60wpm at 9 Years Old
My first experience with a computer was the family computer in the late 80s. We had Reader Rabbit, and some other educational games. Boy were those fun! But the best part of all was that, when I got grounded for my numerous shenanigans, I was still allowed on the computer because it was just an educational machine for us. And that’s why I could, at the ripe old age of 9, type at 60wpm. You see, my mom still had her old typewriting books from high school, so I spent hours teaching myself to type because there was nothing else to do: couldn’t go outside, couldn’t play Nintendo, couldn’t watch TV…ugh! But what a blessing in disguise :)
Flash forward to 1996, and my family’s first foray into modern computing. A family friend built us a computer. That blew my mind. I did not think it was possible for a mere mortal to build a computer, and yet here it was, a “real” computer, sitting in our living room when I got home from school. It had 1GB of storage which, as our friend promised us, was more than we would ever need. Good thing he was so forward-thinking! Anyway, I filled that thing up almost immediately with games like Starcraft and Diablo. I learned to “hack” my character in Diablo and I thought I was hot stuff, “hacking.”
Learning the Basics…Visual Basic
My high school offered two programming classes: Visual Basic and C++. You had to take VB first, which was probably the best they could do for an intro to programming back then. But I loved every minute of both of those classes. For my final project in VB, I created the silliest program. If you clicked a button it would respond with random sayings, and if you kept clicking it the sayings would get angrier. Eventually, it would say something like, “That’s it, I’ve HAD it!” and the screen would go dark for like 5 seconds. My teacher almost freaked out, she thought I had destroyed the computer.
My final project in C++ was to create a frontend that would interface with a database created in MS Access that held all the information for a greenhouse. One of the school groups was actually going to use my program, but I couldn’t quite get it working in time. I remember working on a problem for days and then waking up in the middle of the night saying, “Aha!” and the solution was in my head.
I chose to go to Charleston Southern University, in Charleston, SC, because it offered music, theology, and computers, the 3 things I was most interested in at the time (well, besides surfing, but no self-respecting university is going to offer surfing as a major now are they?). But when I got there, I was so overwhelmed with the workload for a music major (12 classes my first semester, 11 my second, check my transcript if you don’t believe me), that I must have forgotten that I wanted to learn programming. So I stopped thinking about programming for 8 years. Eight years!
Learning to Learn on My Own
In my next post I’ll discuss how I chose General Assembly amongst the myriad other options (there are hundreds of bootcamps now, many offering online options).