So Charles Petzold tagged me for this Software Development Meme and did that hurt. Just kidding. J It’s the first time I’ve been tagged since I was like five years old. Anyway, here goes:

How old were you when you first started programming?

  1. Yes, I was a really late bloomer. In fact, that’s positively decrepit in the computer world. I’m amazed they even let me use a computer at that age.

How did you get started in programming?

As my first job was Special Operations Communications Sergeant (AKA a Green Beret) the only civilian skills I had qualified me as a night watchman or a member of Tony Soprano’s mob crew. Fortunately, I got hired as a manual laborer at an environmental research firm who gave me more than enough rope to hang myself. I needed to track ambient air sampling canisters I was shipping out so I wrote a big Lotus 123 macro driven spreadsheet to help. My bosses were impressed with it and kept giving more and more programming work to do.

What was your first language?

English, which I learned that as a child. Oh, you meant computer programming language, sorry. That would be SAS when I was at the environmental company doing statistical analysis for Non Methane Organic Compound (NMOC) research.

What was the first real program you wrote?

In college at NCSU, I wrote an embedded debugger for an Intel 8051 CPU for the Computer Organization and Logic 311 (Electrical Engineering for CS majors), the “death” class in the CS program. That’s what sparked my interest in debuggers and solid code.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

SAS, Lotus 123, Quattro Pro, Turbo Pascal, x86 Assembler, Visual Basic, C, C++, x64 Assembler, C#, and VB .NET.

What was your first professional programming gig?

While in college, I had a full time software engineering job where I wrote a Windows 3.0 GUI application for the Center for Disease Control so AIDS researchers could share information better. It was one of the most motivating projects I ever worked on.

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

Absolutely! It sure beats getting shot at in the jungle. I feel extremely fortunate that I got started before Windows took over the world and I was able to ride that wild train. I was extremely lucky and was able to start my 32-bit development career the day Windows NT 3.1 Beta 1 shipped in 1992, which made me one of the first outside Microsoft doing NT development. I think that bet paid off.

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

Learn the insides! If you don’t know how the environment you’re using works, you have zero hope of understanding how to effectively use it. By knowing how things fit together makes it much easier to figure out when things go wrong as well.

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

Pretty much every time I help solve a bug that has someone stuck. I just get such a thrill out of digging in and fixing a horrific problem. That intensity and focus while you’re working with others on hard problems is pure joy.

So Who’s Next?

I shall tag my fellow Wintellectuals: Keith Rome, Steve Porter, Sergio Loscialo, Rik Robinson, and Andy Hopper.