Why did you start programming

6 minute read

While discussing with a mom whose boy wants a computer for Christmas, the said “I suppose he wants to play games, what for otherwise?”. To this I obviously replied “Programming!”. The usual question popped up:

Why did you start (learning) programming?

I posed longer than usual this time along. This is not as trivial as it sounds.

Non programmers truly don’t understand why someone would spend hours deep into this arcane thing. They would expect to spend time away from that damn machine or at least play games on it ; this could be considered fun at least, right?


Well, it’s fairly complex but there is almost always a combination of the following:

  • it was the only way to achieve A (wrote my own game because I could not get ones off the shelves)
  • make this machine do what I want: empowerment and control in a deterministic world.
    Programmers tend to be slightly autistic when in the zone: determinism is really reassuring
  • fiddling with things. When you break dad’s computer, you better have to find a way to fix it before he finds out. That required technical deep dives under adrenaline.

I asked the question (why did you start programming) to the twitter-sphere. Here is the compilation in 140 characters or less.

for me it was ~10, staring at this C:> and knowing that I could control that beast to do what I wanted. - Emmanuel Bernard

Don’t take it that I am a person that enjoys control over things. It was more having the power to do what I could imagine.

to have fun with my computer and display a rotating cube :) when I was 14 - Gerben Castel

Because it was the easiest way to render mathematics concrete - Fabrice Croiseaux

Apologies Fabrice but this on ought to be the weirdest ;)

I had to get a winmoden working with Linux in 96 - Fernando Meyer

I wanted to do like my older brother who could tell his programmable calculator what to do, and it would obey his orders! - Guillaume Laforge

Now Guillaume definitely is after power ;)

I was 8, I had a Commodore 64, and I wanted to know how I could tell it what to do. - Laurent Pireyn

for me it was seeing games on a C64 and thinking: I wanna make something like that! - Marvin

un pote qui m’a montré visual basic quand j’étais au lycée… le côté créatif et ludique m’a donné envie d’essayer - Loïc Descotte

got an old Mo5 from my cousins around 8 and had to learn how to use it to play games recorded on tapes… - benzonico

I got fascinated by those strange sentences on my VIC20 manual that could make my VIC20 display beautiful things on TV :) - Fabio Mancinelli

i was so excited to write my surname on the screen of our #zx81 - asicfr

11 in 1982, ZX81, Basic. Amazed to see a machine reproduce what I had written : a program. - Jean-Baptiste Briaud

In ~1980, Video games and computers were everywhere in Tokyo. First step was to play with, then to understand them. - Sébastien Douche

At 10, I was into drawing, he was into game programming. He’s an architect (building), I’m a programmer. #BrotherAndSister - Corinne

Knowledge transfer at play ;)

My father brought a ZX81 in my lost village. - Didier Girard

Nothing else to do I guess.

As a kid I was not allowed to have a gaming console, only a C64. Had to build games myself. - Olivier Hubaut

age 9, tried format A: w/ ASM from P. Norton book, ended up fmting C:, my 1st app,1st OS reinstall & freaked out dad :) - Jo Voordeckers

I did that one too. I was annoyed by the . and .. in each directory so I deleted them! I deleted autoexec.bat and config.sys and ended up reinstalling the OS. Fiddling with things is core to programmer psyche.

The need to automate things. Write once, Run many times ! - Laurent

A lazy guy right there! Another trait of programmers.

Because computer didn’t blame me when I failed vs sport/friends being a shy child. + Proud by “I did it myself” - Nicolas De loof

Despite what others think, a computer is a very predictable environment and is very reassuring for all these mildly autistic programmer minds.

@julienkauffmann qui me fait découvrir Delphi et comment changer la couleur du fond en cliquant sur un bouton. - Faulomi

I was ~11 and L’Ordinateur Individuel had a paper computer in it, with working memory registers and operators :) - David Dossot

Now that’s hardcore.

as a child, it was amazing. “Look what I can do!”. Getting your hands dirty. - Cédric Champeau

Craftsman spirit (power of creation). It starts with #Lego and continues with programming ;) - Daniel PETISME

code my own video game on my Alice computer. And feel powerful…. - Da Follower

Never touched a computer before entering CS. Seemed like perfect mix hard/applied science + creativity. Was fucking right! - Cyril Lacôte

At 7, my father bought a ZX81. It seemed funny, I learned “Print” ! 32 years after, still coding :) - Laurent CARON

read an article / subliminal images. Wrote a zx spectrum program to influence myself to work more in school:-)
it was in basic. Never got enough fps to make the message subliminal, so it failed… or not:-)
- chanezon

I guess that’s another one in the lazy category. Pretty clever though :)

wanted to program my own adventure game on the ZX Spectrum, like The Hobbit - never got around to it though :-) - Thomas Conté

because you create things out of thin air. - Jean-Laurent Morlhon

Hum, I’m sure that’s not what you thought when you started as a kid.

C++ when i was 14 to create modules for D&D neverwinter nights :) - Vivian Pennel

A man with a goal.

around ten, cpc464 as Christmas gift. I had to understand how games launched with load and run commands - Mat

i was 8 years old, my Father got a CPC464, i wanted Pac Man, my Father gave me a Basic book and told me “do it yourself” - Grégory M.

A dad with foresight. Though tough on his kid.

10 y.o.: 1st family computer. 11 y.o.: Word crash, lose 1h of homework. Next day: buy Linux CD, install. Then Bash, Perl… - Pierre Chapuis

Now imagine Mom and Dad’s face when they tried to launch Word the next day :)

coder les musiques des séries tv en basic sur amstrad 6128 il y a … 25 ans… k2000 supercopter & co #nostalgie - Alfred Almendra

Electronic music.

be able to hack into systems like the boy in “wargames” - Laurent Bristiel

Movies are bad for you kids, you have been warned! Lucky you did not for nuclear strike hacking.

at 6 wanted to help Man to land again on the moon, I thought the computer were the tool that build rockets like movies - Guillaume Wallet

Let me tell you, these moon guys knew their logarithmic tables by heart.

And you?

What’s your story? Why did you start programming?