What was your first programming language?

Take our poll to let us know what programming language you learned first. Share your earliest programming memories in the comments.
56 readers like this
56 readers like this
Old UNIX computer

Opensource.com

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 on the TRS-80.

I still have the TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 in the attic. Probably completely bricked now.

Kevin Sonney

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.

Cristiano Fontana

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.

Jason Baker

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.

Joshua Allen Holm

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.

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Lauren is the managing editor for Opensource.com. When she's not organizing the editorial calendar or digging into the data, she can be found going on adventures with her family and German shepherd rescue dog, Quailford. She is passionate about spreading awareness of how open source technology and principles can be applied to areas outside the tech industry such as education and government.

34 Comments

qBasic to be exact lol :) Still remember the gorillas throwing a banana and the snake game.

Hand Assembler. I built an 8008 system hand assembled code was the only way to do anything followed by a panel switch loader. After that it was cassette-tape loaded BASIC on the SWTPC 6800 using 2.5K (later 4K & 8K) BASIC. It was written by a guy called Robert Uiterwyk. Once PC's came in it was Borland's Turbo Pascal that I used.

I first learned Fortran IV as part of a computer science class (yet they had computer science in the 1960's!). At that time, you wrote your program on paper, then transferred it to IBM punch cards. You then had to submit your "job" so that it could be run. You found out about your results the next day, when you might get your printed results wrapped around your cards, or you might get nothing because they wouldn't run, or you might get pages and pages of output, eventually cut off since you created some never-ending loop.
Later on, a great new development was WatFor (named for the Univ of Waterloo in Canada, where it was developed), which was Fortran on a terminal, so now you could enter your program and run it yourself -- of course, that meant you had your little space on the mainframe to store your programs. So now you could create your endless loops live!
Most of today's languages didn't exist then -- it was mostly Fortran, COBOL, and assembly.

I was taught PL/C in first year. It was a simplified PL/1. By the end of the 3rd semester i had also learned Lisp, Pascal and SNOBOL.
My first working programming language was EDL on the IBM Series/1

Applesoft BASIC on a 48k Apple ][+ in grade school (on the school's computer). Soon followed up by BASIC on a TRS-80 CoCo (mine, since Apple computers cost too much).

I wrote literally hundreds of programs (all recorded to cassette tapes, which are probably unusable now because you can't buy cassette recorders anymore) for that CoCo, including games, utilities and demos.

I learned GWBasic in a 7 day summer camp organised by my college in 1989. Never needed to use it, however learned the basic of loops like If-then, for-next, which is basic coding concepts. Later got some knowledge on javascript later in an free online course from Stanford.

My first was ADPAC on an IBM 360 model 30 with 16k of memory.

Mr first programming class was Fortran in about 1971. We used keypunch machines to create a stack of cards. We then submitted the card deck for processing. Turnaround time was 3-4 hours. By the time I took a second class, the university had installed a card reader and printer in a room that accessible to students. Turnaround time dropped to about 10 minutes. We all thought how could it get any better than this.

Yep, BASIC for me too - on an old TRaSh80. Man, I was fascinated to watch those asterisks blink as every line was loaded from cassette tape.
I learnt the easy way what spaghetti code was and it took me years to unlearn the messes I created.
It did pay off though as I got involved in a management system.

Commodore BASIC V2 on a CBM-64, then 6510 Machine code also on the CBM-64. I also used BASIC Lightning on the CBM-64 and some BBC Basic.

Next up was Borland Turbo BASIC and then Turbo Pascal on DOS PCs. After Turbo Pascal I did Sun Pascal on SunOS Unix and then Borland Delphi on Windows.

I then had a go at Perl 5 on Linux and Windows, and some Unix Shell (mostly Bash) on Linux. I'm rather fond of Perl. I also looked at PHP but never really did anything with it.

I've done JavaScript on and off, but only to dabble, likewise a little Java.

And for most of the last 15 years I've been doing SAP's ABAP.

MatLab was my first language.
python wasn't that much popular that time

C for me, though I never had access to a compiler. The Visual Basic included with Microsoft Office was the first programming language I wrote code in.

It was javascript for sure.

"RPGcode" trying to make games as a kid in RPG Toolkit (by Christopher B. Matthews)

Focal on a DEC PDP-8E with ASR-33 Teletype as console ca 1975/76 Later Fortran with Punchcards on an IBM

The language of the TI-83 graphing calculator

Assembler

It was C. Weird that that wasn't an option...

Z80 machine code on a Nascom-1 circa 1979.

m68k assembler and then C in order to generate better assembler with cc -S.

The First for me was MS Batch before learning JavaScript the main language I use now.

Delphi in my case. I voted Pascal, just because it's closest to Delphi.

Same! Started with Delphi in 2009, then C++

In reply to by Constantin Ursu (not verified)

Atlas Autocode on a Titan computer at Cambridge University in the late '60s. I used it to analyze data collected on punched paper tape from a psychology experiment. The programs were also stored on paper tape which made changes a big deal, to say the least.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_(1963_computer)

I learnt BASIC language first in 1987, then C, C++, COBOL, FORTRAN, PASCAL and dBase iiird plus. I used Visual basic, VBA with access and Now a days python and Android Studio...

Well if we count domain specific languages, it would be LEGO Mindstorms (NXT and RCX).

I learnet first PLC programming and then C/C++

Algol, at Stockholm's Kunliga Tekniska Hogskolan, early 1970s.

My First programming language was Turbo Pascal in 2005 while in the 11 grade (High School as a Form 3 student for the 8-4-4 Kenya education system). This was the first time to encounter a computer in my life and i was marvelled with curiosity. There no doubt about and i didn't know what pushed me for it bit I knew this was my where I was going to spend my energy that was being wasted repeating the subjects, copy and paste of teachers. I was tired and bored of the bogus classes. For me they seemed useless and boring. I needed something challenging and I than God lead me to one of the right place. At the time in the school were no computer classes nor was it considered as a subject to be taught. One day i went to school bursar to take a few coins to buy tooth paste when accidentally told me to pick up a printout from the the typewriter. I picked it up and he told me i could help him type a few lines on his desktop computer (Which was the only available computer in the entire school)
Soon i noticed that his machine had a new version of installed microsoft word office that was in disabled mode and he was having trouble editing his work. I told him the reason and he wired the same information to the school principal who sought someone to buy the original office for installations. The guy who brought he office was joke my asked if he can teach computer in school and he said he can but he was still a post graduate student do in his Master in computer science. It never took long I was the first selected student to take the opportunity and three more students. We were only four students allowed to go further with computer studies. We had only two desktop computers after one was added running on windows 98. The teacher said hat he will only take classes with STEM students who had subject combination of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Geography. Our teacher since he was still a computer science student and he always told us to do more of learning and experiment on ourselves. On our finally year we were supposed to create a program and that is when coding started creating my first City Rental collection, Sewage and Parking system. After highschool I never used pascal but had saved and kept the program in a floppy drive which later got distorted when joined medical school. My real in test was to study software development but I called to join the medical school where on my free time I started to peel back my nerd in computer science. I restructured back the program in Pascal. Later in my second year in medical school I started learning website formatting languages: JavaScript, HTML, CSS. I followed with SQL and made my first demo website. After graduating I noticed that the hospital was doing my internship did not have a health care database to store patient electronic records and most of the generation of reports was manual. So divided to help my learning Visual basic and VBA and since there was a desktop computer in one of the Health Records and information department I decided to use VBA since it runs inside MS-Access. I created a masterpiece database for the health facility. I took the opportunity to integrate computer science and Medicine routed to Health Care informatics

My First programming language was Turbo Pascal in 2005 while in the 11 grade (High School as a Form 3 student for the 8-4-4 Kenya education system). This was the first time to encounter a computer in my life and i was marvelled with curiosity. There was no doubt about and i didn't know what pushed me for it but I knew this was where my interest was, somewhere I was going to spend my energy effectively. Energy that was being wasted with learning repeating the subjects, copy and paste of teachers. I was tired and bored of the bogus classes. For me the regular classes seemed useless and boring. I needed something challenging to me and I thank God I was led to the right place. At the time in the school there we no computer classes nor was it considered as a subject to be taught. One day i went to school bursar to take a few coins to buy tooth paste when the bursar accidentally told me to pick up a printout from the typewriter. I picked it up and he later told me if i could help him up type a few lines on his desktop computer (Which was the only available computer in the entire school)
Soon i noticed that his machine had a new version of installed microsoft word office that was in disabled mode and he was having trouble editing his work. I told him the reason and he wired the same information to the school principal who sought someone to buy the original microsoft office for installations. The guy who brought the office installed the office and urged the school principal to do computer maintenance or get someone to do (better not referring to himself). The principal joked and asked him if he can do that and probably teach computer studies in school. He did reject the offer and immediately said he can though he insisted that he will have limited time in the school since he was still a post graduate student do in his Master in computer science. The principal was OK and gave all the rights as long as the subject is introduced into the school curriculum. It never took long I was the first selected student to take the opportunity and three more students were added. We were only four students allowed to go further with computer studies. We had only two desktop computers to share after one was added running on windows 98. The teacher said hat he will only take classes with STEM students who had subject combination of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Geography. Our teacher since he was still a computer science student and he always told us to do more of learning and experiment on ourselves. On our finally year we were supposed to create a program and that is when coding started creating my first City Rental collection, Sewage and Parking system. After highschool I never used pascal but had saved and kept the program in a floppy drive which later got distorted when joined medical school. My real in test was to study software development but I called to join the medical school where on my free time I started to peel back my nerd in computer science. I restructured back the program in Pascal. Later in my second year in medical school I started learning website formatting languages: JavaScript, HTML, CSS. I followed with SQL and made my first demo website. After graduating I noticed that the hospital was doing my internship did not have a health care database to store patient electronic records and most of the generation of reports was manual. So divided to help my learning Visual basic and VBA and since there was a desktop computer in one of the Health Records and information department I decided to use VBA since it runs inside MS-Access. I created a masterpiece database for the health facility. I took the opportunity to integrate computer science and Medicine routed to Health Care informatics

TI-59 calculator's language in 1983.

Assembler on a heath/zenith h89

Assembler on a heath/zenith h89

First Language was 8088 assembler. Followed by BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, and Univac assembler.

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