May 3, 2020
I started programming at 12 years old. I taught myself how to write programs using the BASIC programming language on my graphing calculator. Like many tinkerers, I had no formal training, only a reference manual and online coding forums. At the time, I didn’t know all of the possibilities of coding or even the history of my own tools; I just wanted a program that would do my math homework for me. I developed user interfaces, equation solvers, and even games. That early experience sparked a lasting fascination in software development and led to many more advanced adventures.
BASIC was created in 1964 for precocious students like me, and there are decades worth of programmers with similar beginnings 1 . In 1982, Commodore launched the C64 and encouraged a generation of computer enthusiasts. The computer combined powerful processors and the BASIC programming language 2 . Learning BASIC was easy and the advanced hardware made it easy to make and play fun games. The combination allowed students to discover a new creative outlet in droves. Many people finally had a way to express ideas that, previously, were prohibitively complex and shaped their entire careers around their experiences. Easy access to computers and exposure to programming at a young age can inspire interests that last a lifetime.
Joy Lisi Rankin, A People’s History of Computing in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).↩
Tekla S. Perry and Paul Wallich, "Design Case History: The Commodore 64," IEEE Spectrum (March 1985), 55, https://archive.org/details/commodore64_mar1985/mode/2up ↩