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.NET Hobbyist Programmer Staying Confused in a Busy World

Hi.  This is the inevitable first blog post.  My name is Mark Treadwell and I am what some other people elsewhere have referred to as a hobbyist programmer.  To me, a hobbyist programmer is someone who writes computer programs for the enjoyment of the challenge rather than to put food on the table.  I'll talk about the day job that permits this indolent luxury later.

In 1982, I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering.  This knowledge has basically sat unused for the last 22 years, but more on that later.  In September of 1978, I and dozens of other neophyte engineers sat in cold (thick stone, tile walls and floor, high ceiling) classroom for our first real engineering class.  We were excited.  We were ready.  Then the professor (and he looked like a professor too: gnarled, grey, feisty) began explaining the class.  Much to our surprise, the vast majority of our homework assignments would need to be submitted as computer programs.  We were amazed.  Us write computer programs?  Never!  At the time, computers were still hulking behemoths hidden behind locked doors with just enough windows to see the flashing lights.

Our introduction to the machine was awe inspiring.  We were actually let into The Room.  We could stand right next to It.  It was a Zen moment.  Eventually we learned that by even that day's standards it was dog slow (but blazingly fast to us).  We learned about batch programming.  We learned how to write our programs in Fortran 4 with stubby pencils on paper, using lots of circles and arrows to illustrate our program's flow.  We used line numbers.  We learned that the computer really couldn't read our mind about how we wanted our program's output to look.  We had to learn to tell it to do that too.  We would study our errors on the massive paper (complete with green lines), and shuffle back with our card deck (remember, I mentioned batch programming above?  Quiz to follow!)

The great thing about this particular machine was that it would place a $ below the offending lines at the first character it thought was the problem.  It would leave us to draw careful lines or count parenthesis to redo our logic.  Then we had to learn the operation of the IBM punch card machines to insert/delete/correct the offending card.  (I was very familiar with chad long before the November 2000 elections here in the United States.  I had placed thousands of them in people's beds through college.)

I'll write more about my college computing adventures later.  Right now, I'll go back to that hobbyist thing.  Programming / developing / computing does not pay my daily bills.  My day job as an officer in the United States Navy has permitted me to play with computers.  I've owned many.  There was an original IBM PC (which I think may be in my brother's closet, probably still with my home brew reset button installed).  There was an IBM Model 80 (which is in my garage).  There were Gateway and Dell towers.  There were Toshiba and Dell laptops.  There is a Dell OptiPlex for my wife and a Dell server that was on sale to run the house.  There were/are lots of computers.  I've used Xerox machines at work.  I may still have an 8-inch floppy disk somewhere.  No Macs --- I'll explain why later.

What about programming languages?  Obviously my first programming language was Fortran 4.  This was followed by PL/1 when I needed to take a computing science class.  Later came Fortran 77 when Notre Dame engineering got a free Burroughs mainframe computer to replace that old punch card machine we learned on.  (It was fancy and was my first introduction to CRT usage.)  Since my IBM PC came with PC DOS 2.1, I played with Basic on it (and all the subsequent DOS Basics).  I also learned x86 assembler, wrote a small utility, and made my first money at computing.  (I found it amazing that people actually gave me money for my hobby.)  I have used every version of Visual Basic since version 1.0, including VB-DOS.  I taught myself enough C++ to learn that it was just not my language, but it was enough to write another small electrical engineering utility that got notice (and money) and led to my current programming work on the EDR.  I have subsequently made significantly more money programming the Electrical Designer's Reference for the past 5-6 years ... but that is another story.  Right now, I am working with VB6, VB.NET and C#.

So join me for a trip through the Way Back Machine while I cover some history, opine on current events, and describe how I am approaching the .NET Framework as a Hobbyist Programmer.  Enjoy!


Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2004 7:22 AM Programming , Software , Humor and Fun , The Stump , Day Job , Home Ownership , & Etc. , Personal | Back to top

Comments on this post: Tap Tap Tap ... Is this thing on?

# re: Tap Tap Tap ... Is this thing on?
Requesting Gravatar...
Interesting story Mark, welcome to the blog world.
Left by Tejas Patel on Mar 21, 2004 9:56 AM

# re: Tap Tap Tap ... Is this thing on?
Requesting Gravatar...
Thanks. This should be interesting...
Left by Mark on Mar 21, 2004 10:10 AM

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