Early Software

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 720371

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Early Software

  • hhcosmin

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 108

    first modern pc i saw was in '90 ('91 or '92) at my mother's work place. i was 10-12 years old maybe. it was a 286 or 386 among the machines that punched paper cards. the pc had a color display and some ppl were playing prince of persia, at a time when i had black and white tv a home. it was sooo cool! so amazing! i just saw it, not use it, but since then i decided to do what it takes to be around these machines with color screens. i took computer science classes in school, in high school, attended a programming club, learned to program in pascal, graduated mathematics and computer science university and now i work as a .net/sql programmer. it was a journey and it started with the pc with the colour screen that ran prince. i get emotional when i think about it! really! 🙂

    tnx for the post, man!

  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    Nice to see the ol' Vic 20 again (my first computer too).

    What inspired me to become a programmer was a general disdain for what was being achieved and how hard it was for me to achieve what I felt was a sub-par level. Software development at the time did not deliver what I thought it could and yet was a major challenge in both skills and effort. I still think that this holds true but that we are continually raising the bar.

    My problem starting out in the early 80s was that games were all the rage and they didn't offer me the problems that I wanted to solve (or at least that's what I thought). I attempted to provide solutions to made up problems to satisfy my human desires. Of course, I have stopped that now. Some appear not to have done (this is not a subtle dig at innovative products but is a blindingly obvious dig at internal development teams who develop what they want then try to force it on users)


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Todd Townley

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1318

    I've always been fascinated with making mechanical / electrical things work the way you want them to by applying the right leverage / signal in the right location and at the right time. (Growing up around farm equipment can do that to you.)

    The first program I saw written and executed was when my girlfriend's father assembled a series of PRINT statements to create a U.S. flag using asterisks on the green-screen of his Commodore PET computer (1981). My thought was, "Big deal, what's the point?"

    A few months later, as a senior in high school, I watched other students solve math problems using BASIC programs they had written on a machine with a CP/M operating system that booted from a 5-1/4 floppy disk (no hard drive). I can still remember the first program I wrote:

    10 A=2

    20 B=1

    30 A+B=C

    40 A-B=D

    50 PRINT C

    60 PRINT D

    It didn't work - syntax error. It took me two days to understand the assignments in lines 30 and 40 should have started "C=" and "D=". I fixed it, it ran and showed the correct results, and I was hooked.

    I spent a lot of time on that computer that year, chose a different college, changed my major, and here I am 32 years later, still loving the technical challenges of making the computer do what you want it to do, given a set of finite instructions. Granted, the list of instructions from which to choose has greatly expanded!

  • Joel Ewald


    Points: 6060

    I remember having a speech synthesis program on my commodor 64 (named SAM I think). That got me hooked.

    My brother and I would have graph paper everywhere plotting out sounds and graphics for data rows to peek and poke and wrote alot of BASIC applications to do different things.

    I got hooked on SQL server when I was writing some reports and working on an in house inventory / project management system. I found solving challenges in sets very interesting.

  • Core6430

    Old Hand

    Points: 363

    Commadore 64: I thought it was fun to make it scroll "[brother's name] is stinky!" over and over. I was 7, that stuff was funny at that age. 😉

  • Paulo A. Nascimento


    Points: 1637

    No doubt, the BASIC interpreter that came with my first 8-bit home computer, the Atari 800 XL.

  • P Jones


    Points: 12327

    I'd already decided I wanted to work with computers because older cousins did and I liked what they described, but the first software I remember was on a three day school course at the then North Staffs polytechnic in the early seventies and we wrote basic using a teletype onto a mainframe which really convinced me that I enjoyed this and found it easy. I could beat it at noughts and crosses too!

    I missed most of the Commodore Pet/BBC B/Apple/Sinclair era, considering them as toys as I was already a computing graduate working with DEC PDP11 all day. I did work on one business system on an Apple 2 where the works power kept tripping out every 10 minutes and I learned to save work very frequently!

  • Bryant McClellan

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4283

    It wasn't software, specifically, that got me hooked. I was an auto mechanic in the late 70's/early 80's. I attended a Delco-Remy seminar on the first electronically controlled carburetors where they provided a fairly in-depth view of what was going on inside that chip. Electronic ignition systems becoming very popular at the time. The Ford EEC IV system was pretty impressive. It was used in Indy cars, with some programming tweaks but otherwise essentially stock. That was when it clicked what the combination of software and data could do since it was accurately managing firing each spark plug multiple times per minute at 9000+ rpm. Today, Formula 1 uses a Microsoft supplied ECU that can manage the same ignition control at upwards of 21,000 rpm.

    The first hardware I used was also a CP/M-based machine. It had 2 8" 1mb floppy drives. I remember wondering how I would ever fill those disks. While I was using Wordstar for word processing, the first language I learned on it was BASIC. I was too lazy to roll my chair 4 feet to change the font settings on my Panasonic 24 pin LQ printer, so I wrote a BASIC program to do so. I always saw that as the epitome of laziness but I've also seen that a certain amount of laziness leads to automation of the mundane...a good thing.

    Buy the ticket, take the ride. -- Hunter S. Thompson

  • batgirl

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4979

    I was working in the accounting department of a small steel broker and they decided to implement Solomon Accounting software. They put the product on three standalone IBM XT's and ran it via sneakernet. When I left that job to move on to another accounting position somewhere else, our reseller (E&Y) offered me a job based on the fact that I was able to operate the reporting module without much of their help.

    That was 1989. I had just finished getting an accounting degree while working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to make ends meet. I was totally unprepared for changing gears at that point - but was mesmerized by the thought that someone actually recruited me to a new position. I took the leap of faith and have never regretted it.

    24 short years later and I'm still loving what I do.

  • chill8

    SSC Rookie

    Points: 32

    Best program that changed my career or motivated me to work more closely with the data and less with the programs was the TOAD product I used to manage databases for SQL Server and Oracle. This product saved me lots of time and money.

  • webrunner


    Points: 30303

    Great question and responses.

    For my early computing experiences, it was my friends' programs on the Apple IIe.

    For me personally, it was Microsoft Access 2.0, when I was working in book publishing and my boss bought it to track editorial work. That's when I caught the database bug - or rather started wrestling with database bugs - and changed careers. :-p

    - webrunner

    A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables. He walks up to them and asks, "Can I join you?"
    Ref.: http://tkyte.blogspot.com/2009/02/sql-joke.html

  • Joe Johnson-482549

    SSC Eights!

    Points: 865

    In high school, my algrebra and physics teacher had 2 TRS-80 computers (I believe they were Model I's). He would let us play on them after we did our homework or after tests. I remember typing in programs from a book of Basic and playing ASCII games and hoping, praying, that the cassette recorder would work right so we didn't have to retype it. Horrible code -- we had to debug and try to find the errors in almost every program.

    Later in high school, we got a grant for 10 brand new IBM PC's. Same guy, Mr. Judd, taught a class on these that consisted of a list of problems that we had to solve on the computer. There was no book because this was in the early 80's. There was no "right" answer so it allowed us to be innovative in our approach. I probably owe my career to that hard-working, under-paid teacher for not just showing us, but allowing us to explore.



  • jay-h


    Points: 18816

    back around 1985 I got a Tandy 100. It was not the first computer I worked with, but it was the first one that I really used on day to day business.

    Had a text editor, built in modem, BASIC (I eventually wrote an assembler for it) and ran for 20 hours on 4 AA batteries.



    -- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --

  • bwillsie-842793

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1359

    Two things.

    1. I got sick of people thinking I was stupid just because I was an admin clerk in the USAF.

    2. One day as I sat keypunching I suddenly saw our remote mainframe printer start shooting paper across the room.

    Two thoughts shot through my mind: "I can do better than this, and I can do better than that."

    I still remember the satisfaction I felt a year or so later when I told the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of my section that I was going to be a programmer. He laughed and said "Your not smart enough to be a programmer."

    I slapped my orders for Programmer Tech School at Keesler AFB on his desk and said "Well, I passed the entrance test and the Air Force thinks differently. You've got three weeks to find my replacement."

    Nothing beats the look of a stunned ex-fighter pilot desk jockey.

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