Kids, Computers, and Code

29 Nov 2013

In a little over a week, we’re going to be participating in’s Hour of Code 2013. As a way to raise awareness about the importance of computer science education, I thought it would be interesting to ask around the office to see what people’s first experiences were with computers:

Me – Business Development and Sales
We got our first computer (an IBM) when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I loved playing games on it. There were two that really stand out: Ruby the Robot (I think that’s what it was called) and Pirates! I do sometimes wish that I had taken the opportunity in those early days to learn more about computer programming, but I always preferred being a swashbuckling pirate to writing lines of code.

Phil – Technical Director
My first experience of coding was re-typing about 500 lines of code from a book into a Commodore 64 when I was around 10. I can’t begin to express how exciting it was to see a light blue dot bouncing up and down the screen when it was all done!! Ha ha!

Jamie – Support Technician
My first solid memory was on a Windows 3.1 machine in 1993 playing civilization 1! Also same PC to play Pirates! Gold and a DOS game called Gorillas.bas.

Graham – Managing Director
I remember as a by-product of working with musicians equipment’s (amps, sound desks etc… non digital of course), I took a Space Invaders game apart (the ones you sat each side of and looked down on like a coffee table – you found them in drinking establishments) to see if I could understand how the display and circuit board where programmed – embedded programming at its best 🙂

Mark – Developer
In 1983, I added extra speech commands to a horse racing/betting game on my ZX Spectrum, which was written in ‘basic’, with the use of my Currah Speech synthesizer plug in hardware module. Those were the days!

I would also spend hours copying/typing in code from computer magazines, only to find the ‘program’ didn’t work anyway. Then spend more hours trying to figure out why! That was the beginning of my programming…. career 😉

Stephen – Senior Developer
I had an Amstrad 464, green screen from about the age of 7. My brother and I were both given basic kids programming books around the time, too. But even before that we were playing on an Atari 2600 (first and only console we’ve ever had).

Reza – Developer
When I was 14, one of my friends at school told me he had a server in a data centre. Apparently, it ran the FreeBSD operating system and you just could download that from the net and install it. I basically spent the next 2 weeks trying to figure out how to burn and install this on an old family computer. I don’t know why I liked it so much, perhaps the simplicity of the control or maybe because I just thought it was cool. In any case, my interest has pretty much snowballed since then.

Tom – Project Manager
An early memory of computers was that I once entered and won a competition in a computer gamers magazine and the prize was a Tour de France game for the Commodore 64, and a promotional sweatshirt. I was really excited – until the bright yellow, unwearable sweatshirt arrived in the post…at least the game was good!

Paul – Operations Manager
Although I had a Commodore 64 as a child, it was in the early 90s when we got a PC that I got really interested in computing. Back in the early 90’s, when the WWW was barely thought of, computer enthusiasts used BBSes to exchange information and (very much like the internet is used today) for wasting time and procrastination.

I remember the first modem I bought for about £100. It was a 14.4Kbps modem, which basically meant it was able to transfer 6.5 mb per hour — that’s about 1 song off iTunes. With such fast connection speeds I remember running up some pretty hefty phone bills just to play chess or poker online for virtual tokens.

Abi – Project Manager
My dad and sister are both really into IT and computer science, as a young creative I grew up with very little interest in this as I thought it was all boring binary and only for the elite super brains out there. Then I went to university and studied on an Animation and Design course, which as well as being creative and extremely fun, was really quite technically challenging and intriguing – this was where my awareness of how cool IT was, came into play. After graduating I then went on a ‘build your own website’ crash course, I saw how exciting the world of the web was and how I could use the skills from Uni, in the new area which was economically growing at a fast rate.

James – Support Technician
My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I can still remember switching tapes and waiting for like 10 minutes whilst it played the tape to load the level. I started using linux as a teenager and switched to Macs in my twenties when I could afford a linux box that actually worked. My first game console was a master system and I once got to the final level, in the only game I owned, Alex the Kid, only to die and I never got there again 🙁

Gary – Developer
I remember getting my first PC, and working with computer from there. All back in the day when AOL gave away free internet access on CD and hard drives topped out at 1GB. So much space it would never be filled! After several free internet access disks I started wondering about the workings of this internet thing, and started venturing into the world of HTML and CSS.

I got more and more interested in computers and decided that a degree in software engineering was for me where I had encounters with everything from building simple websites to working with some technicians who were doing research into robotics for NASA, as well as AI theory and other complex things before settling on working with “the web,” and the intricacies it has when it comes to viewing things on different devices in different browsers. It’s never as easy as it should be or seems with web systems, but that’s part of the challenge I enjoy.