Programming Magic 1

I intend to write quite a bit about programming over time (as I’ve a lot of thoughts on the matter, from the profound to the mundane).  So far, I’ve done so only in very abstract ways.  Programming is one of those things that really must be done (well… I can accept the idea of a person meditating with very careful attention to detail for many years and gaining masterly levels [but that hypothetical person would still be stymied by OS quirks and learning how to research problems on the web {read: stack overflow 80% of the time}]) and the doing of programming involves understanding a lot of specifics.   Talking about programming in the abstract makes sense at the introduction and conclusion of a programming lesson (thanks be to Bruce Lee for recognizing the same pattern in martial arts, another very practical pursuit [testable, falsifiable knowledge]).

Since this is my first post focused on programming, I’ll start with a sort ‘this is how come I’m a program(mer)’.  Apparently, I started programming when I was a wee little lad.  (TODO: picture Here’s a picture of a news paper article from when I was in 2nd grade [actually, this is forthcoming, I have to find it]).  But I don’t really remember any of that.  I mean, I think I remember sitting out there with the old guy in the hallway.  I have no recollection of why it was me and that other kid over all the others in our class.  And I can’t rightly say if it had any influence over me (I speak of it because my parents saved the news clipping and so it is part of my story, not because I remember it as being a formative experience).  Yet something was obviously aligned.  I don’t know if the old guy picked his students or we students elected to go out there with him and the computer.  Maybe it was all luck.  I don’t remember thinking much about computers for many years.  But they were always there, in culture by then.  I remember us having a magazine with one on it and my dad speaking vaguely of wanting one.  It must have been an apple.  They were in movies.  In 6th grade I got a slight computer bug and bought an according block for holding like 10 3.5 inch floppies.  I forget what I was so interested in and I don’t think any discs from those days survive.  Bah, whatever.

Around when I was thirteen I decided I wanted to write a business game (for the computer).  I’d been trying to invent a business game for many years.  Perhaps it was tied to my parents always dreaming up businesses they wanted to start.  In any case, I used to try to create paper-based games using cutouts from business product catalogs.  Even when I was 8-12, I would carry a briefcase and my “important papers”.  I liked two things about the business game, the buying of office products, and the keeping track of accumulating figures of success.

In a very interesting aside, I can remember the feeling of carrying my ‘important papers’ when I was in K-4.  It is the same feeling I have these days as I create my philosopherstone.  That may seem abstract or unlikely, but it is absolutely the case.  I used to create a little portable office for myself, and I would set my briefcase up on my lap and open the cover and create a little nook for myself.  I liked the bottom of stairwells.  I felt safe and in that safety I would conceive of and start projects that had personal significance to me.  Often it would involve writing, sometimes drawing or collecting information about something.  When I was really young I carried around discarded photographic material because it seemed to me to be important, along with papers and other things that probably bore little relation to me other than that I was carrying them around.  I even remembering playing around in bookshelves before kindergarten with a rubber band and some paper clips trying to create a device vaguely having to do with security.  I made up stories and played around as if I had better tools.  I felt good in the process of “creating” these things, which were really just activities vaguely related to maintaining a feeling state (exemplified in the Goonies and to a lesser extent in some respects [namely, production quality] and a greater extent in other respects [namely, intellectual depth] the Neverending Story) through a narration woven into sense.  This could be the very essence of childhood.  Then, the essence of adulthood may be in maintaining the sensibility while adapting the narrative (to the real world).

Getting back to the narrative, I decided to learn programming (according to an un-remembered impulse) as part of a fruiting tendency I’d expressed since childhood.  I got a book on Q-Basic from the library and took notes (TODO: picture [again, I’m still on a trip, those notebooks are at home]) about programming.  I didn’t get very far on my game, but I did create two programs, back then.  The first was a bingo game for class, which is lost to time, and the second I include here (TODO: picture) was a program to print to the screen, and a file, all prime numbers less than a given value.  I’m still proud of the program because after toiling on it and incrementally improving it over the course of several days and caffeine fueled nights, I ended up bringing it to the same level of sophistication that I could find elsewhere at the time (IOW, you don’t need to divide a number by every odd number less than it to determine if it is a prime, you can, at the very least, exclude everything greater than its square root [then you can do this for 3rd and 5th and 7th and 11th roots, too, although the higher up I went the less difference it made to the total time to run (TTR)]).

This was really my first experience of programming.  The energy involved with incrementally improving the program.  The feeling of it.  It’s nothing mystical or unique to geeks, it is just the passion of a hobby.  Not a job that you’ve been trained to do, but a skill that you’ve taught yourself as your own idiosyncratic nature led you to value certain qualities over others.  The program I ended up with is nothing particularly interesting in terms of programming.  But the memory of being the artist of an algorithm, both its function and its form, that I took away with me.  That helped form me.  And I’m not exaggerating for the sake of some romanticism of self (although it is, slightly, neh?) or anything else.  It was a sort of pleasure that lent itself to my talents: problem solving, language oriented, time lapse visualizer.  It was this experience, for instance, in which my early obsession with the look of my code.  I kept going over it, perfecting it.  It is the same thing I do with the written word.  Perfect style is important to the readability of code.  I’ve yet to actually work with a programmer who cares about it naming and perfectly consistent formatting as I do.  I have found that many famous programmers emphasize it as well(TODO: links).

This is enough for one post.  This will have to be part 1 of a heretofore promised 2 part series.

5 thoughts on “Programming Magic 1

  1. adamblansett says:

    I see you been busy writing since last time we talked. Lol

    • jeromeyers says:

      Yeah, been concocting plans, etc. Soon this will all change significantly. However, I’m on a work trip, so I don’t have the time at the moment to make the significant changes (like hosting my own website with a manually installed word press, etc). Thanks for stopping back in! Keep coming, things should get even brighter around here when I figure out my voice and all sorts of things that are provisional right now.

      • adamblansett says:

        LOL You have a safe trip. Do you do SEO? Have you picked a Web Host yet for your manually installed WordPress site? and I will keep checking back.

      • adamblansett says:

        LOL You have a safe trip. Do you do SEO? Have you picked a Web Host yet for your manually installed WordPress site? and I will keep checking back.

        PS I know the feeling of being to busy.

        Adam

  2. […] promised “Programming Magic 2″ (in Programming Magic 1).  In fact, I’ve saved a draft and I won’t forget.  However, I’ve been moved to […]

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