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A Programmer is Born

Many developers tell tales of the first time they were introduced to programming. I started at the age of fourteen, the year 2006, it was probably October and I was in grade eight. At the time, one of my closest friends, was really into a Linux-based operating system called Gentoo. One day, he brought to school a floppy disk. Within it, he told me with fanaticism, was the tool that would free me from the incumbent operating system. Not that I needed freedom, but I played along, and took the floppy home.

I inserted the disk into my home-made computer which I built a few months prior. It sported an AMD Athlon XP CPU clocked at 1.3Ghz. Accompanied by 512MB ram, a 128GB hard-drive, and an Nvidia 5200FX Graphics card. I was really proud of my machine, and I was about to wipe everything in it. I ran the disk.

Gentoo was not equipped with anything remotely familiar to me. In fact, it had nothing installed. There was only a blinking cursor staring at me waiting for something to happen. I tried typing words into the prompt and received no helpful feedback. Eventually, I typed help, and struck gold. A wall of white text appeared on my 17in CRT monitor. I panned up and down with my keyboard, and eventually read that there was a manual. An online book that I could follow to proceed with the installation. Even though I was running Gentoo from the floppy drive, Gentoo was not running from my hard-drive. The manual explained how to install it locally in my machine. I used my father’s computer to view the URL containing the documentation. I passed it along to my mother who printed it for me the next day. My father was always busy with his PC, so I wasn’t able to use both machines at once. The manual was roughly 400 pages, and occupied an entire binder. I spent weeks reading it.

I sifted through the pages, initially without much understanding. I inserted several commands, sometimes out of order; leading to errors. I hit many dead ends, and I started from scratch many times. After a month of trial-and-error, deep reasoning, and reading; I turned off my machine. I removed the floppy disk, and turned on my computer.

There was no chime or deathly blue imagery, but rather, the silent hum of a fan and a hissing hard-drive. I was greeted by the same prompt from before, but this time I was not using the floppy disk. I had successfully installed Gentoo linux for the first time.

Though typing commands in a computer isn’t exactly programming. I went through the steps of execution that a computer must run to accomplish something. Much like an application, I was running commands to attain a goal. Later on, I would be batching these commands into scripts, and that would be the first time I was exposed to programming. I had no clue what I was doing.

A couple years later, I studied Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and graduated with distinction. As of this writing, I am software developer with many opportunities.

Published 14 Nov 2016