My Journey to Programmer.

I grew up in small town New Zealand. I was a geek from an early age.

At the tender age of 10 years my first experience of “programming” was typing out “huge” BASIC programs from old magazines into my Atari 800XL’s BASIC interpreter. At the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to play the games described in the magazine. They sounded great, but they rarely worked. My first “debugging” experience was pouring over long dot matrix print-outs of these programs comparing them line by line with the original magazine source code and correcting my typos.

After years of playing video games on my Atari, Sega and then PC, I decided I wanted to learn how these magical things were made. Being pre-Internet at the time, I had very little access to information about how computer software was made.

I came upon the idea of asking Sierra Online, my favourite games company at the time, for help. I did this by sending many letters and faxes to Sierra customer support. Every time I just got back a standard “thanks for being a fan” form letter.

Undeterred, I tried again and again. Eventually deciding I should address the letter to an actual programmer at Sierra. I found the name of the Lead Programmer from the credits of one of my favourite Sierra games and addressed my letter directly to him. I even stamped it “confidential” in bold red lettering with one of my mum’s office stamps.

I got a response! Not from the programmer I had addressed my letter to, but his replacement.

I thank that now forgotten programmer from the bottom of my heart for answering my letter. In his long and detailed response he told me exactly what I needed to know. Learn C/C++ or Pascal.

By reading magazines I went about discovering what these mysterious things were. I learned that I needed a compiler and a book to teach me how to use it.

At 15 years of age I began saving my paper route money as fast so that I could buy Borland C++ 3.1 and the book Mastering Borland C++ by Tom Swan. Even at the academic discount, it required a whopping $600. Not exactly chump change for a teenager in the early 90’s. After months of saving I had my treasure in my hands. Only then did I discover my lowly 286 couldn’t run the compiler. Oh the heartbreak.

So after further furious flogging of my cherished video games, consoles, and even my existing 286 I could afford to buy (with more than a little parental help) a brand spanking new 486SX with 4MB of memory and a 512MB Hard Disk. Four thousand dollars down on some flash new gear so I could run my expensive new compiler.

In Tom Swan’s gentle care I ventured forth into the uncharted territory that was C++. I’ve never looked back.

Heroes over Europe appears on shelves.

It is very weird to see a product you had a hand in creating appear on shelves in a local brand name retailer.

I randomly went into EB Games on Swanston Street tonight, just around the corner from my apartment, and saw this on the shelves.

Heroes over Europe on display.

Admittedly these are just empty promo boxes but it is still weird to see Heroes Over Europe on shelves.  Especially since the project has been a marathon effort from hell for all those involved.

For better or worse I played a large part in the creation of the mission editor for this game. So if the missions suck, I’m at least partly to blame.  My heart goes out to all my awesome ex-coworkers at Transmission Games who are feverishly beavering away to finish it.

Snail Mail Spam

I received an actual bona fide snail mail chain letter today. It even came with 5 cents taped to the top of it.

I have no idea who sent it to me. I didn’t recognize any of the 5 names printed in the letter. I imagine that it was some someone, now quite literally, 5 cents short of a dollar. Probably someone I sold something to on eBay. I doubt anyone I know in real life would be foolish enough to send me such a thing.

After marveling in bewilderment at the utter hilarity of the idea for a moment, I pocketing the 5 cents and tossed the letter. At least I can say I did make some money off the pyramid scheme. Perhaps not the millions promised. But every little bit helps. 🙂

The God Delusion

James, since you don’t allow comments on your blog I’m going to have to comment on your “Vexation, but this time no rest” post here. (You don’t even support trackbacks)…

I’ve not read any of Richard Dawkins books but I have recently seen his documentary, “The Root of all Evil?” which is basically The God Delusion in 90 minutes. The content was somewhat concerning. Recently Wired ran an article called “The New Atheism“. After reading it I decided to re-embrace my Atheism with renewed vigor. The present rise of radical Islamism and Evangelical Christianity needs to be addressed. I plan on confronting peoples misplaced non-thinking religious dogma with a good, well argued, response where I can. Hopefully I won’t piss too many people off. 🙂 Though I need to study up on that a little. I should probably pick up Richards books, and perhaps one or two by Sam Harris too.

For your viewing & listening pleasure, some stuff on YouTube.

And some podcasts.