In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

or, how everything started

In this first Post I would like to tell you how my journey into the world of computers began.

I think I was something between 10 to 12 years old when I watched the older brother of a friend playing a text based computer game in fullscreen console on Windows 95.

“Why do you play a game like that? Why not play one which has graphics?” - “Because we wrote this game ourselves”

“Wrote?”

So it came that one week later my friend brought a floppy to class with the words: “Here you have it. The game my bro wrote with his friends”. I couldn’t await it even more than usual to get home.

“Well, this looks kind of different than it looked at his computer. Maybe he got me the wrong file?” These were the first thoughts that came to me when opening schulsim.bas. But at the same time the text was strangely familiar, just those additional strange english words (I’m a native German) surprised and confused me.

Whatever. Let’s play! So I started playing the game, read: typed a, b, or c depending if I wanted to go into the classroom, the hallway or the principals office. Of course I chose option b, the hallway. Strange. Nothing happened. But I could read the next scenario anyways, so I just scrolled down and decided to try to pick a locker. Unfortunately I had no luck, and why is this game so different than what I saw last week? I have to scroll down myself, the text looks grey on blue instead of just white on black, there is no interaction, and all those weird english words everywhere.

After playing a while like this (I surely enjoyed myself, but enough is enough), I decided that eating is much better than playing. So when I wanted to close the program I realized the menu bar at the top, especially one item: execute.

I clicked on it, and a little window with weird messages pops up. I realized it were errors and they pointed at the lines I edited. All my yesses and noes, my a, b, c and d’s. What was his problem with those? He didn’t do anything anyway, so why complain now?

I removed all of them and clicked again on execute, suddenly the screen turned to white color on black background.

Now, before you think I must have been a total retard keep in mind that there was no Internet at that time (not for me), nobody in my family used a computer, and thus nobody ever told me how computer programs worked, I had no concept of compilers nor interpreters nor anything. I was just a kid discovering how to program all by itself. I continued to alter the code and hit execute and slowly learned what if, goto, and $NAME did and were, by try and error, by comparing my change to the change of program behaviour. The help menu of QBasic was not of much use to me since it was in english, and my english skills were limited to apple and ruler at that time.

This is how I started my journey into the world of programming. I had a lot of fun, and felt like discovering a whole new world, of which noone ever told me before.

Composed with vim. Published on Sat, May 3, 2014 via Hugo.
© Michael Vetter