The Joy of Programming

My XO Laptop running eToys signed by Alan Kay on February 26, 2015 — “The future will be better”

My programming story begins

I love coding. I started coding in BASIC when I was 11 years old. I am from a fortunate generation, which was the first to have access to personal computers in their homes. I first started teaching myself BASIC on an Epson HX-20. The Epson HX-20 is regarded by some as the world’s first laptop computer. I still regret having sold this wonderful piece of computing history when I was in college.

Telling my story

I’m now 51 years old, and after 40 years of coding in 20+ different programming languages, I am happy to say that I am still hooked.

Good stories have heroes

The 1980s

During the mid to late-80s, I learned a bunch of programming languages including BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, Logo, Prolog, Dbase III+ and Clipper ‘87. I taught myself Dbase III+ in the mid-1980s, and then landed a job right after high school as a part-time consultant working with Clipper Summer ’87. This helped me pay for my university education at Rutgers Newark/NJIT.

The 1990s

After I finished school, I got a job working as a corporate programmer in the Rating and Underwriting department of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ). I start out programming in Clipper 5.x, and later would learn and program in the Windows version of Clipper which was called CA-Visual Objects. I spent all of my early career working in DOS, Windows 3.1, OS/2 and then Windows 95/NT.

Y2K+

In the year 2000, I decided to leave my beautiful coding life as a Smalltalk developer, to go code in Visual Basic and more Enterprise-popular languages like Java, because that is where the industry was focusing. My former Distributed Smalltalk mentor told me to go learn Java and become an expert in it, so I did. I was happy about the possibility of the future, but miserable that I had to code in Visual Basic and Java. I had traded in a flying DeLorean time machine for a Schwinn Bicycle and a Ford Truck. The bicycle looked new and shiny, but was mostly useless for anything but trivial apps. The truck could do a lot of heavy lifting but required a lot of gas (developer effort).

The Joy of Programming

The most important lesson I have taught developers over the years is that Programming is Fun. If you are programming, and you are not having fun, then you may be doing it wrong. It may not be your fault. Ask for help. We are at our most creative when programming is fun. Creativity is play. We need to be creative to solve the complex problems we are faced with today.

Sharing is Caring

Do what you love. Love what you do. Get paid for it if and while you can. Pay it forward. Share your joy of programming with others. Motivate and inspire future generations to achieve all they are capable of. Then perhaps you might understand and appreciate the Joy of Programming as I do.

The Future

After 40 years of coding, I have decided to write a lot more frequently. I am on a personal mission to share as much as I can remember about Java, Eclipse Collections and Smalltalk. I am writing 1–2 blogs a month on Medium now. I will have been blogging publicly for the past five years by August of this year. I want to do my part to make the future better, and to keep the joy of programming alive for future generations.

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Donald Raab

Donald Raab

1.2K Followers

Java Champion. Creator of the Eclipse Collections OSS Java library (http://www.eclipse.org/collections/). Inspired by Smalltalk. Opinions are my own.