Archive for October, 2011

The adventure continues

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Please follow me over to qedcode.com.

Remembering Steve

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

My adventure, like so many others of my generation, started on a plastic box built by two guys named Steve in a garage in Los Altos, California.

My sister came home from the first day of high school and told us about these amazing machines that she was working with. You could give these things simple instructions, and they would follow them. Put enough of these instructions together, and it does whatever you want. The next time I went to the mall department store, I saw one of these computers. I played with it until I had a square bouncing around the screen. It went something like this:

10 x = 0
20 y = 0
30 dx = 1
40 dy = 1
50 putchar(" ", x, y)
60 x = x + dx
70 y = y + dy
80 putchar("*", x, y)
90 if x <= 0 or x >= 39 then dx = -dx
100 if y <= 0 or y >= 39 then dy = -dy
110 goto 50

The syntax is wrong, but the spirit is right. I typed in variations of this program on several subsequent visits. I added gravity at some point, but I never saved the program. I always typed it in fresh from memory.

imageI started writing code on paper. This code wouldn’t run on any real machine, only the one in my head. My parents saw this and decided that it was time I got a chance to save my programs. They bought me an Apple II+ with a floppy drive.

I wrote more and more complex programs. I started looking at the machine code and comparing it to the assembly listing in the back of the Apple II users manual. I still remember the comments in that code with the author’s name: Steve Wozniak. I could see the actual loop that made the cursor blink.

Eventually, my Dad got me a subscription to Byte magazine. He also got me the Apple Macro Assembler and a second floppy drive. You had to put the assembler disk in one and write your program on the other.

After that first machine, I went on to an Apple IIe, various “IBM Clones”, and finally became a professional Windows programmer. I came back to Apple when I discovered that a MacBook Pro was the best available laptop for running Vista. I still use that 2007 MBP today (running Windows 7, and with a hard drive and memory upgrade) as my primary machine.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (and my Dad, of course) fed my love for software and helped start this adventure. And now one of them is gone. Let us continue the adventure in his honor.