Programming an introduction

bbc-micro

Recently I have been devoting time to another passion – programming.

I really like programming because it presents a problem and the object it to solve that problem as simply and as elegantly as possible.

I have always been interested in programming. I remember the first time that I ever got to use a computer properly was back in 1990. The school I was at had BBC Acorn computers and as part of my class I would get to mess around on it. I remember designing a Christmas card on it, and I believe I won a prize for it. It was probably just a certificate and nothing of any real value but it did spur me to like develop a greater interest. The Christmas card was far from a graphical masterpiece. Most of the images were made up of standard polygons (circles, squares, rectangles etc) filled with block colour. It wasn’t anything more than what a mother would be proud of.

While I was at that particular school, my parents decided to invest in their first computer an Amiga 500 with the 0.5MB RAM upgrade (it seems so paltry compared to what we have in our computers and phones these days). The main reason for this was my parents needed a new typewriter, so off we went and bought the Amiga 500. The RAM module was the same size a VHS cassette (if you remember those) and it was so big that the compartment on the computer would not close properly. However, many hours were spent playing on that computer, not much coding was done.

Fast forward a few years, I changed schools and I did a little more programming. As part of a class project I had to develop a teletext news site. Not everyone will have heard of this but it was really a precursor to the internet, except that it was one way. You could request pages through the special teletext box on your TV, you would then wait for those pages to arrive. Nothing was sent, the teletext box would just wait for the pages as they would be sent one after another and after some time it would display the page that you were looking for. It was possible to check cinema listings, the news, and even find holiday deals on there.

This didn’t really endear me to programming at all. I didn’t see the point of it. Over the years as the computers at my parents’ house improved. I dabbled more and more with the inner workings of them. I have even built a few computers for myself and friends. I set up wired and wireless networks. I set up faux servers so that my brother and I could share files on our home network. I generally worked my way around the computer and could fix most general problems.

By the time I went to university to study mathematics, I was building websites for friends. Messing around with HTML, CSS, Javascript, actionscript and LaTeX. I was never an expert but I could understand more than the general public and could put things together in an appropriate style for the time. I’m afraid to say that most of my programming was limited to websites and I didn’t do much more than that. I would have loved to have done more but there just wasn’t the resources that were available or I just didn’t have the motivation – I really suspect it was a combination of the two.

By the time I moved to Italy I had helped set up and maintain an intranet site for where I was working. Though there were many limitations on it and my requests to use a content management system like Joomla or Druple fell on deaf ears. Eventually, as I had predicted it became unwieldy and it was decommissioned.

2010 rolled along and I bought a mac so that I could start learning how to program in iOS but I never got around to it as my extra-curricular activities saw that I was kept busy. I did manage to complete the Standford CS106A course, that was a lot of fun. From there I started and completed the Udacity CS101 course. That was great. I really enjoyed it. But I soon changed jobs and my priorities changed with them. In the interim I completed some courses on Code Academy and some other online learning environments but I was never really that serious.

Now I am living in San Francisco, and maybe because this is where Silicon Valley is located I feel inspired to take the plunge and do some more programming. I have been working on an MITx Intro to computer programming in Python, on the MOOC edX.org. I am getting ready to start the Udacity Nano degree in iOS programming in Swift. We’ll see how that goes. I am expecting it to be a very steep learning curve and it should take me 6-9 months to complete.

I have some ideas for apps that I would like to make. Perhaps they are too advanced and complicated for me and I will struggle and give up, or maybe I will rise to the challenge and complete some of the ideas that I have had over the years. I know that some of the ideas that I have had would be welcome additions in the right sectors but only if the implementation is correct.

 

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