How I Got Started In Software Development

Michael Eaton started it, and others took off and ran with it.  Now it’s a certified meme. So I guess I might as well join in the fray and relate the beginnings of my geekdom.



A Long, Long Time Ago…

How old were you when you started programming?

I was about 7ish when I first started. Read on for more details…

How did you you get started in programming?




When I was around 7, my uncle had an Atari 400.  I initially just played games on it, but one day I noticed a stack of Byte magazines in the corner.  Inside this magazine was source code, it said it was “BASIC” and needed to be typed in… hmm.. there’s this Atari-BASIC cartridge, and there’s a keyboard.  A light went off, I can make this machine /do/ something?  So I typed in the program, saved it to the cassette drive, and then tweaked it.

Next thing I know I’m begging my parent’s for a computer.  For my 8th birthday I got an Atari 65XE and a couple of BASIC games books, and I’ve been totally hooked ever since.  Time passed, and eventually I got into things like QBASIC, DOS Batch, and C/C++ (via an old copy of TurboC a friend loaned me).  Then in high school someone gave me a Linux CD and having a whole slew of development tools really helped.

I just kept hacking away…

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

Staying awake for 48 hours straight and hacking an ANSI art viewer in C with Jim Balcomb.  We were probably 15 and 16 at the time and just didn’t need to rest when programming was to be had.  I think it’d kill me today.  Oh yeah, and then I delivered papers in the morning after being jacked up on coffee and Jolt and my father was convinced I was on speed…


Googoo gah gah?

What was your first language?

Well it was BASIC obviously, from Atari-BASIC, to BASICA, to QBasic, eventually to QuickBasic…

What was the first real program you wrote?

One that really stands out was a grading program I wrote in high school for the Learning department at the school.  It was all done in QBasic and had menus that were keyboard driven, grid data entry, and a printing subsystem.  I wish I still had that code…

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Define use? Here are all the languages I have written something of some complexity in:

  • AutoIT (don’t ask…)

  • Bash Shell

  • BASIC (variations there of)

  • C/C++

  • C#

  • DOS Batch

  • JavaScript

  • PHP

  • Ruby

  • TSQL (don’t ask)

..and [Insert Deity Here] knows what else…


Get a good job with more pay and you’re okay.

What was your first programming gig?

I’ve always loved programming, and have been doing it has a hobbyist since as far back as I can remember.  However, without experience (and never having finished college) I was never able to really get a foot in the door.  I worked in support at Harley-Davidson Dealer Systems for 6 years and had a chance to do some development work (I had written a number of utilities for support including SetPrinter) I jumped at the opportunity.  I actually took a “demotion” from Team Lead to Developer for the chance.

After a couple years of doing development work there I had pretty much tapped out all I could do and was stuck, that’s when I was introduced to PreEmptive Solutions and am currently doing development there.  My work at PreEmptive is much more like a “real” development job then HDDS.  At HDDS I was pretty much a cowboy left on my own.  Here I’m working with a true development team.

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

Oh hell yes, I truly believe I was born to be a computer programmer, I can imagine doing nothing else.

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


Thanks Mike!

A big thank you to Mike Eaton for getting the ball rolling on this, it’s fascinating to see how my fellow tweeps and hackers got started.  I’m not going to “tag” anyone, because that’s silly, but I do encourage anyone who reads this post to do the same and link back to mike’s blog, he’s keeping a list of people responding!