Software Development Meme

Well, it would appear that I have been 'tagged' to answer a few question on how I got started in this business.  This chain seems to have started back quite a ways and it is interesting to see how many degrees of separation there really are between people - I always knew that this was a small community. 

Anyways, Scott Colestock, called me out to be next on the chain (along with a couple of other people) so here goes.

First, I didn't know what a Meme was.  So, I went to the dictionary and this is what it has to say.  A Meme is "A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another."

Second, I have been blogging for over 4 years and I have never put anything of a personal nature in any of my posts.  So, this may be more than you ever wanted to know so read on at your own risk 🙂

How old were you when you started programming?

I was in 8th grade.  My best friends father purchased an Apple II that he was going to use for his business along with VisiCalc.  The computer was placed on a card table in the middle of their basement.  It was like it was a show piece but no one really knew what to do with it.  My friend and I spent nearly all of our free time playing with the computer and learning VisiCalc and creating calculations for his fathers business.  We quickly got tired of VisiCalc and needed something else to keep us interested.  We started programming and entering commands to see what the machine would do.  We quickly got tired of seeing Syntax Error and decided it was time to get a bit more serious.

What was your first language?


What was the first real program you wrote?

My friend and I decided to write a maze game.  The graphics (if you can really call them that) were big white blocks that we placed on the screen.  I think it was really too big to take on as our first application since it took us a really long time.  It was a good learning experience in regards to how long things take - a good lesson for the future.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Well, it started out with Basic, then QuickBasic.  Then I did three years of COBOL programming on a VAX (but I have never told anyone that and I would like to keep it that way).  I did a lot of statistics programming in a proprietary language as well as a lot of DBASE III+.  Then I got into PowerBuilder v2.0 and something new called Visual Basic 1.0.   I have programmed (and put software into production) with every version of Visual Basic from 1.0 to 6.0.  I even received my first Microsoft certification on VB3.  There were other languages that I played around with but never did anything with them professionally.  Anyways, when .NET was released I jettisoned all previous development languages and have focused on C# for the last 7 years.  This question only talks about languages but I would be remiss if I didn't put BizTalk somewhere in this post.

What was your first professional programming gig?

Officially my first professional programming gig was when I graduated college and worked for a marketing research company.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Absolutely.  Looking back at where things have come it is incredible the amount of new things to learn and be a part of.  I love the fact that there is always a new challenge and there has never been a boring day.  There certainly have been days where I felt like ripping my hair out though or banging my head on a softer part of the wall.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Always keep the architecture in mind.  It is very easy to focus only on the specific low level technology.  Also, never forget that development is only 30% of the effort of a project.  You can have a lot of fun with performance tuning and throughput analysis - ok, a bit geeky but still, you can have fun with it.  Also, surround yourself with Type-A, hard working, curious, energetic people.

What's the most fun you've ever had...programming?

hmm...I have had fun working with small teams where we get a lot accomplished in a very short amount of time.  However, I find that I get my greatest sense of accomplishment from working on troubled projects/death march projects and turning them around and getting them finished. 

The worst/best was a year long project for the Texas Prison System.  Imagine working for 72 hours straight with two other team members trying to meet a contract deadline and the work was done on the prison grounds.  We met the timeframe and drank an incredible amount of Mt. Dew along the way (I am not sure which I am more proud of).   

We learned a lot about the prison system, escape stories and a renewed understanding why scared straight programs work so well.  All of which I would be happy to tell you over beers.

Who am I calling out?

Andy Morrison


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