Logic’s Last Stand

November 13, 2008

My Path to Programming

Filed under: Computers, Life — Tags: , — Zurahn @ 2:00 am

Growing up, we long had an old Windows 3.1, 30MB HDD computer, but honestly it didn’t get a great deal of use from me. It was out in the hallway, and someone cryptic. But come 1998, we got a Pentium III 800MHz 64MB RAM dream. I can still recall the feeling, because it was completely unique — an absolute desire to use it regardless of the fact it served no required function. I’d make up a need just ot use it, browse the Encarta encyclopaedia just because it was there.

Most people don’t have much of an idea of what they want to do while going through school, and I was no exception to this. Up to high school, the best I could do for a direction is, “maybe something with computers.” I was drawn to computers, but still didn’t have a focus area.

So come grade 10 of high school, we actually had the opportunity to choose some of our own classes. Naturally I crammed in whatever vaguely computer-related courses were available, and that included an introductory programming course.

That class started normally; we did some relatively uninteresting history work, and some basic paint output as a primer of pixel locations and sizes. With this I basically did as well as was normal for any other class.

But the focus tilted more and more toward the actual coding logic. Then something happened–I put things together. Given what we had learned on the structure of conditional statements and loops, I made the simplest program that made all the difference. Guess the number between 1 and 1000. 500? Higher. 750? Lower. It was the most basic of games, but it was a genuine creation.

There is no satisfaction greater than that of the resultant composition shown on screen. By the final two weeks I was essentially finished my entire final project and was helping with others’. I had completely read the course textbook. And I completed that class with 97% and a perfect final project, Arcadia: The Mega-Plex, consisting of 20 games in 5200 lines of code (though I’m sure code optimization could have greatly reduced that).

From that point up to the grade 12 exam, I didn’t lose a single mark; I had 100% in grade 11, and 100% up to the exam in grade 12, ending with 99%. But that final percent was somewhat poetic, as the je ne sais quoi of it all had worn down. Few returned from the grade 10 class, and fewer from the grade 11. The quality of work and the quality of the people themselves slipped, and so did the class content itself due to it having to slow down for the ineptitude of the others.

There was a point in the grade 12 year that there was work given at the end of the day to be completed for the following week, it may have even been two weeks. In the five final minutes left in the class, I had completed that work. However relatively skilled I may have felt at the time, it was certainly not to that degree to call that reasonable.

But we move onto college. After a first slow year of learning minimal, the quality of the professors and class content slipped immensely. There had been absolutely no improvement in enthusiasm for programming.

By the halfway point of college, that was it. I really no longer wanted to go down this path, but was too far in to just quit. Trudging through didn’t help matters, nor did the college quality. At one point I had literally boycotted a class.

Come the final semestre, there was a class dedicated specifically to a single team project. The work for the entire semestre was nothing but work on this one project. Ours was a purchasing system in PHP5. It was a relatively dull concept, poorly planned and a coordination mess.

What happened as a result of that mess was free reign on my part as I took on the entirety of the server-side code. That dull project, 150 hours later was the first time I had enjoyed programming in half a decade.

Yet now being out of college for the past six months, now I see things falling apart all over again for completely different reasons as I can get work nowhere.

Beautifully cruel to give you hope before crushing it.

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