ing to whizkid
's writeup located here
is the art of solving problems
I can sum up for you my first experience in "programming." I'll tell you a story.
My mother used to occasionally take me to the law office where she worked for a few hours, if she couldn't find a babysitter. This was in 1989, when she was also the sysadmin of the place. She had to stay after hours to fix up this brief that a lawyer wanted finished, and she wanted to take some taped dictation as well. Thus, she left me to my own devices while she worked. Now, this is a law office I'm talking about. There were many things a nine year old could get into. I can recall a big - no, better make that HUGE, with caps - black cabinet filled to the brim with all sorts of stationery supplies, better than any Grand & Toy. I left Post-It's for everyone that I knew. In the lawyer's lounge, there was a huge, big screen TV, and a lawyer named Jack Shinehoft. Quickly, I became bored with the stock market station Jack was watching, and I became bored with Jack's lackluster company.
I go back down to the basement where my mother worked, and she was doing dictation. I didn't want to bother her; she looked quite busy. So, I checked out the room with the mainframe in it, and in no time, I heard a voice call out, "Don't touch anything in there, Devon!" Drats, foiled again! Abashed, I sit at Trish's - close personal friend of my family - desk, across from my mom. I flick on her computer, her typewriter, and start picking through her drawers (in her desk, fool). I find all sorts of cool pens, pencils, a stapler, and even one of those cool mouthlike staple removers. Excellent fun. Regardless, the computer boots into DOS, and flick on Wordperfect 5. I knew how to do this - when I was six I could operate DOS, move around files, copy, paste, delete. I didn't know what a file was, or what extensions meant though, which is a necessary part of this story.
So, I was decently aware of what I was doing, but not great at it. I start typing away, mostly because typing out text was great fun, and I thought I was talented as all hell because I wasn't just picking at the keyboard: I was tapping at it like a professional, albeit not very fast. So, I save a file. I continue to play with said file. Then, I get a little bored, and start hunting through the menu at the top of the screen. I find menu options. I remove the menu, so that the user has to press Alt-U or something to pull it back up. I swell with pride.
Then, I find the Line Editor. For those who don't know (and I'm not even sure if that's the real name), this Line Editor allowed the user to construct lines by just using the directional keys, right in Word's blue window. (Note: Blue if you leave it as the default. My window was black, with red text, and a bright green menu bar, he he he.)
I quickly filled the screen up with lines and little arrows going every which way. This presented a problem. I wanted to keep this, so I saved it. Unfortunately, I didn't want all this shit on my screen any more. But I didn't, for some reason, know what I named my files! I knew one was called "Devon," But I didn't know what the other one was called. I deduced that my file must be one of the ones without a file extension. But what were all these files with file extensions?
I started to feel bright and happy at this point, because when I opened up one of the files, it was all in gibberish, strange symbols all over the place. But if I scrolled far enough down, there WERE little bits of text! Secrets, I figured. Secret documents!
But I remember: I had to find MY stuff. I write down the names of a few gibberish files that I want to keep. But I also logically deduce that the information that a computer is capable of handling is finite. And a few gibberish files only have one or two lines in them. What possible use can they have? Besides which, they don't have very useful-looking file extensions. I knew at this point that .exe and .bat were very relevant, that I couldn't touch those. They made stuff work. So, I figure that the smaller files all go, except if they've got no file extension. Fair enough. Delete, Delete, Delete. I do encounter a couple of "Access Denied, Abort, Retry, Fail situations, but this doesn't daunt me from my task. After all, those are protected files. They stay. I delete and delete and delete, leaving only .bat, .exe, and extension-free files remaining. The entiretly of the list looks clean, wonderful. I turn the computer off, feeling very proud of myself. And also, I'd experienced a small, unrelated error when trying to load another file, which had caused the computer to freeze, ending my fun. I then return to the typewriter, trying to draw with it, like on the line editor.
I fucked the computer up pretty badly with this little stunt. It took them three days to figure out what the hell had happened with Word. I didn't feel bad, and my mother laughed, said, "You're never going to get this."
Now, my whole purpose was to make things simpler, easier to use. I didn't see any purpose for any additional clutter in the file list. Why bother? The .exe file is the program, the rest is just bells and whistles. I was trying to solve a problem: difficulty in finding a file. I did that, in good style, I thought.