cctalk Digest, Vol 67, Issue 6

Adam Thornton athornton at
Mon Apr 6 22:09:35 CDT 2020

On Apr 6, 2020, at 10:00 AM, cctalk-request at wrote:
> They play with the
> pennies to discover that they can roll around, and learn that they're not
> food or nasal suppositories, 

I was with you up till here, but wait, what?

I’m one of those kids who was just the right age.

Five years older and I would have been in the Car Club, and would have ended up being a damn good mechanic without a lot of career opportunities.

Five years later and not every damn computer on the planet would have come with a BASIC interpreter in ROM and who knows what my tinkering instinct would have led to.

But I, born in 1971, had an Atari 2600 and its BASIC programming cartridge, and in the fall on 1982 I got a VIC-20, and sometime in 1983 my parent bought me an Apple //e.

So I did grow up with Microsoft BASIC as my first language, and, sure, it doesn’t lend itself well to structured programming, but then when I wanted to know “well how do you do _that_?” I ended up in 6502 assembly, and picked up P-System PASCAL and Logo along the way.  Then in the summer of ’89 I interned in a physics department, and got OK at Turbo Pascal and sort-of-vaguely-able-to-write C.

College brought REXX on (IBM VM/CMS; I didn’t get an Amiga until the 2010s, well after its relevance) and Perl and Scheme and SPARC assembly, and grad school (both for irrelevant degrees: Ancient Mediterranean Civilization and History…but wait, there’s a footnote) 680x0 assembly and Java.  (The footnote is, well history of computing, so I got a lot of deep-dive stuff into other languages and architectures.)  Since then, whatever I needed to learn when I needed to learn it.  I’ve programmed COBOL for money, which has joined the ranks of things I’m not super-proud to have done for money but hey it paid the bills when I needed it.

Since then…Python, C, Go, TypeScript, whatever was needed.  These days it’s mostly Python.

But really what it was was that I was lucky enough to be in that small age window where computers were, one the one hand, something middle-class families could afford while still being capable of doing cool things, and on the other hand, simple enough that a smart adolescent could pretty much understand them more-or-less in their entirety.


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