Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HIGI Day: Computer Programming

"How I Got Into..." my habits and pastimes

  • Fall 1986: My parents purchase Zork I for our monochrome 8086. I spent every evening after first grade classes playing the game, occasionally getting stuck.

  • 1987: I decide to get into the game-writing business, and write my first text adventure in the arcane programming language called "WordPerfect 4.2". My parents patiently explain that writing the transcript of a game session in a word processor isn't sufficient for an actual game.

  • 1987: My parents introduce me to the version of GW-BASIC bundled with MS-DOS 3.2 and how it can be used to write games. Every subsequent birthday for many years would include one of those books full of programs that you could type into the computer.

  • 1987 - 1990: I wrote a trilogy of bad text adventures, Zendof, The Sword of Tholin, and Perils of Replocian, in GW-BASIC, featuring puzzles lifted from other Infocom games and Invisiclues hintbooks printed on a dot matrix printer.

  • 1994: At the request of Jack Wilmer, to bug his little sister, Julie, I learned how to code MS-DOS Batch files. After he installed my file, the computer would insult her every time she tried to play Eco-Quest: The Search for Cetus.

  • 1996: My parents encourage me to have a sensible backup major because music won't make any money, so I go to Virginia Tech with a double major in Music and CS.

  • 1996: My first programming class is in C++, and one of the assignments asks us to process shipping packages with three possible attributes (like overnight, extra bulky, and insured). My solution of assigning each attribute the numbers 1, 2, and 4, and then being able to tell which attributes are set based on the range 0-7 is called out in class as being "quite clever" by the Irish professor -- apparently I also invented binary addition.

  • 1997 - 1999: All subsequent programming classes are in Java 1.3, because it's a hip technology. No one is good at teaching object-oriented programming yet, so we spend a lot of class time in group projects creating triangles and squares on a canvas. That assclown, Shane, borrows my Java book at the end of the semester and then never returns it, denying me $4 in sellback profit.

  • 1999 - 2000: I write a real text adventure called Augmented Fourth in the Inform 6 language, which has more square braces and semicolons than the emoticons in an AOL IM convo.

  • 2000: I grow disillusioned with the personalities in my CS classes and decide to go to grad school for music.

  • 2002: After two summers of interning at a company with a minimum of CS personalities, I decide to stop my music education and go into computer programming full time.

  • 2003: I plunge into computer programming full-time, doing mostly Java work.

  • 2009 - 2011: My work morphs from 100% programming into a mulatto blend of programming, data standards, and translating programmers' thoughts for manager consumption.

  • 2010: I become an open-source developer as an outlet for the lack of programming I do at work. Programming is obviously in my BLOOD.

  • 2012: I spend a year doing zero programming while being a tech lead on a dangerously political government data standard where 10% of the work has technical acumen and the other 90% is dodging political sniping. I spend an exorbitant amount of time in an edit war on its Wikipedia page, where the standard's detractors try to change the verb tenses to past tense in order to convince the brass that the standard is obviously dead ("Wikipedia says so.")

  • 2013: The standard actually does die, and I go back to my mulatto-blend job.

  • Today: I have been at the same company since I started interning there in 2000. I'm currently responsible for the transition of a legacy WebLogic JavaEE enterprise service to open-source technologies, which is exactly what I was doing in 2006. I supplement this dearth of interesting work with lots of online coursework, new languages, and continued open-source development. I have not composed a song longer than one minute in length since December 2011.

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