Geek Firsts


The first program I ever wrote...

was a BASIC program that generated an ASCII-animated rocket, written circa 1981. It was written for the Commodore PET 3032 (6502 CPU, 1 MHz, 32K RAM). There were about a dozen PETs at my junior high, with cassette tape drives for saving media. It took literally five to ten minutes to load a program from tape!

The first computer I used at home...

was a Franklin ACE 1000 (6502 CPU, 1.022 Mhz, 64K RAM ), an Apple II compatible. In the fall of 1982, my dad and I traveled to San Francisco to an Apple show where we picked up not just the Franklin, but a monitor (monochrome amber monitors were the rage in those days), two floppy drives (external of course; there was no such thing as internal), and some games, including the classic helicopter game Choplifter by Dan Gorlin.

Choplifter Screenshot

The first program I wrote that other people used to do real work...

was a program called "Scaler." I wrote it for the lumber company where my Dad worked. It was a fancy calculator for determining "board feet" given lumber dimensions (log diameters and lengths). It used standard U.S. Forest Service scaling tables to do lookups. I wrote it using Borland Turbo C 2.0 for MS-DOS 3.3 on an 80286 machine (8 MHz, 640K RAM, EGA card). The executable was 68K in size and required 12K to run. Here’s some sample code. Believe it or not, the application still runs fine on Windows Vista in a DOS box.

Scaler Screenshot

My first paid programming job...

was at an insurance company in my hometown where I worked as an intern before my final year of college. The main system was a PDP-11/70, along with a couple of VAX superminis. The PDP ran the RSTS/E operating system; the Vaxes ran VMS. All the insurance account reps were hooked up to dumb terminals that talked with the mainframes. My job was bug fixing and enhancing existing Basic-Plus-2 code. That was in the days when basic code still had line numbers. I hesitate to show it, but here’s an actual sample, complete with dozens of GOTOs and GOSUBs, though well-commented and not too hard to read for my first production code.

The coolest non-computer game I've ever played...

was a game we invented while I was working at HyperBole Studios called CD-ROM Golf. It was kind of like frisbee golf, but you rolled the CDs on their edge on the carpet. Because we worked in such an unique office space, we had a very cool course where the best players perfected bank shots and carefully avoided office doors and other "sandtraps." Here are the original CD-ROM Golf Rules.


Last update Jan 2009

© 2009 Pete & Kristi Isensee. All Rights Reserved