How I came to writing code

(by Ronny Errmann)

The first device I wrote my first programs was the CASIO CFX-9850G, a graphical calculator. We needed it for school (I think 8th grade) and to get it for a lower price, were suggested to buy it even half a year earlier. That was in the mid 90s and, out of interest and out of boredom, I read the manual to see what one can do with it. And by talking to friends, being showed programs from others, I started to understand other people’s code and then tried to solve smaller questions. With time the programs got bigger. In the end I programmed a battleship game and 4 wins, ready to be played in boring lessons against the person sitting next to you. While the programs are long gone (maybe the hand-copied code is still in a folder at my parents place), the calculator is still a part of my desk, although, primarily just as a calculator.

A few years later (or at the same time?) we learned Delphi in School. It was only one year with one or two hours a week, so it couldn’t go into details, however, I know I tried to improve the programs and write more complex ones after school or at home. The GUI made some parts easy, however, looking back it also prevented me from understanding that there is a big benefit for writing back-end code.

After School my interest in coding decreased, mostly because I thought I wasn’t good enough or didn’t see the application. And interest in learning background theory was limited at that age. When I started my Physics studies live was also busy enough. To analyse the laboratory experiments I would work with Excel/OpenOffice Calc and Origin. The built-in functions were enough to solve everything, not elegant, but efficient (in terms of my time).

In my masters project I found the limitations of OpenOffice Calc. To do calculations I just needed so many columns that I would crash it on a regular basis. However, it took until I had to do the first analysis of observational data, that I noticed I need to learn programming. Other people at the institute suggested Python as a start. And so my first basic program was just a python script that would do the steps I would do by hand by itself. It was very procedural, and when I look back, quite funny in how I wrote it. I definitely didn’t search for advice. Luckily this has changed over the years.

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