Valentine’s Day is over but I’m still in the mood. We recently published a story from a Vertabelo Academy user who found her love thanks to SQL. On a similar note, I asked my colleagues to bring back old memories of writing their very first scripts. And yes, love is involved.
Here at Vertabelo Academy, we’ve got some real OG programmers and data scientists making great content. They fell in love with data way before it was cool—and easy. So today, we’re jumping back in time to see what it was like to learn SQL before the Internet and Vertabelo Academy courses existed. I’ve gathered stories from people with different levels of experience to show this change over time. Enjoy! 😉
This is how I became a cyberking in 1987, insofar as an underskilled young boy from a small town could be a cyberking, of course.
“I first came across a real computer in 1986 at my uncle’s. He worked as an electronic engineer and came into contact with huge industrial computers (so-called mainframes with a weight of a few tons and small power plants nearby). My uncle and a few of his colleagues were a group of enthusiasts that wished to have *their own* computer. […] I had a chance of admiring, touching, and most importantly, playing games on a real Atari 65 XE computer:
Fortunately, my uncle gladly let me use that wonderful machine and I literally fell in unconditional love with it after a few weeks. I desired to have my own computer! However, such equipment was extremely expensive at that time and required American dollars. Although my enthusiasm was hard to understand, my father came forward and took up an occasional job to finally purchase a computer at a “Pewex” international trade company store [a chain of hard currency shops at that time, they sold otherwise unobtainable Western goods in exchange for Western currencies, most commonly the United States dollar – red.] for as much as 125 USD. This is how I became a cyberking in 1987, insofar as an underskilled young boy from a small town could be a cyberking, of course. […]
The computer I got was at my disposal 24 hours a day, excluding the time spent at school, unfortunately. Still, I struggled to find some materials I could use to learn something new. The Internet wasn’t around yet. Computer magazines only started to appear at that time, usually as minor supplements to popular newspapers. I couldn’t find books about programming no matter where I looked. I ended up buying everything I could, regardless of the computer type or programming language it concerned. Each time, I read through what I found and tried to run it on my Atari. It usually didn’t work. […]
After a few years of my adventure with Atari, I developed an economic game called Stock Broker II. I was inspired by a similar title available on the Amstrad computer. As is often the case, my game intended to eliminate the faults present in the original product. I did succeeded in my local environment, and even outside it—many years later, I came across a man at the other end of Poland who was a fan of it (note that the Internet still wasn’t there 😉). Finally, there came another step when I started making money with my skills. That, however, is another story…”
Now, the ones and zeros on the cover of the first magazine are no longer cryptic.
“I remember it was a cold January. My mom bought me a computer magazine called “Komputer”. There was sequence of ones and zeros on the cover that I thought looked neat, but I had no idea what it meant. The articles themselves were also pretty cryptic. Not sure why, but I wanted to know how computers work. I just wanted to know more. I didn’t have a computer at that time, but my friend had one. It was a famed Atari 65 XE. I was able to type my first programs between game sessions. My first bit of code was something like:
10 PRINT “HELLO”
20 GOTO 10
Though the “Hello” message was often replaced with something else 😉 We were teens, heh. Programming was really a pain in the *neck*. Documentation was sparse and hard to obtain. The Internet wasn’t even covered in available publications at the time, so I relied mostly on experiments. About two years later, my dad bought me a computer, the same Atari model my friend had. I had more time to code at nights, and it was pretty fun. Just me and the machine. No other distractions. No mobile phones, no Internet, etc. More and more magazines and books about computers became available in Polish as time went by. I still have books written by Wojciech Zientara. He was my god at that time. He knows everything about Atari.
Now, the ones and zeros on the cover of the first magazine are no longer cryptic. They spell out 1987 in binary.”
I’d rewrite programs from paper to the computer and try to compile and run them.
“It was the mid-1990s. My mother, a primary school teacher, was taking some university courses to get qualifications for teaching mathematics. Her courses included a programming course, in Borland Turbo Pascal.
My mother installed the Turbo Pascal compiler on our computer (via a 3-inch floppy disk, of course). She also brought home multiple printed listings of very simple programs. To this day, I remember her slightly yellowish photocopied printouts. So this is all I had: my mother’s notes, my mother’s compiler, and her listings. I’d rewrite programs from paper to the computer and try to compile and run them. I remember that each listing started with multiple writeIn statements explaining what the program does. It took me a program or two to figure out that these are not necessary 😉 Little by little, I learned about variables, if statements, loops, and so on, and I started to modify programs on my own. And that’s how my programming started!”
What’s your favourite color?
“My adventure with programming started just after I decided to study computer science. I was, I think, 15 at the moment. I wrote my first program in C++, and it simply displayed “What’s your favourite color?” and replied with “Awesome, I like too 😉”. My brother was very helpful in the process—I remember when I used to show him what I’d done, and he pretended to be impressed. He also showed me his own game (it was a simulator of riding a forklift). I thought it was amazing and wanted to create my own game, too! After some time, my enthusiasm dropped, but I was still committed to studying computer science. I applied to Warsaw University, where I learned useful applications of programming languages, and after some time, I was skillful enough to get paid for doing interesting things.”
Computers and internet were must-haves.
“My first contact with programming wasn’t too long ago. It was in my 2nd class of high school [11th grade]. We had a class where were taught simple algorithms, SQL, and Excel. To be honest, I didn’t understand much from these algorithms and how to code them. However, everything changed during the summer after my graduation when I chose to study computer science at the University of Warsaw as my main field. And that’s when I truly started my journey with coding. I am quite young, so computers and internet were must-haves. At first, I learned mostly from my peers and tried to talk to them as much as I could to obtain anything that could help me with my problems. With time, I learned to find answers to my questions on my own (using Google ofc 😉). To be honest, I don’t think I ever had anybody who was my inspiration, and there was no difference with programming. My main motivation was staying in college and trying to not get kicked out. However, it turned out that wasn’t enough, and I had to retake my first year. The first script I wrote, or rather a program, was a terminal game based on the well-known ‘Boulder Dash’. And for my first program, it wasn’t that bad! It even passed all the tests given by the lecturer 😉”
Will you fall in love?
The greatest love is often the most challenging—and I think we can all relate to that. There are different types of love, though, and not all stories have to end tragically. You’ve read stories of–people who struggled to get started with computer programming but ultimately succeeded. They fought for their love regardless of the obstacles they faced and prevailed because they did not give up. Great love demands great sacrifices. Have you ever fought for your dreams? What was it for? Can’t wait to read your story!