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Andrew (he/him)
Andrew (he/him)

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Do You Remember Your First Coding Experience?

Working in the tech industry day in, day out, we can become jaded to the reality of just how cool programming actually is. As humans, we've figured out how to get inanimate objects to calculate things for us:

https://xkcd.com/1349/

I can vaguely remember how it felt the first time I wrote a program. I took C++ class and a Java class in high school and I think I took the Java class first. I remember that the syntax didn't make any sense to me at the time but I thought it was really cool how you could type something into the command line and your program could take your input and manipulate it and return a result.

I was really into creating text-based games and GUIs seemed way too advanced to even consider learning. I'm sure that's influenced my programming preferences today, as I still stick with languages that I mostly interact with through the command line (not too much web / graphical work for me).

Then, everyone got Xanga accounts (remember that, USA people?) and was trying to customise their profiles, so I started learning HTML and CSS. There were so many acronyms for different kinds of "cutting edge" web design at the time: XHTML, DHTML, etc. It all seems so quaint now.

What was your first coding experience like? Was it decades ago or last month? Was it nerve-wracking or exciting?

Top comments (94)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern • Edited

My first coding experience was when my friend introduced me to websites with Geocities. I don't remember some of the details of what I did first, but I viscerally remember the shock and awe that this was something I was capable of doing.

I knew that programs and websites got built somehow, but it was completely abstract to me. The realization that it was so accessible was absolutely mind-blowing.

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jckuhl profile image
Jonathan Kuhl

Yep, I had a terrible Calvin and Hobbes Geocities page back in the day. Complete with 1990s marquees and "under construction" gifs.

I also made my first non WYSIWYG webpage in HTML4 to host the games I was trying to make in 3d Gamestudio. I don't remember what I used to host that page though or if it still exists anywhere.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

Ah, the good old "under construction". Another thing from the early web that I forgot about.

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katiekodes profile image
Katie

And there were whole sites w/ great GIFs where you could get cooler "under construction" symbols & dividers than your friends had!

Or where your friends had gotten cool ones and wouldn't tell you about their source.

And wouldn't talk to you at lunch the next day if you just downloaded from their page and used the cool icon/divider on your page without their blessing.

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daveskull81 profile image
dAVE Inden

Geocities was my first experience too. My friend showed it to me and we talked about HTML and FTP and it was all so cool. The internet was really new to me at this time, ~1996, and it was amazing to see how websites were built and that I could do it myself.

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sergiodxa profile image
Sergio Daniel Xalambrí

I built my first website on Geocities too, using MS Word 98 (it had a website mode), good times, filled with gifs, JS snow and custom animated mouse pointers.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

Ah! You just reminded me of Microsoft Frontpage! I forgot about that. Oh, the repressed memories...

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I always used the web editor in Geocities. I don't think I had a home computer at the time so it was mostly school and friends' houses. I didn't really learn FTP or code editors or anything.

I'm truly cloud native.

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bitdweller profile image
Pedro Pimenta

Ahahah indeed, that was the cloud waaaay before we had that term coined :)

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katiekodes profile image
Katie • Edited

I had a relative in computers I asked for help setting up a Geocities/Angelfire like my friend had.

He refused to help me, gave me an account on his webserver Unix box, taught me to use FTP / set up Netscape Navigator's editor to publish to it, and, when I hit a wall with Netscape Navigator's editor, taught me how to edit the HTML of my page for finer-grained control.

Wouldn't help me with the fun unless I picked up some "real programming" along with the fun.

Set me up with an e-mail account on that box, too, and taught me to telnet to it and use Emacs to edit my mail when on someone else's computer instead of on a computer when I had ... boy ... there must've been a mail function in Netscape before Thunderbird came out or something... :-)

I didn't properly program for many years thereafter, but it was a great foundation for later learning. Mission accomplished, picky older relative!

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

The ability to add your favorite My Chemical Romance song as background music on your blog was the height of 😎 in 2007.

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

I was ten years old, it was my birthday. 1988. I came downstairs to find my dad had bought me a ZX Spectrum. The rubber keys had arcane commands - push, poke, print - I bashed them and THINGS HAPPENED ON THE SCREEN!

What voodoo magic was this? Thus began a lifelong love affair - I wrote about it here.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

That, for me, was the coolest thing. Not only that pressing keys "made things happen" (that's just what a keyboard does, right?), but that you could take input from the user and do things with it. I think it was that ability to automate things that really intrigued me.

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

Yes! Exactly this.

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terracraft profile image
Terracraft

Error establishing a database connection

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jimbobbennett profile image
Jim Bennett

I was 7 I think. My Dad came how with a ZX Spectrum and it was beautiful. Rubber keys, shiny box, rainbow on the side. It plugged into the TV and had a tape deck and we played Horace Goes Skiing.

Then I discovered BASIC

10 PRINT POO
20 GOTO 10

And in that one POO filled moment, I was hooked. My Mum even helped typing out listings from books and magazines because I was too young to have the attention span for writing hangman with graphics, but my love for programming stayed with me.

I recently paid my Mum back - my Dad has been playing with a Raspberry Pi and my Mum was talking fondly about how she enjoyed typing in those listings - so for her birthday 2 days ago I bought her her own Raspberry Pi and a Scratch/simple Python coding book to copy from!

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610yesnolovely profile image
Harvey Thompson

I've noticed that a few people here were introduced to computers via the UK's golden era in the 1980's: Sinclair ZX80, Spectrum, BBC Micro and the Dragon.

Of course there was Commodore VIC20 (we had fights at school as to which was the best Spectrum or VIC20) and Commodore PET, TRS-80 and something called an Apple II (though I never saw one, very rare in my circles in the UK).

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adaddinsane profile image
Steve Turnbull • Edited

I was the editor of both Acorn Computing (originally The Micro User) and later Acorn User magazines :-)

(My wife wants to point out that she was Managing Editor of Acorn Computing.)

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jasontechnology profile image
Jason.Technology • Edited

I used to sneak through the library in grade school and type
10 print “/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\“
20 goto 10

on all of the C=64 and PETs. Nobody every figured out why thise darn computers got all buggy all the time.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

🤣

That's great! Much more inventive than "asdf" over and over like I usually did when I started.

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helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson

Not sure if it counts but ... mine was about three years ago at the grand old age of 31 when I stumbled into a job that had me using SAS for the first time ever. I was late to the game, very, very late to the game. Then I got hooked on SQL.

I tried JavaScript on a three month part time general assembly course two years ago thinking I was going to be a web dev ... and then went straight back to SQL.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

That counts! If I had to choose between the two, I would probably also choose SQL over JavaScript. Domain-specific languages like SAS take a lot of heat from "real" programmers, but even things like making a complicated Excel macro count as programming, in my opinion. It's the same thought process, just funneled through a different medium.

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helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson

That's a good way to look at it.

Building VLOOKUPs and Pivot Tables and IF statements in Excel is such a good 'launching off' point for junior data analysts. Teaching SQL concepts is a lot quicker with a bit of Excel background.

I am glad I said goodbye to SAS, it was used to move data around and not do any statistical analysis so was overkill for what was needed.

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Luciano Graziani

My brother and I started coding with the warcraft 3 map editor. Gosh it was really fun to see how the units moved by themselves, the events triggered, the missions worked and how our ~bad~ voice played in the dialogs.

We wrote two little campaigns and expended 3++ month with each one.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

That's really cool that you and your brother got to do that together! Does he still code?

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lgraziani2712 profile image
Luciano Graziani

Yes! He works as a dba! :D

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lgraziani2712 profile image
Luciano Graziani

We both did the same university career heheh

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terracraft profile image
Terracraft

What was that?

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terracraft profile image
Terracraft

Warcraft 3 and it's expansion the Frozen Throne are good games.
When I used to be six I went with my mother to a 2nd hand store and I always focused on some game, going through the requirements and getting something that interested me now and then, and so I've played a huge amount of games.

What is really fun is adding new functionality and/or understanding it to some degree, hence modding. There are even some projects which can create offspring and cascade into other projects like something with CS and TF.

The modding community seems to foster when games have great popularity and it's not too frictions to go about changing things.

So essentially like what you describe with the campaigns it's essentially getting comfortable what's around you and using what you can to express/tell something or just create a different kind of environment for the game, which is pretty cool all in all.

Essentially it increases the replay value of a game, which it turns makes it so that you're getting a lot more for your money spend.

I think that people feel satisfied when they get to create something and for their creation to have impact or give new perspective on something. Like how you state it.

That's why I am in part learning programming, so I can exercise my minds visualizations, to be close to the problem and surpass it being able to create solutions for my ideas and other peoples problems.

The less friction there is, and the simpler it is to implement what you want and others might need, the more fun it is.

Working with games, emulators, retros also opens you up to all sort of new technologies. Learning how to set up things, how things are set up, what code relates to which configs etc.

So fundamentally if you see someway of creating positive impact for yourself or others, you probably should take it as long as you know how to have leverage in proper proportions. Everybody can work on a single thing, and as a team come together and create something that exceeds them (hence why you should have teams in the first place).

Assuming instead that you would be one man operation. It's tougher but it can greatly increase your capabilities to do things, and go through many learning curves being able to do what you want to do.

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sally profile image
Sally

Year 6, aged 11, we had a BBC computer and a "twenty questions" game on it, where you would think of an X and the computer would ask you Yes/No questions to guess it.

I could tell it was nothing magic, just a big flow chart switching on to the next possible questions based on binary answers. It had a make-your-own option, so I made one for the class' favourite 90s pop stars and footballers of the day, with a feature at the end that if it did not guess their chosen celeb, they could enter its name and it would save the decision branches that had led there.

I didn't quite understand what I was doing, and the software itself must have offered some guidance, but what was important was that I understood WHY it was working and what was happening behind the scenes.

Then RPGMaker in the early 2000s, whereby it took me a day or so to program all the possibilities of opening a chest, acquiring the prize (and thus removing it from the chest) and adding it to inventory - if there was space. If, if else, else...

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

That sounds really neat! I think games and toys like that are a great way to get kids interested in programming. Then, work up to a language like Scratch before moving to something like Python.

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610yesnolovely profile image
Harvey Thompson

A long time ago (39 years ago), in a country far far away (I'm in Canada now, was in the UK), my dad decided he had no idea how to write BASIC on his new Sinclair ZX80. I took the manual and read it for a week without touching the small black obelisk. I took the small block of plastic, the manual and cables into the dining room and connected it to an old black and white TV and turned it on. As a ten year old, it was incredible to see a white screen and a small flashing cursor, awaiting my commands.

Okay, I'm going to get the most out of this. I shall play a trick on my brother...

10 PRINT "WHAT IS YOUR NAME?"
20 INPUT A$
30 PRINT A$, "IS AN IDIOT"
40 GOTO 30

"HEY BROTHER... COME see what I did...."

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

Haha kids are really inventive when it comes to harassing their siblings!

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adaddinsane profile image
Steve Turnbull • Edited

I was 11 and it was 1969. I sat at home writing out BASIC code ready to transcribe it on to the teletype machine in my school linked to a mainframe about 10 miles away.

It was my all-singing all-dancing moon-lander game. It didn't work. Of course it didn't. And it was the first time I hit the wall in coding trying to do something far beyond my abilities. Definitely not the last :-)

But I never stopped. And here I am, 50 years later, writing code for a living. (Website back-end stuff - don't ask me to design anything :-) )

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

Kids today have it easy! I'm glad I never had to use punch cards.

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adaddinsane profile image
Steve Turnbull

Punched cards, punched tape, coding by marking formatted cards - I've done it all :-)

I've even had to bootstrap a clean PDP mini by writing and then keying-in the code to make the tape-reader work - using physical switches on the main panel.

It's a humbling experience.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him) • Edited
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cirphrank profile image
🎧Cirphrank👣

2011, I had just stopped staying with mom and dad, 14 years of age, and needed something to fill the void I constantly felt from loneliness which I didn't understand it to be, manifested in pains... Coding came and took the pain away(poetry {being open with it} joined in soon enough). Encountered wapka.mobi, can't say how I first realized it, but when I saw the possibility of being capable of bringing websites to life, I was hooked lines and codes.

I started copying and posting XHTML codes from local/international forums to set up websites on wapka, modifying them and feeling like a don, sometime in 2012/2013, I stumbled upon Uloki Script, a forum script that's written in php by a then Indian schoolboy, I really tore that script to bits and studied it extensively, worked with it for about 3years, this led to my loyalty to hypertext preprocessor, taught me CSS better and introduced me to SQL...

Code and poetry have long since been my babes. Child and lover.

One of the reasons why I am a sucker for WordPress.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

It's good that you're so open about your mental health!

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cirphrank profile image
🎧Cirphrank👣

Thank you. It helps in getting over rough times and staying stronger.

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Jason.Technology

I started using basic on my C=64 when I was just a wee lad and I did all manner of shell scripting and packaging in the dot-com. And there were of course all the structured programming classes....
But my first “real” coding experience was writing some really useful and functional CGI applications with perl.

It was a profound experience to write code that actually “does things” for “anyone” on the internet instead of my usual automating manual tasks.

The night of my first prod deployment, I dreamed that I was coding things into existence... a chicken for example.

Definitely a sign of working too hard when you typecast avians but I still remember it very clearly as my first coding experience.

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

It sounds like maybe you were having a premonition of Chicken.

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stealthmusic profile image
Jan Wedel

I was about 11 years old when I got an old computer with a green on black text display called Genie II. I programmed a Lotto number generator in Basic. My parents did not program and found it pretty amazing and I was soo proud!

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

No winning numbers?

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stealthmusic profile image
Jan Wedel

I think we actually won 5 Deutsche Mark once back then...

I had the code from a book from a library. I was full of of small programs and games and you had to read and type and try to avoid typos. It was basically google/SO... but way slower 😎

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Jonathan Kuhl

I made a shooting game in 3D GameStudio some 12 years ago. I don't even know if 3d GameStudio even exists. It was a defend the castle sort of game. I had little animated 3d stick men who'd attack your castle and you'd have to shoot them before they got to your castle. There were numerous weapons you could use.

It was in a language called C-Script, some mishmash of C++ that GameStudio used (it's now Lite-C I think)

I never got it finished due to a bug in the code I couldn't find, but the first level or two worked!

I still have the code and the code was god awful.

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jckuhl profile image
Jonathan Kuhl

Hey! I found the code and put it on Github!

github.com/jckuhl/Stronghold

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

Wow! A blast from the past! Maybe someone can help you get it working (and debug the enemy spawning issues).

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vorsprung profile image
vorsprung

I really don't remember. It was around 1980 or 81. I think probably on a homemade zx80 or a Commodore Pet.

I wrote my first C program in the late 80s, and I have seen a print out of it this century. If I can find it, poking around in the attic you can see it

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

I would love to see it if it's not too much effort to find!

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vorsprung profile image
vorsprung

I was in the attic looking in old boxes. I found some student programs I wrote in the early 90s, but not in C. I found a couple of still shrink wrapped BSD manuals. Oh and an X Terminal. A hardware one

No sign of the original C program though :)

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bitdweller profile image
Pedro Pimenta

It was not specifically "coding" per se but the first time I felt I was "programming" a computer was while installing/configuring Red Hat Linux 5.2. I wasn't fully aware what that was or what it meant but I loved it.

I had to grab my monitor's manual to properly configure the vertical and horizontal rate otherwise it wouldn't really work.

Amazing how far we got. I haven't seen a manual in decades!

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awwsmm profile image
Andrew (he/him)

I remember doing this, too, with a desktop that my brother and I used to work on school assignments. I was trying to "upgrade" it once and accidentally uninstalled the video drivers...

He lost all of his book reports from that summer and had to re-do them all in about 3 weeks. Whoops.

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zenmumbler

Around 1985 (I was 5), besides POKEing values to change the background colours my first real attempt was to copy a listing from some C64 Basic book to have a game shooting targets on the screen. It was about 8 pages of densely packed basic code and I entered everything carefully.

It didn't work. Nothing appeared on the screen but it didn't error out either. I realised that the cause could be anywhere in the code I just spent an hour or so typing in and that I didn't actually understand what it was doing.

Given the screenshot in the book of essentially a simple target on screen I didn't feel it was really worth spending more time with it but I still felt satisfied that it started at all. Code was running and doing something. This was the (first and) last time I copied over code from printed media though.

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