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How I Got Started In Software Development: Confessions of a Script Kiddie

June 13th, 2008


The classic geek haircut. I still sport this cut today. :)

How old were you when you started programming?

Somewhere around the age of 8 or earlier, computers were always just there – they’d been in my life since I can begin to remember.

How did you get started in programming? What was your first language?

My dad went to College for robotics when I was around 8 years old. His robotics program involved lots of programming and together we worked through a couple BASIC programming books. I continued to mess around with BASIC and wrote scripts so I could get at my favourite games. Later I was frequenting BBSs (The Fisherman’s Scroll), and surfing the internet through lynx (a text based browser). I eventually became a Script kiddie – being a Script kiddie was what really turned me on to programming. My friends and I would write IRC war scripts, play MUDs, and try to figure out how Trumpet Winsock, networks, and HTML worked – those were the days of Netscape 1 (the version with the big glowing ‘N’). Later we tried writing our own version of NetBus with the help of C / C++ programmers on IRC – the fragments of the C language these programmers exposed to me were magical, and sparked an genuine interest in computer programming. In addition to all this my dad kept a constant supply of old and new computer parts funneling into our house, my brothers and I would build computers from the parts – today my closest brother is a Linux fanatic, evidently all this sparked his interest too.

Programming has always been a part of my life, BASIC was my first language.

What was the first real program you wrote?

I followed a couple game tutorials from my BASIC books, but my first real program would have been Pacman programmed in Turing – in my final year of high school I enrolled in a computer course, where the instructor let us write any program we wanted for half a school year I chose to write a game.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

I’ve spent most my time in C, C++, C#, JavaScript, SQL, and the mark-up languages. I primarily program for the web or at least for the network, but have used many other languages like COBOL and so on…

While using multiple languages are great, I really believe that we you should completely understand the fundamentals of at least two languages (like say a static language and a dynamic language), because:

Once a programmer realizes that programming principles transcend the syntax of any specific language, the doors swing open to knowledge that truly makes a difference in quality and productivity. – Steve McConnell, Code Complete 2nd Edition. 

What was your first professional programming gig?

I would have been 18. It was my first year of College, I needed a part-time job in order to pay rent, I initially worked on an assembly line, but would occasionally help the office workers troubleshoot their IT issues. I soon found myself working as the company’s network admin / computer gopher. I went on to develop their cataloging system and a website. At the time I was going to school for Electronic Engineering, but decided to switch to a Computer specific program. Previous to this, I had freelanced a couple websites for local businesses while in high school.

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

Absolutely! The industry continues to instill a sense of wonder in me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

  • Read! You’d be surprised how little progress has been made in the software industry over the past 30 years. By reading we can learn from the mistakes others have made.
  • Don’t be intimidated by code or frameworks handed down by large organizations, their code isn’t any different than yours.
  • Hard work always pays off, or as Thomas Edison said: “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”

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

Collaborative programming is always fun whether it be paired programming or working together on a project. It’s hard to pinpoint the most fun I’ve “ever” had, because it’s all fun. :)

This post was in response to Michael Eaton’s initial post on: How did you get started in software development?

Now it’s your turn to answer: How did you get started in software development?

  1. June 16th, 2008 at 06:34 | #1

    I was roughly ten years old when we got our PC with a CD-ROM drive and a modem. Prior to that, I had only messed with Macintosh computers at school. In fact, I used to come in an hour early to school every morning just to play on the Mac. Once I dialed up to the Internet, that was it. The web was so fascinating I just had to figure out how to make pages. And that’s what I did for a couple years. Of course at that time thigns were kinda crazy and everything was changing. I remember using IE 3.0 when it was first released, and it started to "support" CSS. I became the Microsoft Office expert at school, which the teachers loved. Ended up learning my first actual programming language in high school (VB6). Loops fascinated me the most. I tried to come up with some of the most complex loops on Earth, just for the hell of it.

    Tying real programming up with HTML, CSS, and Javascript is perfect for me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. To this day, I have troubles deciding whether or not I prefer client-side or server-side development.

  2. Devin Parrish
    June 16th, 2008 at 06:35 | #2

    Well, I most certainly do not have as deep of a history in programming as some, but I figured I’d give my biography in the area, mostly because I’m bored and I enjoy reading your blogs :).
    I first started programming when I was 18. I decided a few months prior that I wanted to take a computer program in college and enrolled without really knowing what I was getting into haha. It was very much a guided introduction into the programming world, which was a definite plus for me, so that seemed to kind of help out in my favour.
    I kind of just stumbled into the whole programming world. Like I said earlier, I just enrolled into the program for fun, and I really enjoyed my first programming class so decided to change into the more software development stream of my program. We started in C++, so I guess I’d have to say that was my first language.
    First real program I did with your brother actually, we wrote a mock text-based IM program for the *NIX environment. It worked pretty well, and was quite rewarding actually.
    I figure I’ll just mention the languages that I would say I am comfortable (or was, at a point) in writing with, which would be: C, C++, Java, Assembly…My goals are to dive into some other languages, such as C#, python, and Ruby (on Rails)…Any suggestions in this area? Not too sure what language would be most beneficial for me…
    I’m going to very generously say my current job is my first programming gig, as a web developer with the government. I don’t actually write any web apps though, but that’s just between us.
    I love this area of computers, just feel like I need more and more experience (although I’m sure a lot of others feel the same). I also haven’t been passionate about any projects in awhile, which is a definite help.
    Most fun? I’ve had some very good experiences in the programming field. The aforementioned chat program was a great time, but I also just like messing around with things that are new to me that I’m trying to learn on my own. Everyday is a new experience and I don’t always know what to expect.

  3. Adam Kahtava
    June 17th, 2008 at 06:36 | #3

    Great stories! It’s always interesting to learn how people get into software.

    @Josh

    Seriously you used to go to school an hour early just to use the computer? That’s dedication!

    IE 3 was really cool. Those were the days. Thank goodness they’re over! :)

    I hear you about not being able to decide between server-side and client-side, from the people I’ve met those that understand and both have some of the best solutions.

    @Devin

    I often wonder if it’s even possible to have a deep understanding of programming languages at a young age? I mean, understanding computer languages could be much like understanding politics – it takes years to learn, and only when you begin to understand the complex forces that define relationships and how power influences, then you can begin to understand politics. I think understanding computer languages are pretty similar. What do you think?

    I didn’t earnestly pursue computer programming until I was 18, while growing up in my small village I had little interaction with IT people, and my ancient high school guidance counselor suggested Electronic Engineering (I don’t think he knew much about IT either). It would have been great to avoid my RCC Electronic Engineering mistake, but live and learn. :)

    As for languages to learn, learn them all. Realistically I’d say go for JavaScript, Ruby, or Python. They’re a nice change from C style languages.

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