15 October 2007

Originally posted at my old blog geekcyclist.blogspot.com

True to my normal behavior, I am reading about 5 books right now. It seems I always have a work or two of fiction and two or three tech books going at once. On of the books I am reading is the classic The Pragmatic Programmer.

In that book, which I highly recommend to anyone on the programming side of the IT world, the authors talk a lot about taking pride in and responsibility for your work. On of the ways they suggest you do that is by signing your work. In that spirit, I changed my profile to reveal my name, and figured I would do a couple of ‘background’ posts to let all three of you who don’t actually work with me or aren’t my mother, know a little about where I am coming from on the tech side.

The Early Years I was a pretty typical bored teenager in the early eighties. Little did I know the foundation was being laid for my delusions of greatness. As the Atari console and the Apple II started making inroads in my neighborhood, my parents made a great decision. Rather than by a game system, they bought a TRS-80 Color Computer and I found myself introduced to the wonderful world of BASIC.

Like many of my generation, my teenage dream was to write video games. After copying line-by-line the sample programs in the hobbyist magazines I started trying to write a Zork clone. In case you are not familiar with Zork, it was a text based ‘dungeon’ game with an excellent natural language processor. At the time I had no idea what NLP was, but I thought the idea of writing a choose your own adventure type game would be cool. Mine was obviously less sophisticated. Rather than typing in your actions or queries it presented a narrative and then a few options from which you could choose.

My game authoring career came to a quick end one Sunday morning. After several hours of coding I went to save the program to a cassette tape. Ten minutes later, after saving and restarting, I tried to read my program from the tape and nothing. I yanked the tape out of the recorder and threw it across our family room into my bedroom. Then I walked in there and slammed the door so hard it broke and my dad had to come down and jimmy it for me to get out.

In high school I found myself interested in the electronics courses, and did a little pc board design, built an audio amplifier and some other neat little electronic gadgets. But other than Parsec on the home computer and Tempest in the entryway of the local grocery store, my interaction with computers was pretty slim until I entered college…

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