5 or so years in C#, and recently the last year or so dabbling with Objective-C on the side.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I got hired to create some reservation tracking software on the Amiga 500 for a motel, but half way through the Amiga died, so I never got to finish it. I was about 17, after that I wrote some Car Dealer Management software for my brother-in-law, again never got paid, so I guess my first commercial gig was straight out of tech coding software for Gym's in VB5.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Yes. I can't imagine not programming. I sort of rebelled against it just after school - tried a few other jobs, but realised along the way I was best suited for software development as it was what I really wanted to do.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Never stop learning. Computing evolves over time, and you should too. I have seen so many programmers who can't find work because they stuck with language or tech X and it has died and they haven't taken the time or been too stubborn to learn something new.

I know it says one thing, but I think the other bit of advice I can give new developers is this: there are NO EGOS IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT. Always be open to suggestions, comments and criticism. Take a step back from your code and ask is there a better way to do this, and admit when you are wrong.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?

Hmmm, that is an interesting question, one which I don't have an obvious answer. I've been involved with some interesting projects over the years, including writing and controlling automation gear for a Milking system, well before most people had heard about RFID. I also got to develop for the Palm OS early on in my career in the late 90's which was fun at the time - saw the first colour palm back then which we thought was ground breaking. Have been enjoying coding for the iPhone recently too.

Now, let’s tag someone else

Well, most of the people I would tag, have been tagged already or don't blog (Dan R and Tordon this means you), but Shaun Austin, who also posts here occasionally, over to you.

1 comment:

Daniel Robinson said...

Hmmm.... maybe I should start blogging...