Paul Timmins (noweb4u) wrote,
Paul Timmins

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Reflections on computers and my youth.

When I was little, I wanted to be notorious for something.
I didn't know how, or why, but I did. I usually ended up trying to be the center of attention to make this happen.
One day, in 2nd grade, I stumbled upon a computer, the teacher couldn't get it to work, and threw up her hands.
At recess, when everyone else headed to the coatroom to play outside, I sat down at the computer, got out the direction sheet, read it, and followed the directions on it. It worked immediately. The teacher was amazed.
When I finished the coursework ahead of my classmates, my teacher arranged for me to go to other classrooms and show others how to use the computer.
Wait, now people know me, but because I am good at computers, not because I'm some jerk kid. Weird.

I go on vacation that summer to see my mom out in california. I get back, and there's a Commodore VIC 20 on my bed.
Thing is, there was no instruction manuals, one cartridge, and a casette drive and a blank tape.
I sat down for a while, looked at it, and began seeing what I could fit where - matching up labels where i could (power goes to the power brick, tape goes to the tape drive) and before I knew it, it was hooked up.
I got an old black and white TV from my stepdad, hooked it up, and wow. My very own computer. What a strange thought.

Wait, there's no games or programs for it. "Commodore BASIC, OK" is what the screen said.
I sat, and remembered in a book I read on computer history, that this company called Microsoft wrote an interpreter for BASIC. Hmm, this is some kind of programming language. I hit the school library.
2 books on BASIC. I check them both out.
At that point, I no longer thought of computers as video game machines, I thought of them as something that would do anything I asked. It wouldn't second guess me, or tell me it's a bad idea, it would just do it.
100 PRINT "Hello"
110 GOTO 100
Was my first program. My computer was saying hello to me now. How strange, this machine. I hit the break key. It stops immediately.
SAVE "hello"
and next thing I know, it's recorded for posterity on audio cassette. How cool.
Next thing I know, I am designing programs to do my homework for me. My parents wondered how I did my math homework so fast.
One day they see me doing it. Now I am in deep shit. What are you doing?
I wrote a program to do my math assignments for me.
Nonsense, an 8 year old can't write programs, that computer helps you cheat.
No dad, I understand the math, and explained how to do it to the computer, and I just feed it the questions and it gives me the answers now.
Well, from now on, you are to do your math at the kitchen table.
One day I wrote out the program on a sheet of paper and handed it to my father, and explained to him what the program did.
Wait, he says, this looks like algebra...
It is.
So you know algebra?
A little bit, yea.
Where did you learn this?
Writing the program to do my math homework...

And thus the story begins. That's how I got to be where I am today.

Weird, eh?

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