My first coding experience

Jessica Rose (@jesslynnrose) asked:

My first coding experience was on our family’s TI-99/4A (I think. It was a long time ago).

TI-99/4A

I was likely 7 or 8, and my dad had shown me how to write some simple GOTO programs. It was neat to see them operate, but they didn’t do anything useful. So one of us decided to find a more interesting program in a book we’d gotten with the TI.

I still remember laboriously typing the program in, letter by letter. I distinctly remember two feelings: frustration at how long this was taking, and excitement when I finally finished it. I executed the code and watched it go!

The program was called something like “Caterpillar”. There were no images in the book, just a simple description. As the program ran, I watched a series of large blocks scrunch in-and-out making its way from right-to-left on my screen. When it reached the edge of the window, it continued on and reappeared on the right-side of the screen, running in a loop.

And that was it.

I had spent a child’s-eternity entering all of this info, just to get that?! I didn’t try again.

I see now I could have used some mentoring. My dad is not a programmer, and I had no contact with anyone who was. In sixth grade a teacher ran a computer camp for a week during the summer, and by day two I had exhausted his material.

That old TI wasn’t useless though – it played games! The best one was Tunnels of Doom.

Tunnels of Doom (with Cassette)

I remember I played the game so often, my dad got tired of setting it up for me and showed me how to do it myself. I then spent the next indeterminate time period fighting with the hardware to get that game up and running. The game required a cassette to load, and it would fail randomly. Some days I spent more time loading the game than I did playing it.

I still hate peripheral hardware. [printers]

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