Early Software

  • My start in computers had nothing to do with software, but a book. The "Tom Swift" novels by Asimov. I thought working with computers would be the neatest thing and had to wait several years before I had a chance to work with one. Fortunately, my high school offered programming (early 80's) and from my sophomore to senior year I learned Basic, RPG II and Cobol. My first "PC" was a TI-99/4A and your code was stored on cassette tape. I had the speech synthesizer and one of the first programs I wrote was a "Speak and Spell" type program to help my brother learn to spell better.

    Up until my first computer class, I wanted to be a doctor, but once I got a taste of programming, my medical career went away and I've been working with computers ever since.

    Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

  • Core6430 (2/22/2013)

    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. πŸ˜‰

    It would still make me chuckle...being older and wiser I am now more free to laugh if my brother did the same to me πŸ˜‰


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

  • P Jones (2/22/2013)

    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!

    Wow. Alumni!!! (not that I really go into that sort of thing ;-))


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

  • I got a TI-99/4A computer in 1982 when I was a sophomore in high school. I was taking classical Greek as my foreign language class at that time, so I learned TI's BASIC and how to reprogram the graphics to show Greek characters instead of the Roman alphabet. Then I wrote an application that did flash card and quizzes for the vocabulary I was learning.

    The application worked quite well and I learned software development (not just programming) and (of course) Greek in the process.

    All that with a tape recorder as my backing store and 16KB memory (though I later upgraded to 48KB with the "peripheral expansion system")

  • My first computer was a Commodore 64, basically the same as a VIC 20, except it has a whopping 64 KB of RAM instead of the VIC's 5 KB. Like Steve, I also took a stab at writing my own D&D game. At some point I started running out of RAM and found that seperating my text and dictionary on an external disk file was a better solution than coding it inside the program file. Without having access to any books or classes on programming, I learned the benefits of seperating data from code experientially through trial and error.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • I don’t see how this list could be complete without mentioning COBOL.

    From the 1960s until about 1990 it was the language of choice for business programming with implementations on every major OS.

    There are tremendous number of applications written in COBOL still running.

    It might not be flashy, sexy, object-oriented, etc. but it continues to be a workhorse.

  • Great article Steve!

    My first program was in Fortran on punch-cards during my senior year of high school.

    In the early 80's I got a Vic 20 and a Sargon chess game cartridge. I wrote a blackjack program for it and then turned my interest toward business. I remember walking into my company with a black and white TV, the Vic20, and a cassette tape recorder storage device with my product pricing program ready to go. I demo'ed it for the CEO and chairman of the board and they loved it. They threw a few different products and scenarios at it and the price was accurate to the penny every time. They purchased an IBM PC XT along with the PFS database and word processing software and my career in IT began.

    It's been an incredible 3 decades. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! πŸ™‚

  • I saw in 1984 the first computer ever, it was a MSX Panasonic, one of those big black keyboards that plugged in on b/w televisors. I still remind the instruction to recover whatever you had on memory after a quick switch off/on POKE -62536 :hehe: Later I remind using cassttes to upload programs and copying them on double cassetes recorders at "high speed" :w00t:

    After a couple of years a NEC with EGA monitor, 5 1/4 inch floppy disc drive... WHHAOOO!! But I didn't had acces to it. I waiting about a couple more years I met a friend with an IBM XT at home with orange/black monitor and 2 floppy drives. GWBasic installed on ROM, MS-DOS 3 as SO and playing lot of Digger and Moonbugs.

    First software that caught my attention was one for desing called "Inset", I was amazed by how you could draw, how can it be done? I told myself, let's try it and then DRAW instruction and then using functions to create funny "3D" drawings using sin, cos and alike.

  • Paulo A. Nascimento (2/22/2013)

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

    Atari 800XL - w00t! This was the first computer that my family owned. I had gotten hooked on computers with the Apple II series, but there was no way I could have convinced my folks to shell out the big bucks for one of those. I was so excited when they brought home the 800XL with a data cassette drive and a flywheel printer that I was happy to overlook the goofiness of "TV\Computer" switch that connected it to the 12-inch black-and-white TV that served as a monitor.

    It's interesting to remember how quickly the wait for programs to load and save from cassette tape began to annoy me, though!

    Jason Wolfkill

  • I think the average age for database developers and sysadmins must be like 40. Maybe a few years more for sysadmins.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Eric M Russell (2/22/2013)

    I think the average age for database developers and sysadmins must be like 40. Maybe a few years more for sysadmins.

    I hear you. It seems like they just keep getting younger and younger... :hehe:

  • Dave62 (2/22/2013)

    Eric M Russell (2/22/2013)

    I think the average age for database developers and sysadmins must be like 40. Maybe a few years more for sysadmins.

    I hear you. It seems like they just keep getting younger and younger... :hehe:

    Hold up...I need to adjust my hearing aids. πŸ˜›

    In my defense - this whole "IT" thing was a second career for me.

  • for as long as I remember, I have always liked to tinker and build things.

    I have found that working with computers is just a natural extention of this.

    The first computers I had encountered where a trs 80 in high school and Burroughs equipment in college. But what really inpired me was building my 1st application for job tracking (in Basic on an IBM PC running P-CODE) and it was usable and helped people work more efficiently.

    I sometime wish the days were still that simple πŸ™‚

    -- Optimist with experience and still learning

  • Bill Wehnert - The Tom Swift books (I had a set, too) weren't written by Asimov. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swift

    I've been a gadget-geek all my life, since I was a little kid, dismantling mom's vacuum cleaner to see what made all the noise (and then getting in trouble for not putting it back together - once I learned what was inside, I was no longer interested). My first experience with computing hardware was mechanical Marchant calculators, in the university physics labs where my father taught. Then came an electronic calculator with a CRT display a couple of inches square, about the size of a large typewriter and weighing considerably more. It could add, subtract, multiply, divide and remember one number. No square root. The first experience with real programming was a beginning Fortran course, at the university again, after a Vietnam-era tour in the Marine Corps. Univac 9300, 32KB of magnetic core memory, punched 80-column card input - the university's sole computer. Everything in the school ran on it, and students were given one run per day, in the evening, to hand in their deck of cards. Next morning, you could pick up your card deck and however many sheets of paper your job had generated, and go troubleshoot it. That evening, you could try again. If there was too much stuff for the operator to fit it all in, you had to wait until the next day. Sometimes, if the operator was feeling generous and the workload was light, you could persuade him to run a few things during lunch hour.

    Even under such primitive conditions, once I discovered what those machines could do, I was hooked and have been at it ever since.

  • The first software that impressed me and caused me to consider entering the field was the Apollo Guidance Computer functionality. The AGC became famous as the computer or set of computers that performed the navigation etc... for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing and other activities. The functionality of the computer was so advanced for the time that it boggled the minds of geeks across the globe. That was in 69 when science fiction became reality.

    I started programming in 1971 and since then I have programmed on multiple platforms, in 15 - 20 different computer languages and have loved every bit of it. Programming and data are still fascinating me today, and every program, research project, or even report is an adventure.

    Not all gray hairs are Dinosaurs!

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