Sep 23, 2014

What was the first programming language you learned?

I was talking to my kid about my childhood, and the topic of old computers came up. When it hit her that we didn’t have the internet then, she was curious what we did with them since we couldn’t get online. Well, we (1) used them for word processing, (2) played early computer games on them, and (3) wrote our own little programs for them. At the time, that meant BASIC, but I got my first PC back in the 80s so perhaps that isn’t as universal as I was thinking. What was the first programming language that you learned?

VAX Pascal in my first course in Computer Science when I started college (way back in 1978 :-))
Fortran, in 1967. Specifically, FORTRAN II for the IBM 1602, on punch cards!

The local ACM chapter held a five-week one-night-a-week course at my high school. We learned Fortran, then wrote a program and submitted it for keypunching. Then on a Saturday we went to the computer center at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and ran it. I've been designing and coding ever since!

Another vote for BASIC. In college, this was our introduction to programming and we wrote our little 'Hello World' programs on Apple IIe computers. If we didn't destroy anything too important there, we were allowed to move on to the business programming languages. Those were RPGII and COBOL on the Sperry Univac 90/30. Oddly, we went back to the Apples for our Assembler classes.


BASIC for me too. The first thing I remember doing was a little program loop that filled the screen with my name. After I figured out how to do that, I would do it on every computer I saw, sort of like digital graffiti. This was in the 1980s. 


Fun fact - BASIC just turned 50 years old this year. It was developed by two math professors at Dartmouth in 1964. There was a recent Time magazine article about BASIC. I thought it was pretty interesting. http://time.com/69316/basic/


Also, for anyone interested, there is a free version of BASIC available that you can run on Windows machines. http://justbasic.com/ 

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