Programming languages

Like most programmers of my generation, I first learned BASIC. On an IBM PCjr called Tommy to be exact. November 1984 I went on a 2 week vacation of sorts in France. I took as reading material the hard cover 3-ring binder of IBM BASIC that came with the computer. While on the plane, I tried to work out the equations for projecting 3d objects onto a 2d surface (ie, the screen). I failed.

A year or so later I got my hands on TurboPascal and had great fun with that, especially the better and faster graphics handling.

My first summer job after high-school was programming dBase IV for the North Hatley Library.

In CEGEP (1987-1992), I learned Z80 and 8088 assembler, Forth and C and C++. I also pulled apart a BASIC port of the venerable Star Trek text game and ported it to QuickBASIC, expanding it and giving it a HUD as I did.

At some point I found 2 large books about AI in my father's office at the university. I read as much of them as I understood. I don't remember if I brought them to Bolivia in 1992 or not, but I did try to figure out how to encode AI into a game that would be an extension of the Star Trek text game, which would happen on a randomly generated planet surface. I never coded them up, but I still probably have the notes somewhere.

While in Bolivia, I did some dBase coding and messed around with Fortran so I could play with some 24bit graphics hardware attached to a GIS system. I learned just enough Fortran that I decided I very much disliked Fortran.

After CEGEP, I did an internship at the MTQ where I encountered Clipper, a compiled implementation of the xBase language, with some very powerful extensions. In 1995, I switched to Windows 95 because even if I disliked the GUI, compiling my projects were an order of magnitude faster.

In 1997 I decided to hitch my wagon the rising wave (if you will permit a very mixed metaphor) of the Web in Quebec. Which at that time meant programming in Perl. A language I fell in love with very quickly and have stuck with pretty much since. I played around with Java when it first came out. It looked to be very interesting. But the overhead in terms of setting up classes was so annoying and Perl was so smooth, I gave up on Java.

I spend the week before my 30th birthday learning XML, XSLT and XPath for a project.

Between 1995 and 2005 I went from Windows 95 to dual booting Windows and Linux to using Linux 24/7. I don't remember the exact date though.

2 years ago I wrote POE::XUL, which required me learning JavaScript properly. I'm pleased to see that it has mostly grown up into a real language, despite MS's attempts to sabotage it. The project I wrote based on POE::XUL required me to learn PRO/5 Business Basic. Writing all 3 in the same project was mind bending at times.

Of all languages I've used Clipper, JavaScript and Perl stand out as the most pleasing to use. And Clipper is pretty useless these days, unless someone manages to find me and gets me to maintain some legacy system. Or port it to Linux which would be a nice contract.

I have fond memories of Forth, how small and highly modular it was. But looking at Forth code now just gives me a headache.

Of all the languages I've mentioned, C++ stands out as being annoying, misguided and plane stupid at times. Which is surprising as some very smart people put their minds to creating it.

One regret I have is never learning LISP or another functional language. Erlang in particular gives me a thrill.

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