E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.


I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!


Built using Django, served with gunicorn and nginx. The database is SQLite. Hosted on a FreeBSD VPS at Johncompanies.com. Comment-spam protection by Akismet.


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Stuff I Use

Bitbucket, Debian Linux, Django, Emacs, FreeBSD, Git, jQuery, LaunchBar, macOS, Markdown, Mercurial, Python, S3, SQLite, Sublime Text, xmonad

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At least 237138 pieces of comment spam killed since 2008, mostly via Akismet.

How I became a software engineer, 8-bit version


You could say Z-80 assembly language is what really turned me into a software developer.

My first programming language was BASIC, which was built into my first computer (a TRS-80 Model III). I wrote a lot of BASIC code, including arcade-style games (compiled BASIC — you can still play them on this TRS-80 Model III Emulator).

I always wanted to keep learning. There was no World Wide Web for research and nobody I knew could guide me, so we went to Radio Shack and asked them how else I could program the computer. They sold us the Editor/Assember package.

I eventually wrote a simple text editor. I still remember the fun of implementing scrolling commands as block moves, in and out of the machine's memory-mapped video. Getting a handle on low-level operations gave a feeling of mastery that wasn't going to come from BASIC.

But beyond the particulars of assembly, the reason that it was significant for me is that it gave me a taste of broader possibilities. It’s not your first programming language that makes you a programmer, it’s your second. You start seeing patterns and high-level concepts, and seeing that a given language is just a tool for a job.

Learning assembly was a grind, but it showed me what I could do. From then on, if I had a chance to play with a new language, I took it. LOGO. Pascal. 6502 assembly. Even a dialect of Lisp (I had no idea what was going on there). I think that early breadth of experience ultimately helped convince me that software engineering deserved my full attention.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017
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