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Ask HN: What was your earliest “programming” memory?
22 points by bokohut 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments
It was the early 1980s and my mom and I would often walk to visit an elderly neighbor that lived behind us. I was offered to watch television while my mom chatted however my eyes were very often led away from the shows to the constant blinking VCR interface just below. After several visits my curiosity got the best of me and I figured out how to set the clock on the device. The neighbor was shocked that I had figured out how to set the time as they had tried multiple times but failed yet they were even more surprised, as I recall, that it no longer distracted from their viewing as it had mine while just visiting. I consider this my earliest memory of “programming” and therefore, looking back, recognize the impact that understanding technology can bring to others.

I was maybe 5 or 6. My mom was attending University to get her Teaching degree, with a specialization in Education Technology. She often used my brother and I as test subjects and case studies as a part of her school work.

She was showing me LOGO, a kids programming language she was learning about, and getting me to type in commands to move the little triangle turtle around on the screen. I still had trouble remembering which way was left and right, and as the little triangle-turtle rotated on the screen, it became more and more difficult for me to move it the way I wanted as I got confused.

In her art class, she made a little clay turtle - and taped and 'L' and 'R' label on each side of its wide body. I held that clay turtle on my lap, and as I made the digital turtle move about on the screen, I rotated my clay turtle on my lap to match. The clay turtle told me which way was left and right on the screen, so I could continue to move the computer turtle around where I wanted to.

Yes I recall the turtle, thats a blast from the past. Logo was the language, turn left etc. I was jealous because I never had the actual turtle. I think there were hardware tortoises.

A couple memories. I remember, in 4th grade back in 1977, I found a book in the library about BASIC. I read it and painstakingly wrote out simple (and probably wrong) basic programs on notebook paper. Never ran them; had no access to any computer. I just liked the idea.

Then in 5th grade, my elementary school was temporarily loaned a Commodore PET. Chicklet keyboard variety. A few 'special' kids were selected from each class to spend an hour basking in the glory of the machine. Don't remember if we were allowed to touch it.

Then.. maybe another year later... my brother purchased an Ohio Scientific c24p. Very similar to a pet. From there, it was off to the races.

Around 1995 or so I was learning C, and my cousin showed me algorithm (as in steps) to solve a simple 3x3 magic square (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_square). Didn’t have ready access to computer back then, so I wrote the C program on a paper, debugged and ran it mentally and when I was satisfied, got to my fathers’ office that had a computer, luckily with the C compiler.

Typed down the program from paper and it compiled but simply won’t run, no output whatsoever. After hours of struggling, finally figured I had put semicolons after every single statement including all the ‘if’s and ‘for’s. Once I got rid of them, it worked flawlessly.

It was the first program I wrote by myself.

When I was about 12 years old my dad got me a Sharp PC-1500 pocket computer [1]. It had 2KB of memory, a one line LCD display (156×7 pixels), and ran BASIC. I cut my teeth programming it and progressively creating more elaborate programs. At that time I had a hobby of drawing line art like logos and characters. I remember programming it to do animations with physics of the type you usually see in product demos, e.g. a logo dropping from the top and bouncing until it rests; a logo getting formed from animating random pixels, etc. Fun times.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharp_PC-1500

My dad getting a Sinclair ZX81 kit and soldering together then booting into BASIC and him showing me how to program it. Then typing in BASIC programs from magazines only to have them disappear on power down until we got a cassette save working.

Still have the Sinclair in a box in the basement keep wanting to try and get it to boot again.


Got a Commodore 64 after again boots into BASIC, I remember thinking how strange PC's where later that they didn't boot into a full programming language REPL but instead just a command prompt.

Fun fact, early IBM PCs from the 1980s would actually boot into ROM Microsoft BASIC if you didn't have a DOS floppy in the drive. See around the 5-minute mark in this video.


Very similar. ZX-48 at 11 years of age. First some graphics programs, then a chess program. The first program I "invented" was a guessing game. I graduated to pascal a couple of years after on a PC. The class was for professional adults, most of them engineers by training so I was the only kid. I did not have a PC, so I wrote pascal long hand through the week and then typed when in class. Fun times!

100 errors on a Java compiler. I found programming through Runescape; private servers naturally.

I honestly didn’t understand a thing, and rather than picking up a book, I would just read tutorials on forums and copy/paste.

Eventually I realised 100 errors was due to a curly brace mismatch.

It took me a long time to actually understand what code was doing. I felt I had superpowers once I could command if statements and while loops.

I must commend the RSPS community. While it may not have been completely legal, it was a really great way to get into programming since you could see the code at work in a game you loved.

13 years on, I’m yet to find a project I’m passionate about to the point of constantly thinking about it, and working on it whenever possible.

School Apple ][ and commodore PET. Writing simple loops in Basic. Bought the 101 computer games book and finally my parents relented and bought a Microbee. I ended up selling a game I wrote for that, but lost or gave away everything in the early 1990s. Recently a conversation on ebay of all places lead me back to a copy of that game and I was able to run it in an emulator. It was written in basic and the source code was back in all its teenage glory. Its...unimpressive but my teensy bit of 8 bit history being preserved like that was quite a surprise.

Two fun memories come up. 1990-1991 floppy disk, dos viruses era : 1) a classmate places a floppy disk next to another one and takes it back in horror when he was informed that the other one had "virus". 2) a steel sheet cut planning algorithm was running for hours on a 486. A professor's child walks in, asks "which button should i NOT press". Absent minded classmate points to the big red one on the 486.

Coming into school before all the other kids to take a C++ class before regular school starts. I think we had 4 or 5 of us plus the teacher. Making stuff like hello world, a guessing game (generates a random number 1-100, then the statical tactic of only needing 7 guesses if you always pick the middle number), pointers, etc.

Oh, I forgot about middle school. I remember making some basic html websites, but they were just static displays.

Getting a TI-57 in 1978.


RPG Maker 2000, I made small games when I was 11 or so. It wasn’t programming in the purest sense but you could store variables, make if statements and for loops within a dialog based GUI rather than scripting by hand. Despite being designed for japanese style RPGs there was a considerable amount that could be done within those constraints, like shoot em’ ups and such.

Circa 1990/1991 in 3rd grade we had a discussion on what programming was. Basically, the recipe/make a sandwich thing. The teacher played the dumb computer that took the instructions literally.

At the same time, in the 1980s and into the 1990s, math textbooks (in the US) often had BASIC listings at the end of chapters. I saw it, asked my dad how to type it into the computer, the rest was history.

Coding the example programs on the manual delivered with my Timex 2068, at the age of 10.


Drawing spirals and a falling bomb sound making use of the sound chip were two of the samples I remember.

It was 2001, programming using LOGO with a 5 1/2" floppy disk. I was playing with FD 50, RD 30 etc. and went crazy with all repeat statements, to made a CD like image with a hollow circle in the center, but I saw my teacher make complex flowers and curves using LOGO, so mesmerizing as a kid

Running a private server for a popular game called Maplestory back in 2010. 14 year old me trying to make heads or tails of dns, port forwarding, etc. Hardest part was understanding enough of the code to set things like server messages, spawn and drop rates, etc. Ended up getting it working after several weeks of effort.

I remember a childhood friend explaining to me what programming was. His father was a computer programmer. He said "it's math, but letters can be any number". I remember that phrase because I puzzled over it for a long time as a child trying to figure out how that could make sense and be a job.

There was also a dodgy "How to write your own adventure game" ala zork, which i remember fondly. It covered the basics but it was beyond me at the time. I definitely recall those books used to gloss over a lot of details, so it was frustrating. So close, but so far.

Early 1970s.

Writing a very small BASIC program that had a loop to print out the loop-number and some text. It was on a set of punched cards and I gave it to a friend who could put it into a university computer.

It ran but I had omitted to have a test to get out the loop so it ran indefinitely till a reset.

I was about 26.

10 print "Hello" 20 goto 10

I was sold. Then perhaps Pascal on the ancient dos machine, or dabbling with the Toolbox on iigs. But mostly reading the Byte and Apple Incider mags and typing in weird code that never worked, it bugged me enough to go into software dev.

I remember working on a Geocities site, getting frustrated with the sitebuilder and starting to learn HTML. Good times :-)

I was so happy to have my little page on the slice of the web. I still think about it fondly.

P.S. for those interested, it was a website about Yoshi (the Nintendo character).

My first memory is following the venerable C tutorial [1] from the Site du Zero.

[1]: http://sdz.tdct.org/sdz/apprenez-a-programmer-en-c.html

Learning Java about 10 years ago from this Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/thenewboston/featured

Acorn Electron typing random shit in - literally cargo cutting - and getting frustrated that nothing would happen. I’d think yeah the listings do x = x + 1 so I’ll have one of those. I learned programming by trial error imitation.

Trying to log into a free shell to setup an eggdrop bot for my IRC channel. Had to tickle with a few TCL scripts as well for authenticating with the auth serv, and running a trivia bot in the channel. I was 13-14 years old.

I remember in Apple IIe sometime in fourth grade being perplexed by a “for” statement. I could make a loop with GOTO (though I didn’t know it was called a “loop”). But I kept coming across FOR in others AppleBasic game.

Would have been the early 80's typing in BASIC games on BBC Micros at school, followed by a VIC-20 my aunt owned that led to getting my own C64 in '85 when I seriously started programming.

Learning BASIC using one of those gigantic "make your own game" books on our C64. Man I loved that computer. If I remember correctly it was a C64C, so probably around '86 or '87.

Around 2007 to 2009, I had bought a magazine with a CD with a copy of Dark Basic. I thought I was going to make games but I just couldn't understand how to write my own coffee.

Watching over my cousin's shoulder as he debugged a downhill skiing game he wrote for a class he was taking. This was on his newly acquired Apple IIe circa 1983.

My first code was on Planet Source Code, I guess the precursor to GitHub. It was a Visual Basic Tamagotchi-like game, most likely violating copyright laws.

My first computer as a kid, a C64 came with a basic programming book. One of the programs played Tom Dooley which at the time I thought was pretty neat.

my earliest memory is randomly changing the source code of the dos game gorillas (https://www.retrogames.cz/play_654-DOS.php) and breaking gravity

I made a ball move in AS3 in 2012.



20 GOTO 10






10 GOTO 20



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