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.
(I recently posted this on Quora in response to a question along the lines of “Engineers, when did you decide to study Computer Science?") I have been a full-time software engineer for the last 7 years, and a part-time one for ten years before that. I have never formally studied computer science. It wasn’t an option before college (small high school in rural Vermont). And at the otherwise excellent small liberal arts college I attended, it wasn’t one of the available majors.
First in an occasional series where I show how old I am by reminiscing about the ’90s World Wide Web. Do you remember the Altavista search engine? I don’t mean the thing that Yahoo bought and buried. I mean the original 1990s version. Altavista was an exciting game-changer when it arrived at the end of 1995. Web search had a lot of room for improvement. Altavista’s two standout attributes that crushed the competition (e.
I’ve been reflecting recently on my twisty path from being a kid with a computer to being a grown-up who is (apparently) a bona fide software engineer. My first computer was a TRS-80 Model III. It had a 1MHz 8-bit Z-80 CPU, 64KB of RAM, and two 5.25” floppy disk drives (after upgrades). I used it to play games, write papers, and learn how to write software – mostly in BASIC, though I eventually learned Z-80 assembly language.
In 2007, I took a whack at learning Haskell as my Language of the Year. It was an educational experience on more levels than I had expected. I didn’t get as far with the language as I might have hoped, but I did have the essential mind-opening experience of dealing with a purely functional, “lazy” language. My approach and style in my primary day-to-day language (Python) changed in a positive way.
I was wondering today what ever happened to the town of Half.com when I discovered a recent post at designobserver.com that answers this very question. The backstory, in case you missed it, is that during the first dot-com boom the company Half.com (since absorbed by eBay) got the town of Halfway, Oregon to rename itself as a publicity stunt. I gather there are mixed feelings about the way it worked out, and the town seems to have reverted to its former name for the most part.
In 1981, I was 13 years old and teaching myself BASIC on my TRS-80 Model III from official Radio Shack manuals – accurate, comprehensive, and terminally bland. Into that gray scene came the book Basic Computer Games: Microcomputer Edition (edited by David Ahl of Creative Computing magazine). It changed my life. I can’t remember now where it came from. Neither my parents, nor my friends, nor my teachers knew much about the home computer scene.