Do You Remember Your First Coding Experience?

awwsmm profile image Andrew (he/him) ・1 min read

Working in the tech industry day in, day out, we can become jaded to the reality of just how cool programming actually is. As humans, we've figured out how to get inanimate objects to calculate things for us:


I can vaguely remember how it felt the first time I wrote a program. I took C++ class and a Java class in high school and I think I took the Java class first. I remember that the syntax didn't make any sense to me at the time but I thought it was really cool how you could type something into the command line and your program could take your input and manipulate it and return a result.

I was really into creating text-based games and GUIs seemed way too advanced to even consider learning. I'm sure that's influenced my programming preferences today, as I still stick with languages that I mostly interact with through the command line (not too much web / graphical work for me).

Then, everyone got Xanga accounts (remember that, USA people?) and was trying to customise their profiles, so I started learning HTML and CSS. There were so many acronyms for different kinds of "cutting edge" web design at the time: XHTML, DHTML, etc. It all seems so quaint now.

What was your first coding experience like? Was it decades ago or last month? Was it nerve-wracking or exciting?

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Andrew (he/him)


Got a Ph.D. looking for dark matter, but not finding any. Now I code full-time. Je parle un peu français. dogs > cats


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My first coding experience was when my friend introduced me to websites with Geocities. I don't remember some of the details of what I did first, but I viscerally remember the shock and awe that this was something I was capable of doing.

I knew that programs and websites got built somehow, but it was completely abstract to me. The realization that it was so accessible was absolutely mind-blowing.


Yep, I had a terrible Calvin and Hobbes Geocities page back in the day. Complete with 1990s marquees and "under construction" gifs.

I also made my first non WYSIWYG webpage in HTML4 to host the games I was trying to make in 3d Gamestudio. I don't remember what I used to host that page though or if it still exists anywhere.


Ah, the good old "under construction". Another thing from the early web that I forgot about.

And there were whole sites w/ great GIFs where you could get cooler "under construction" symbols & dividers than your friends had!

Or where your friends had gotten cool ones and wouldn't tell you about their source.

And wouldn't talk to you at lunch the next day if you just downloaded from their page and used the cool icon/divider on your page without their blessing.


Geocities was my first experience too. My friend showed it to me and we talked about HTML and FTP and it was all so cool. The internet was really new to me at this time, ~1996, and it was amazing to see how websites were built and that I could do it myself.


I built my first website on Geocities too, using MS Word 98 (it had a website mode), good times, filled with gifs, JS snow and custom animated mouse pointers.


Ah! You just reminded me of Microsoft Frontpage! I forgot about that. Oh, the repressed memories...

I always used the web editor in Geocities. I don't think I had a home computer at the time so it was mostly school and friends' houses. I didn't really learn FTP or code editors or anything.

I'm truly cloud native.

Ahahah indeed, that was the cloud waaaay before we had that term coined :)

I had a relative in computers I asked for help setting up a Geocities/Angelfire like my friend had.

He refused to help me, gave me an account on his webserver Unix box, taught me to use FTP / set up Netscape Navigator's editor to publish to it, and, when I hit a wall with Netscape Navigator's editor, taught me how to edit the HTML of my page for finer-grained control.

Wouldn't help me with the fun unless I picked up some "real programming" along with the fun.

Set me up with an e-mail account on that box, too, and taught me to telnet to it and use Emacs to edit my mail when on someone else's computer instead of on a computer when I had ... boy ... there must've been a mail function in Netscape before Thunderbird came out or something... :-)

I didn't properly program for many years thereafter, but it was a great foundation for later learning. Mission accomplished, picky older relative!


The ability to add your favorite My Chemical Romance song as background music on your blog was the height of 😎 in 2007.


I was ten years old, it was my birthday. 1988. I came downstairs to find my dad had bought me a ZX Spectrum. The rubber keys had arcane commands - push, poke, print - I bashed them and THINGS HAPPENED ON THE SCREEN!

What voodoo magic was this? Thus began a lifelong love affair - I wrote about it here.


That, for me, was the coolest thing. Not only that pressing keys "made things happen" (that's just what a keyboard does, right?), but that you could take input from the user and do things with it. I think it was that ability to automate things that really intrigued me.


I was 7 I think. My Dad came how with a ZX Spectrum and it was beautiful. Rubber keys, shiny box, rainbow on the side. It plugged into the TV and had a tape deck and we played Horace Goes Skiing.

Then I discovered BASIC

20 GOTO 10

And in that one POO filled moment, I was hooked. My Mum even helped typing out listings from books and magazines because I was too young to have the attention span for writing hangman with graphics, but my love for programming stayed with me.

I recently paid my Mum back - my Dad has been playing with a Raspberry Pi and my Mum was talking fondly about how she enjoyed typing in those listings - so for her birthday 2 days ago I bought her her own Raspberry Pi and a Scratch/simple Python coding book to copy from!


I've noticed that a few people here were introduced to computers via the UK's golden era in the 1980's: Sinclair ZX80, Spectrum, BBC Micro and the Dragon.

Of course there was Commodore VIC20 (we had fights at school as to which was the best Spectrum or VIC20) and Commodore PET, TRS-80 and something called an Apple II (though I never saw one, very rare in my circles in the UK).


I was the editor of both Acorn Computing (originally The Micro User) and later Acorn User magazines :-)

(My wife wants to point out that she was Managing Editor of Acorn Computing.)


I used to sneak through the library in grade school and type
10 print “/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\“
20 goto 10

on all of the C=64 and PETs. Nobody every figured out why thise darn computers got all buggy all the time.



That's great! Much more inventive than "asdf" over and over like I usually did when I started.


Not sure if it counts but ... mine was about three years ago at the grand old age of 31 when I stumbled into a job that had me using SAS for the first time ever. I was late to the game, very, very late to the game. Then I got hooked on SQL.

I tried JavaScript on a three month part time general assembly course two years ago thinking I was going to be a web dev ... and then went straight back to SQL.


That counts! If I had to choose between the two, I would probably also choose SQL over JavaScript. Domain-specific languages like SAS take a lot of heat from "real" programmers, but even things like making a complicated Excel macro count as programming, in my opinion. It's the same thought process, just funneled through a different medium.


That's a good way to look at it.

Building VLOOKUPs and Pivot Tables and IF statements in Excel is such a good 'launching off' point for junior data analysts. Teaching SQL concepts is a lot quicker with a bit of Excel background.

I am glad I said goodbye to SAS, it was used to move data around and not do any statistical analysis so was overkill for what was needed.


My brother and I started coding with the warcraft 3 map editor. Gosh it was really fun to see how the units moved by themselves, the events triggered, the missions worked and how our ~bad~ voice played in the dialogs.

We wrote two little campaigns and expended 3++ month with each one.


That's really cool that you and your brother got to do that together! Does he still code?


I was 11 and it was 1969. I sat at home writing out BASIC code ready to transcribe it on to the teletype machine in my school linked to a mainframe about 10 miles away.

It was my all-singing all-dancing moon-lander game. It didn't work. Of course it didn't. And it was the first time I hit the wall in coding trying to do something far beyond my abilities. Definitely not the last :-)

But I never stopped. And here I am, 50 years later, writing code for a living. (Website back-end stuff - don't ask me to design anything :-) )


Kids today have it easy! I'm glad I never had to use punch cards.


Punched cards, punched tape, coding by marking formatted cards - I've done it all :-)

I've even had to bootstrap a clean PDP mini by writing and then keying-in the code to make the tape-reader work - using physical switches on the main panel.

It's a humbling experience.


2011, I had just stopped staying with mom and dad, 14 years of age, and needed something to fill the void I constantly felt from loneliness which I didn't understand it to be, manifested in pains... Coding came and took the pain away(poetry {being open with it} joined in soon enough). Encountered wapka.mobi, can't say how I first realized it, but when I saw the possibility of being capable of bringing websites to life, I was hooked lines and codes.

I started copying and posting XHTML codes from local/international forums to set up websites on wapka, modifying them and feeling like a don, sometime in 2012/2013, I stumbled upon Uloki Script, a forum script that's written in php by a then Indian schoolboy, I really tore that script to bits and studied it extensively, worked with it for about 3years, this led to my loyalty to hypertext preprocessor, taught me CSS better and introduced me to SQL...

Code and poetry have long since been my babes. Child and lover.

One of the reasons why I am a sucker for WordPress.


It's good that you're so open about your mental health!


Thank you. It helps in getting over rough times and staying stronger.


Year 6, aged 11, we had a BBC computer and a "twenty questions" game on it, where you would think of an X and the computer would ask you Yes/No questions to guess it.

I could tell it was nothing magic, just a big flow chart switching on to the next possible questions based on binary answers. It had a make-your-own option, so I made one for the class' favourite 90s pop stars and footballers of the day, with a feature at the end that if it did not guess their chosen celeb, they could enter its name and it would save the decision branches that had led there.

I didn't quite understand what I was doing, and the software itself must have offered some guidance, but what was important was that I understood WHY it was working and what was happening behind the scenes.

Then RPGMaker in the early 2000s, whereby it took me a day or so to program all the possibilities of opening a chest, acquiring the prize (and thus removing it from the chest) and adding it to inventory - if there was space. If, if else, else...


That sounds really neat! I think games and toys like that are a great way to get kids interested in programming. Then, work up to a language like Scratch before moving to something like Python.


I really don't remember. It was around 1980 or 81. I think probably on a homemade zx80 or a Commodore Pet.

I wrote my first C program in the late 80s, and I have seen a print out of it this century. If I can find it, poking around in the attic you can see it


I would love to see it if it's not too much effort to find!


I was in the attic looking in old boxes. I found some student programs I wrote in the early 90s, but not in C. I found a couple of still shrink wrapped BSD manuals. Oh and an X Terminal. A hardware one

No sign of the original C program though :)


A long time ago (39 years ago), in a country far far away (I'm in Canada now, was in the UK), my dad decided he had no idea how to write BASIC on his new Sinclair ZX80. I took the manual and read it for a week without touching the small black obelisk. I took the small block of plastic, the manual and cables into the dining room and connected it to an old black and white TV and turned it on. As a ten year old, it was incredible to see a white screen and a small flashing cursor, awaiting my commands.

Okay, I'm going to get the most out of this. I shall play a trick on my brother...

40 GOTO 30

"HEY BROTHER... COME see what I did...."


Haha kids are really inventive when it comes to harassing their siblings!


I made a shooting game in 3D GameStudio some 12 years ago. I don't even know if 3d GameStudio even exists. It was a defend the castle sort of game. I had little animated 3d stick men who'd attack your castle and you'd have to shoot them before they got to your castle. There were numerous weapons you could use.

It was in a language called C-Script, some mishmash of C++ that GameStudio used (it's now Lite-C I think)

I never got it finished due to a bug in the code I couldn't find, but the first level or two worked!

I still have the code and the code was god awful.


Wow! A blast from the past! Maybe someone can help you get it working (and debug the enemy spawning issues).


I was about 11 years old when I got an old computer with a green on black text display called Genie II. I programmed a Lotto number generator in Basic. My parents did not program and found it pretty amazing and I was soo proud!


I think we actually won 5 Deutsche Mark once back then...

I had the code from a book from a library. I was full of of small programs and games and you had to read and type and try to avoid typos. It was basically google/SO... but way slower 😎


It was like 2 years ago i think, on my youtube videos feed it appeared a vide called "Building a neuronal network with Java", and thank the universe i clicked on the video,i remember beeing facinated watching how a normal guy could tell a computer how to do something by its own!.

So i started learning in a Java environment, more focused on the design called (Processing), and i learned all that good stuff, and eventually i became a web developer.


I started using basic on my C=64 when I was just a wee lad and I did all manner of shell scripting and packaging in the dot-com. And there were of course all the structured programming classes....
But my first “real” coding experience was writing some really useful and functional CGI applications with perl.

It was a profound experience to write code that actually “does things” for “anyone” on the internet instead of my usual automating manual tasks.

The night of my first prod deployment, I dreamed that I was coding things into existence... a chicken for example.

Definitely a sign of working too hard when you typecast avians but I still remember it very clearly as my first coding experience.


It sounds like maybe you were having a premonition of Chicken.


It was not specifically "coding" per se but the first time I felt I was "programming" a computer was while installing/configuring Red Hat Linux 5.2. I wasn't fully aware what that was or what it meant but I loved it.

I had to grab my monitor's manual to properly configure the vertical and horizontal rate otherwise it wouldn't really work.

Amazing how far we got. I haven't seen a manual in decades!


I remember doing this, too, with a desktop that my brother and I used to work on school assignments. I was trying to "upgrade" it once and accidentally uninstalled the video drivers...

He lost all of his book reports from that summer and had to re-do them all in about 3 weeks. Whoops.


Turbopascal at school in 2000 or 2001. I hated it and deselected "Computer science" for the next class.


Agree but you lucky I also had Prolog :) What reconciliates me with coding was ... assembly language because it could do amazing things like parallel programming and our teacher shows us how with a visual method called graphcet fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grafcet
It's unfortunate nobody nearly knows it. Maybe one day I'll do something ;)


For me, it was Python that brought me back :)


TURBO Pascal sounds much more exciting than boring regular Pascal.


Grade 6, PC Logo. Not sure how many remember it. The program came in floppy disk which would often get currupt and we would then use pen and paper to write our code. Later Grade 8, GW Basic. Fell in love with it instantly. It felt like I was introduced to alternate universe with so many possibilities.


Wrote my first ever "Hello World" in Turbo C++. I felt powerful! For the next 4 years of my C and C++ mussing, I started critically examining every program which could be run on the terminal, wondering how it would have been coded, without realising that there are a lot many languages which can be used to make programs which run on terminals.

I was naive.


Around 1985 (I was 5), besides POKEing values to change the background colours my first real attempt was to copy a listing from some C64 Basic book to have a game shooting targets on the screen. It was about 8 pages of densely packed basic code and I entered everything carefully.

It didn't work. Nothing appeared on the screen but it didn't error out either. I realised that the cause could be anywhere in the code I just spent an hour or so typing in and that I didn't actually understand what it was doing.

Given the screenshot in the book of essentially a simple target on screen I didn't feel it was really worth spending more time with it but I still felt satisfied that it started at all. Code was running and doing something. This was the (first and) last time I copied over code from printed media though.


My first coding experience was when I first came a cross YoYoGames' GameMaker. They have a language built in there called GML. I remember being "scared" of for loops, because I thought they looked daunting.


I'm from 1981 so for me it was growing up in the MS-DOS Era.

I went to a computer shop with a grownup to check out computers with 5Mb harddisk.

I somehow managed to format the hard-drive. I was 9 😅.

My first coding was logic in batch files. Loved it. After a few years I was doing qbasic and building install menus for floppy disks with games on it. Unrar this put in disk two 😂.

Then I got the turbo Pascal book of my nephew when I was 12 and my school couldn't help me out. I got stuck and this was in the baby shoes of the www.
Once I went to my technical engineering study there was Altavista (baby 😉) and I learned the ropes with we development (actual developing instead of fiddling with Frontpage).

Thanks to MS-DOS I learned logic before actual coding. It made it easier somehow so I'll be sure to help my kids with a logic robot or something to get ahead. They're 6 now so maybe next year 😎.

Loved how fragile and difficult it all was then. But to ship hard, nowadays there isn't any excuse anymore.

Code Hard, Ship Harder ✌🏻️ 🔥


At x-mas 1992 I was 7 year old and got an old Commodore 64 and this book. Later I got a few games for my C64 too (pirated using audio cassettes) but the damage was already done, I wanted to learn more.

Can't remember how I felt about it, but remember being disappointed that nobody else found it fascinating.


I grew up a little late for the Commodore 64, unfortunately. The first PC I distinctly remember using was Windows 98, right when it came out. I would play Lemmings all day on that thing. I have vague recollections of a computer earlier than that which was all command line (I think). Maybe plain old DOS?


My first coding experience was as a freshman in high school, making a ASCII rocket ship launch off the screen after counting down from 10, via BASIC. I thought it was the neatest thing ever, but after exhausting the resources at available at my high school, I didn't rediscover programming until 19 years later. Wish I would have stuck with it from the get go.


Same! I learned Java and C++ in about 9th grade and didn't pick C++ back up until grad school, for the most part. So many wasted years...


I was 21 years old trying to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise since becoming a doctor wasn't meant for me (I was still in my 1st year of undergrad, just grew disinterested as the school year went along). So I went back to a community college near my home, was looking for classes to sign up for when I stumbled upon the CS classes and saw "Intro to Java". I've heard of Java before but didn't really know what it was.
One big thing was that I have never coded or ever seen code before taking the class so setting up the JVM and Eclipse was like a big "HUH??", but after getting everything set up and followed the example of the obligatory "Hello World" program, I was blown away.
I was blown away by the fact I was able to make my computer say that and felt a rush of excitement because I was able to make my computer do things that I wanted to do.
3 years later, on the way to getting a B.S in CS and I still get that rush of excitement whenever I'm able to solve a problem.


Best of luck with your degree! Still coding in Java?


The first program I remember writing was for graphing equations when I was 13, in Basic on a zx81 with 1kb of ram.


Oh, you know what? I forgot about how some kids in grade school used to program their TI-83 and TI-84 calculators. I never got into it, but I'm sure someone has coded DOOM for those things. I think BASIC and its variants are a first programming language for a huge number of people.


In HS we had a non graphing programmable Casio FX82 which I used to create random dice rolls for my favorite rpg ;)


Copying a MySpace theme from one of those MySpace theme websites, then figuring out how to remove the ad blocks from them... lol


And get rid of the watermarks / "copyright" at the bottom 🙄


I started with Python, learning on my own, but I didnt get too far. It was frustrating, I didn't see the point on programming, but no giving up!

6 months later I started a course on crossplatform development: C#, WinForms and WPF a bit later... and was magical. Since that moment, sharing my passion, that feeling with my first experience... is my objective.


October 1985 I got this issue of MAD in the mail. I was ten. I managed to get the program transcribed onto an apple II. Although I lacked the vocabulary to name what I was doing, in my second go around, I ported the program to a Texas instruments TI-99/4A when I realized that although BASIC would work, variations of the language required figuring out why the program wouldn't run. Basically a bitmap, the program was intentionally tedious, get it, ha ha? but produced an image map of Alfred.


C hello world program using code blocks ide


Flash. ActionScript. Don't want to talk about it.


I did a little Basic on a Vic20, but programming really clicked for me when I saw a variable used in Pascal. Oh the potential I recognised.


In the 90's, I remember typing BASIC programs from a printed magazine (Science & Vie) on an Atari STF! If think it was GFA BASIC ;)



My first coding experience was when I started customizing pages on Neopets & Geocities. I honestly didn't even know what I was doing at the time, I just wanted to create pretty pages.


I got my start back on NeoPets. They gave you a single HTML "Pet's Page" or something.

So many <marquee>'s and <blink>'s everywhere. I'm glad that shit is long gone.


I still can't believe that <marquee> was ever a thing. What was the intent? To emulate news tickers?


Yes, I do. I was 12 or 13 yo. I made a while loop in VB with an alert asking my friend if she was a whore.


Hopefully, your UX skills have improved somewhat since then :).