I’ve always loved computers. My parents bought an Atari 800XL in the mid 80s and I remember them bringing it home. I saw all these large boxes and watched curiously as my dad started to unbox it. I had never seen a computer before and was fascinated by all the parts. I don’t remember the assembly process but I remember seeing it work for the first time. The first application I saw was a cartridge based word processor. But after that, I got to play games. Moon Patrol, Defender, Pac-Man, and a few others. I spent every moment I was allowed to, glued to that machine. I remember magazines with columns and columns of code. I’d diligently typed in page after page of Basic or even machine code with no real concept of what I’d end up with when I was done. I think the only program I typed in that I actually got working was a snake game where you get longer as you eat apples and avoid running into your tail. That was the start.
From there, my dad bought a hand me down Tandy 1000. Stepping up to 16 colors when most PCs were still equiped with 4-color CGA was awesome. I remember many hours playing Space Quest and Kings Quest. Eventually spending untold hours playing Bard’s Tale to the extent that I could navigate the city of Skara Brae by number of forward, left, and right turns, no torches required. I remember that by this point I was an avid fan of trying to edit save game files to see what I could manipulate.
I remember reading, yes reading, the DOS 3.3 manual and learning how to create boot disks to free up enough memory, out of the then generous 640KB, for gaming. Also learned to create simple batch files and what terminate and stay resident (TSR) programs were. I developed in a hardware oriented direction for many years.
I spent a lot of years thinking that I couldn’t be a programmer. I studied Java in the mid 90s and promptly gave up, unwilling to get used to case sensitivity and telling myself it was too hard. I learned networking and systems administration instead. But over time I realized that my favorite days at the computer were ones where I worked on scripts in VBScript or batch files. The hours just seemed to fly by. In the early 2000s I took classes on HTML, VB .NET, and TSQL. I created a few utilities to help out my employer and once again didn’t really believe that I could make it as a developer. In 2012 I went back to school and finished my bachelor’s degree in Information Technology with concentration in programming. I managed to move into a position as a software engineer doing integration. Which turned out to mean that I had the title but was still more or less a systems administrator. My employer wasn’t going to give me the opportunity to code. For the most part I let it happen. I lost motivation and let poor managers further whittle away at my self esteem until I questioned whether I was even a good systems administrator. I am, I am a kick ass administrator but I don’t have the same passion for it that I used to.
My best days are still the ones where I get to automate tasks in PowerShell or even to write a batch file. I enjoy the mental challenge of finding a good algorithm to solve a problem. I understand some of the basics of software development. I worry that my math skills and knowledge of algorithms and data structures are not adequate to landing that first job. But, I know this is the direction that I want to go. I’m fascinated by having a specified set of tools, keywords, with which to solve a problem. I look at those keywords like puzzle pieces that can make any picture you want if you can arrange the pieces correctly. I study every day to continue to bring this dream closer to reality.