Conor vs. How I got into computers…
I thought I’d do a small post about some of the reasons I got into computers since I’ve randomly had a few opportunities to revisit them. Tron 2 came out recently, reminding me of the original movie. Additionally, I went home for the holidays and found some of the early books I used when doing some of my early programming…
(So, if you don’t care about these, you can skip this post and I’ll get back to database stuff next post :)).
This was one of the first movies I saw “in the theater” when I was growing up. It was not a commercially successful movie, but the concepts in the movie were very, very advanced for the time. Things that were “new” (at least as far as I know/knew):
- a computer animated film (no special effects nomination was given for the Academy Awards because people thought they “cheated” by using a computer)
- a film with programs being alive and interacting with each other. They “drink’ energy, can be deleted, can interact with users through IO ports, and they had storage that doubled as a frisbee weapon
- the concept of people (users) being put into the computer (star trek never tried to tell us what happened inside the transporters :)).
- A whole litany of issues around the ethics of computer programs – hacking into real-life machines elsewhere, whether programs should be “free” or “controlled by the master control program”, etc.
Essentially, a lot of concepts of what we now call cyberspace derived from this film. It also happened to open the eyes of one fairly young kid from Texas and make me think about the world quite a bit differently. I had played with computers a lot as a kid (my dad would bring home computers for the weekend from his work and we would play with them), but this was the mind-blowing hand-grenade that opened my imagination on so many dimensions that it has stuck with me ever since.
Of course, the concept of TRON 2 was about the most awesome thing I’ve heard in years for a film. Flynn being missing for 20 years and being stuck in the machine all that time – again, never been done. So, I went with a few of my old college friends to the midnight showing when it opened :).
My feelings on the sequel are mixed – I think that the story idea was great, the special effects were very good, the script was generally in need of a few more rounds of edits, and the cinematography was dominated by WAY too many overly choreographed walking scenes for undeveloped characters. I’m still really happy I got to see it and happy I got to see it with friends, but I’ve spent the last month pondering how I would have made it better. C’est la vie…
The other little tidbit I’d like to share with you are some books I found on a bookshelf at my parent’s house that I had when I was a boy. My earliest programming was doing Logo on a TI-99 4a, if memory serves. Later, I spent some more time playing with other platforms. I read a series of books by Usborne that contained various listings in BASIC that you could try (and modify). There was a book on each genre of programs (Adventure, Space games, Battlegames, and even one on graphics). The BASIC provided would work on a variety of “micro” computers (as they were called back then). Specifically the ZX Spectrum, ZX81, BBC, TRS-80, Apple, VIC, and PET. They made the programs “portable” by showing the lines that needed to be customized to make it work on each platform. I personally programmed mostly on the Apple II, IIe, etc. I also spent some time on the Commodore 64. Later in life I also played with the Amiga, The Apple IIc, and I circled back around in college and got myself a TRS-80 model 3 just for fun :).
The programs contained in these books were trivially simple by today’s standards. (The books are from around 1982). However, they were lots of fun and challenge for a young boy. These weren’t the only things I did as a kid to learn how to program, but I was still very happy to find them.
My 5-year old daughter is not quite old enough to try something like this yet, but I’m saving these for the day when she is old enough to appreciate them.
Happy New Year – I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane with me :).