A few weeks ago, Jim Hall shared his story about how he became involved with the open source software community. He shared that he and his brother taught themselves BASIC on their family's computer. When the two brothers entered college, Jim, a physics student, was formally trained on Fortran while his brother, a computer science student, learned the C programming language. Subsequently, Jim took up an interest in C as well, which lead him to create his passion project, FreeDOS, more than 25 years ago. His programming journey continues to evolve today as he teaches others about C.
Jim's story inspired me, and it got me thinking about how every programmer had to start somewhere. I was curious about what others considered their first programming language, so I posed some questions to my Twitter followers and the Opensource.com Correspondents. Here are a few of their responses.
BASIC which I used to learn about programming. I never had to use it for a job however. First language I used for a job was Visual Basic. Fun times !
— Ricardo Gerardi (@ricardogerardi) July 31, 2020
BASIC on the TRS-80.
I still have the TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 in the attic. Probably completely bricked now.
The first language I learned was Dartmouth BASIC, in middle school (1970).
The first language I used on the job (1978) was something called QIC-BASIC, which mystified me because it looked and behaved like FORTRAN.
— The Lavender Lady (@LavenderLady0) July 31, 2020
My first programming language was Pascal. I was in an experimental program in my high-school in which we were supposed to be introduced to programming. In 5 years of high school (yup, in Italy we do one more year) we went in the IT lab for 4 hours total, so it was a joke. I think that the main problem was that there were no teachers available that actually knew how to program. We did not even have a book, so we relied on what our teacher told us. We were not even introduced to loops. Since I did not know what loops were I reinvented them recursively calling a function. I never really used Pascal, but I did write some programs to support me and my friends playing to some role-playing games. At the university, I studied C++ because the most used data analysis framework in High Energy Physics is written in C++. In my first day of PhD, I started learning python, because a friend suggested me to try it and not because I was forced by my supervisor.
QBasic was self-taught around middle school. Alternatively, the first language I was ever taught was Turbo Pascal, in tenth grade. Given the quality of the courses at my high school overall, it was a miracle that I had such a great high school computer science teacher. He was a shop teacher turned physics teacher and he taught this one programming class during one period for fun because he was probably the only person in the building who had ever coded anything. He was awesome and I'm glad I had that class when I did because he retired the next year and our school dropped computer science entirely.
COBOL in the early 80s. Got to use it when I took a job in the 90s with an employer locked into older computers due to financial crisis.
— Mark Traphagen ✊??️? (@marktraphagen) July 30, 2020
Never on the actual first day, but I did have to learn bits of Perl and PHP “on the job” when I was working with a professor on one of his research projects.
Did you learn your first programming language as a hobby or during your formal education? Did you wind up using it in a professional setting? If not, did you have to learn a different language on the job? What inspired you to start coding? Drop us a comment to share your programming story.