Evolution of a developer

This is a bit of retrospective of how I became a developer, having a look at all the programming languages I stumbled across over the years.

I never had a C-64, no matter how much I was whining to my parents to get me one. I spent a lot of time with the kid next door in joystick smashing frenzies playing some awesomely pixellated games on a small TV. That’s when I first saw what programming was about: gaming books with 5000 line appendices of Commodore Basic code which rewarded you with ridiculously simple games if you were brave enough to type it all in. And we always got some lines wrong, which we didn’t know until trying to run it at the end. Usually we just switched off the machine in frustration after we couldn’t find what was wrong with it.

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia

While waiting to get a machine myself, I didn’t know that my parents had a plan. Computer stuff in Hungary wasn’t cheap in the early 90s, my dad literally stopped smoking (for a couple of years) so they could get me one, hoping that I wouldn’t just play stupid games on it. But it wasn’t a crappy C-64. It was something much, much better. At 10 years of age, they bought me an 8MHz 286 PC, with 1Mb RAM, 40Mb hard drive and colour VGA monitor. It came pre-installed with Prince of Persia and Prehistorik, games that I still find entertaining and desprite their age and linear gameplay, I still play them every year. That’s when I first thought that’s what I wanted to do: write computer games myself. But how?

Microsoft QBasic 1.0

Microsoft QBasic 1.0

And there it was, in all its glory, buried in the C:\DOS directory: Microsoft’s QBasic interpreter. I wrote my first simple games with it and used such advanced techniques as empty FOR loops for delay which worked really well until I switched to the QuickBASIC 4.5 compiler. Advanced audio included playing “bagfedc” on the PC speaker with the highest speed on the lowest possible octave, which sounded just like a real explosion.

My mum’s colleague had a surprise for me. Since I was interested in programming, it was a good idea to learn something more serious, so she sent me a copy of Turbo Pascal. In the next few years I started buying and reading reference books at an exponential rate, learning how to control the mouse, the sound card and the VGA adapter, writing (and copy-pasting) pascal libraries with embedded Assembly to make shit happen.

Hardware upgrades came and went: 386SX-40, 486DX2/66, 486DX4/100, AMD K5, P200MMX, basically anything that my friends replaced, I bought. And even though I learned C because that’s what most games were written in, it didn’t appeal to me too much to start everything over without my libs.

In grammar school I went to an advanced computer programming class. Although they couldn’t show me anything new in terms of coding itself, they taught me a good deal of discipline, telling me why having only global variables was such a bad idea. With this knowledge, I fully embraced Delphi and C++, eventually writing Windows applications using Borland C++Builder. Along the way I met a few others, like Clipper, dBase IV, Visual Basic, web development with classic ASP and Perl.

After I finished my studies, my professional life brought me close to other languages as well, InterBase SQL stored procedures, the legacy UniVerse Basic, moving on to web technologies via PHP, JavaScript, developing Windows applications with C#, web services with ASP.net and more recently, Java for Android development.

My game development hobby has declined a fair bit since I left school, although I did familiarise myself with OpenGL and SDL libraries, but it totally crashed 4 years ago when my daughter was born. We’ll see what the future holds…

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