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Dec 2006 21

Programming, and Me

Software development Experience

Programming has always been a hobby of mine. I first started programming on the Commodore Vic-20 in 1983 after my father and I went to a "listen to our schpeal and get something for free" dinner; where we told them to take a hike and they gave us a Commodore Vic-20 as a thanks for coming gift. That was back in the days of hand assembling 6502 opcodes and calculating branch offsets in my head.. And I wonder why I'm brain damaged..

I eventually splurged and purchased a Commodore 64 and was off to the races. I suddenly went from having 3.5k of programmable space to nearly 39k of programmable space!! WOW! That's programming space for days! It was a lot of fun learning to write on the C=64. I could make that computer do anything. To this day I think I knew more about the C=64 than I have ever known about any computer. I literally could make that machine do anything, and did at every turn.

After a while the C=64 got old and I eventually really splurged and purchased an Amiga 500. I didn't do nearly as much programming on this machine as I did on the C=64, and I think that's mainly because I was suddenly thrust into a very foreign environment and didn't fully recover. My programming skills slipped a lot while I owned the Amiga. I did do a lot of basic programming, but nothing on the level of what I did on the C=64 or Vic-20.

While I owned the Amiga's I was more interested in 3D graphics and thus started my love affair with NewTek's Lightwave 3D, but that's a story for another article.

I still owned my Amiga 500 (and then an Amiga 1200) until I went to Korea, thanks to the US Army, in 1993. Up to that point I had resisted getting an IBM / IBM Compatible PC like all my friends, in favor of the Amiga system. The Army pretty much changed that.. While in Korea I worked with many IBM compatible machines as well as various other OS machines of every kind. That experience pushed me to purchase my first IBM machine. It was a 486DX 100 machine. And of course, with my extensive programming background, what was the first thing I wanted to do? well.. play games of course.. but the second thing was learn to program it..

I immediately started shopping around for a language that I could use to make the computer sing. And I tried them all. I was very dissatisfied with the majority of them.. And yet again with my desire to program fading (due to lack of an inspiring language) my skills faded as well. .. back to playing games.

In 1995 I was stationed in Washington and I was bored. The job satisfaction there was the pits so I needed something to do in my spare time that would take my mind of the dull drudgery that I had enlisted for. I went to the computer store one day bound and determined to find a programming language that would be powerful and yet functional and good in every way. I was feeling somewhat anti-Microsoft at the time so visual basic 3.0 was not something I wanted to use. Plus I didn't like that you had to have runtime libraries in order to run their tokenized code. (Not even true compiled code..sheesh)

As I strolled through CompUSA I found a copy of Delphi 1.0 on the shelf between Visual Basic (Microsoft) and C++ (Microsoft). Delphi, a programming language developed by Borland is a descendant of Turbo Pascal but with a new visual wrapper. Basically it's Borland's answer to Microsoft's Visual Basic, It's Visual Pascal. I was intrigued enough to purchase it on the spot without even doing any research. And it was one of the best splurge purchases I have ever made. I'm very happy with it.

So that's the basic story of how I cam to be a Delphi programmer. And I have tried other software packages.. I have programming environments for C++, C#, Delphi.. etc.. I have books on just about every language you care to mention.. but I always find myself coming back to Delphi.

At this point, when it comes to standard applications, I will always use Delphi. There is just no reason for me to use anything else. Delphi excels at rapidly creating desktop programs.

I'm also trying to learn C++ so that I may take an even more serious step into the world of programming. I want to create games, and that's typically not something one does in Delphi. While it is possible in Delphi, it really wasn't intended for that use.

At this point in my life it has been a while since I have done any kind of work with Delphi or any other compiled languages, the majority of the programming work I do is in the realm of web languages.

However, a new project has emerged that is right up my ally and promises to be fun and exciting. And it comes with the added bonus of introducing me to a completely new language. LISP! Now.. Lisp is not a new language by any stretch of the meaning, but its new to me. I know virtually nothing about lisp, and from what I have seen of it, it's not like any other language I have every used. But it should be good. Wish me luck on that, I'll post more about it when I get somewhere.. (or if you never hear from me on the subject again then you know the outcome)

Web Programming

Most "real" programmers frown or scoff at web developers calling themselves programmers. Let's face it, anyone can create a webpage. Add to that, the fact that there are quite a few WYSIWYG editors for web development, and the number of people who call themselves "web programmers" can sky rocket.

But that's not me. I'm a paid and professional web developer. I'm also a web programmer in that I don't just design and implement static web pages, but rather create rich dynamic sites with robust back end infrastructures. I do more than just crop/cut up photoshop files and create an html file.

It actually offends me a little that I am straddled with the same "title" as those others who know virtually nothing. I have taken to calling my self a software engineer simply to avoid the stigma.

I consider myself to be an expert, or at the least highly skilled, in the creation of rich web applications and the use of Ajax, PHP, XHTML, Javascript, CSS, DOM and I'm fairly good at PERL.

I have worked for many large and small companies as a back end and front end developer. Due to contractual agreements I wont list all of them here, but here are a few of the more recent ones that I can list:

  • C3 Communications - I was the highest ranking web monkey in the shop. (a shop of one)
  • Austin Independent School District - I did everything here, from ordering the machines to writing the code.
  • The Austin American Statesman - One of a handful of web monkies, but the only on site PHP developer.
  • Hoovers Online - A D&B company that maintained a staff of 8 to 10 full time PHP developers that wrote the functionality of every aspect of the site. This was an awesome place to work - alas it was a short contract.
  • BuildForge Inc. - An up and coming company that provides a tool used by many major programming shops around the world, I am one of 2 full time PHP5 developers. We do nothing but hard core OOP-PHP5 and we got to build it from the ground up - really a dream project.
  • IBM - Buildforge was purchased by IBM, after which I became the Sr. UI Developer for the Build Forge project at IBM - making me an IBM Software Engineer. There are now 3 fully time PHP developers working around me and its awesome.

Plus whatever other stuff you can find on this website. I enjoy creating functionality that I need and making it available to the masses where possible.

Programming is a fun hobby and can be very rewarding, but you have to kind of be brain damaged to like it at any serious level.

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