Biographical

It soon became clear that Symbol were going to change the base language used in their new generation of terminals, (the PDT3100, PDT3800 and WS1000), to C, so I had to start learning that. This is where you start to understand that as long as you are familiar with certain base features of programming, that it's not that difficult to learn new languages. So as long as you understand the role of variables, arrays, comparitive functions and various kinds of loops, you pretty much know the core of programming.

So I started to learn C from a book and looking at some other code, and I did attend a night school class for a while. The night school was interesting because it showed to me that most computer science taught was behind the curve of how we actually used computers in a proper IT environment. I think the course reinforced a few base points but didn't really teach me anything, I hadn't already learnt for myself.

What you also have to bear in mind is that this was around 1991 so I didn't have the Internet available as a "goto" resource. We actually had to read books and talk to colleagues - there was no pinching of great lumps of code from the Internet!

Read more: C and the move to Project Management

Another language that I learnt along the way at Datapens Systems was DataFlex by Data Access Corporation. This was a 4GL, (a fourth generation programming language), which really was a data management type of language. 4GLs were meant to cut down on the amount of coding required by 3GLs such as BASIC and C, and to the greater degree it did so you had to think less about the presentation of the program, but you would have less flexibility on occasion. It wasn't a difficult language to learn and had the huge advantage that it could be tied to virtually any database without any changes required in the front end code.

Read more: Dataflex

I joined Datapen Systems in 1989 thanks to my mate Dave Meehan, (a school friend from the age of 11), at the age of 21, who knew I was fascinated by computers and technology and obviously knew my background in programming my ZX Spectrum. At that stage I was a Financial Consultant, but frankly was bored by the monotony of it all, and when I was offered the chance to be a trainee programmer I jumped at the chance.

As Datapen was a small company, the "training" amounted to be given a pile of books and some old listings and the occasional bit of advice from the rest of the team! However, as I was motivated to stay in this new world of "IT" I worked hard to comprehend this new challenge. The language I first learnt was Symbol MSI UBASIC, and I think I eventually was sent on a course to learn it, but by that stage I was already pretty conversant with it and writing programs. It was not so different from Sinclair Basic - but how different could variants of Basic be?

Read more: Symbol MSI UBASIC

The first programming language I learnt was Sinclair Basic for the ZX Spectrum. I got my first ZX Spectrum for Christmas in 1982, (although I had to pay for half of it myself from savings!), so I was 14 years old. We bought the 16K version, because the sales guy in WH Smiths told us that no-one would ever need the full 48K version, however by my birthday in March I'd bought the memory upgrade to 48K! As the Spectrum was just the computer itself, you had to attach it to a TV screen and had to supply an audio tape player to load and save any programs.

I loved this machine and this new world of programming it created for me. Sure I went out and bought all the classic games like Manic Miner, Jet Pac etc, but I also liked the idea of buying the monthly Spectrum magazine, (I forget it's name), to get the code listings. You would laboriously retype these code listings in to your Spectrum, with it's weird multi function rubber keyboard and hope that the program would run! If you got any of the code wrong it just wouldn't run, so you would have to painstakingly run through it all to find the error! Of course there would be the odd occasion where they printed something wrong, and you wouldn't find out until a month later...

Read more: Sinclair Basic

Although my work life is in a specific area of IT not specifically related to programming, it would seem I've always had some level of involvement with this side of computing.

In fact I started my working life as a programmer back in 1989, but the reason I got that job was because as a kid I'd learnt to program my ZX Spectrum. Over the years I've programmed various languages like Basic, C, DataFlex, HTML and PHP, and somehow have always found a reason in any non programming jobs to use my programming skills to make various work flows easier.

Read more: Me and Programming

Go To Top