How I became a programmer (thank you, Captain Kirk)

With JJ Abrams rocking our worlds with new Star Trek energy, I thought I would give thanks to the Trek franchise for helping me find my vocational path.

We had a little closet of a computer room at my High School. The room had a couple old WWII teletype machines connected via acoustic couplers to a Data General minicomputer at the county administration building. Some early young hacker in Junior High had finagled himself a sysadmin job working for free at nights there. Programming in Basic (and probably cribbing from Dr. Dobbs Journal), he had written a two-player game of Star Trek. One player would get to be the Enterprise, and the other would become a Klingon. The players could send threatening messages to each other, and would periodically print out long-range or short-range scans. Once you had located the other ship you would have to calculate the tangent between your two-dimensional coordinates and those of the other ship, so you could turn to fire! If you fired an energy weapon, the power of the blast would decrease by the inverse of the square of the distance between you. It was just amazing, and great fun as the scans chugged out on the teletypes.

Playing was plenty fun — but once I discovered I could print out the source code, modify it, and actually CHANGE THE WAY THE GAME WORKED, I was done. Hook, line and sinker, reel me in Scotty.

Some 30 years hence, it’s still great fun to create software. The path of the programmer has brought me to a couple dozen countries around the world, helped me understand design, taught me about business and introduced me to a multitude of amazing people.

Live long, and prosper.

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One comment on “How I became a programmer (thank you, Captain Kirk)
  1. Jake says:

    So, have you read Coders at Work, which is briefly discussed at the link> I ask because many of the stories in it are not dissimilar to yours.

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