HISTORY

How I became a software engineer, 8-bit version

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.
How did I get here?

How did I get here?

(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.

I Remember the Web: altavista.digital.com

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.
The good old TRS-80 Model III

The good old TRS-80 Model III

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.

The Language I Will Kind of Learn in 2008: Smalltalk

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.

Remember the town of Half.com?

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.
BASIC Computer Games

BASIC Computer Games

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.