2: Continuing the journey.

22nd November 2021. 21.22

I am currently writing this at 35,000 feet above the north eastern coast of Canada, flying from San Francisco to London, having spent the last 3 months away from home.

Just leaving San Francisco
Just leaving San Francisco

Just under 5 hours left of the flight. The time for me is currently about 9.30 in the evening so I am not tired. The in-flight entertainment was not very appealing. I played chess for a while but got bored after a couple of hours.

So here I am, writing in my paper journal. Thought I would expand on the last entry and explain how I got from puzzle kid to being a full-time developer.

Wow, I have just seen that the outside temperature is -73 F.

2700 miles to go. I'll fill you in on why I've been away for the last 3 months sometime, but for now back to computers.

The puzzle kid saved his pennies and eventually bought an Amstrad CPC 464. These were around just after the original Sinclair Spectrum.

My beloved Amstrad CPC 464 :-)
My beloved Amstrad CPC 464 :-)

I mainly played games, but sometimes my mate Barrie would come round and we would type in programs from magazines. Tools that spring to mind are one that created your biorythms chart and the other, which we still talk and laugh about to this day was a random phrase generator.

The code listing in the magazine had a long list of sensible words that you could include in the program, and it would pick 3 at random. They were mainly business focused words, so you would get output like "economic growth disruption", or "market quartile sales".

But we were 11 year old lads in my bedroom, having a laugh so obviously we changed the built in list of words to more fruity language. 40 years later I can guarantee that I can call Barrie up and ask him for our favourite phrase and he will say, "flaccid dong erectile"

Boys will be boys, eh.

This was my very first foray into computer programming. I was fascinated that you could type thes commands in and create these programs. I was hooked. or so I thought. Girls came along so my programming ambitions were put on hold. whilst I let my hormones run riot. It would be about 10 years before the bug caught me again.

In my mid 20's I bought my first, PC and memories of the random word generator came flooding back. I decided to get into programming more formally and I signed myself up for an evening adult education class in programming using a language called GW Basic. I Fenof remember it being pretty easy so the next term I signed up for a more advanced course using what I would come to realise was a proper meaningful language.

That language was C.

One of the first meaningful assignments we were given was to write a program that would calculate the factorial of a number that you input. For those of you unsure what this is, the factorial of 5 for example is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120

We had been taught how to use loops in C so you create a loop that starts at 5 and subtracts one from it each time around, then also each time round you would take the previous number that you had saved and multiply it by the current number, saving the total so far.

So 5 x 4 = 20, save it. 20 x 3 = 60, save it. 60 x 2 = 120, save it. 120 x 1 = 120 and that's the answer.

Bonus points given if you spotted that you don't need to have the loop go right down to one as one times something is obviously the same thing.

By the end of this course we wrote a program that had to manage trains coming into a station. Not real ones.

At the time of doing this course I was working in London as a tax consultant for a firm of accountants. I was soon to be married and then I got made redundant from my job. I had a new wife and a mortgage to pay so I had to get a steady job that would pay the bills. with hindsight I should have pursued a programming job. right.

Then, but it was seen as being too risky. It wasn't like it is now. Now days everyone seems to be a programmer.

Wow, it is now -83 degrees outside. Just over 2000 miles to go. Greenland is the next bit of land just ahead of us.

I got a mundane job working for the civil service. Specifically the Employment Service. I took this job thinking it would be a great place to look for a better job.

7 years later I was still there.

Without going into any details, my wife and I split in 1997. I had some savings and I didn't really like my job so at last applied to the University of Kent in Canterbury to do a degree in Computer Science.

I got accepted. Unconditional offer. This was it. Pretty much what I had wanted to be doing for many years.

Going to university in my early 30's was a real eye-opener. I lived on campus with 3 18 year olds. I was affectionately called "Uncle Martin". As it turned out the course was far more theoretical than I had hoped it would be. I was pretty good at the practical aspects but not so much at the more theoretical pieces.

Java was the teaching language of choice and by the end of the course thought I was the bee's knees.

Little did I know that the world of a software engineer was so much more than coding.

My first job after graduating in the year 2000 was for an American company called Unisys. I had vaguely heard of them before. They were known for doing the digital scoreboard for the US Masters Golf, or at least that's the only thing I knew them for.

They had many different divisions specialising in different sectors of business, but I worked for the finance arm. I worked on the South Bank of the river Thames in London in a Lloyds Bank cheque clearing centre. Do you remember cheques? I cannot remember the last time I wrote a cheque out now.

<< Next
Prev >>