Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

My First Programming Language

I’ve always thought of myself as an engineer or a scientist instead of a programmer. I’ve been wary of coding interviews because I feel like I missed something not having taken the first courses in C++ in college. However, my experience with programming has been storied and diverse. I haven’t come across a programming problem too hard to tackle aside from confidence.

MS-DOS

My first encounter with computers was using MS-DOS and learning how to navigate command line. CD Space was my life. In fourth grade, my older brother started writing simple Basic scripts, usually with a lot of colors and a count down to your hard drive being erased as a joke (nothing was erased). It’s crazy to think people will actually erase the hard drive.

I had a computer class in middle school, but it wasn’t programming. Then in high school, I got a TI-86, the most powerful graphics calculator that they would allow in an examine. Most people had a TI-83, but for some reason I had an 86.

I’m not sure why these graphics calculators were allowed for examines because they were quite powerful. You could also make notes, so I’m not sure how many people cheated outright with them on every test. I was more interested in being able to play video games.

The video games available seemed to be mostly low quality ports of Gameboy games. Mario, Tetris, Zelda, MegaMan, and Drug Wars. Drug Wars was an intriguing game of risk, but once you figured out the trick, it was easy to beat. If I remember correctly, the trick was to travel to new boroughs as frequently as possible. Now, the content of the game was something else…

I had a slight fear that a teacher could ask me to delete everything on my calculator. So I decided to write a simple program to make a fake settings menu where it could appear as if you reset your calculator. I started simple, but I ended up with a long program to simulate all the menus that one can go through in the settings. I never had to use it, and I accidentally deleted it at some point, but it was my first major jaunt into programming.

My next programming adventure was short-lived in Maple during freshman year of college. Maple tried to compete with Matlab, but ultimately, Matlab was just a better language.

Matlab

During my sophomore year, I took my one and only official programming class. It was Introduction to C for engineers taught by a civil engineer. I’m not sure why we didn’t take the first programming course for CS majors, but I regret that I didn’t. I didn’t like the class, and I didn’t think I enjoyed coding at all. I didn’t care for programming as a profession; it was simply a tool.

My ode to Matlab and Jet Color Scheme

Junior year was the year that changed everything. It’s when I fell in love with image processing. I also fell in love with Matlab. I had to use it for the class, and I poured more hours into that class than any other class I had taken before. I taught myself a solid basis, and over the years I added to that.

I pushed forth with Matlab because I believed the development time speed up outweighed its potential slow runtime. I also minimized runtime by writing efficient code, and within a few years, the Java engine for Matlab also sped up.

Diversifying Languages

In grad school, I learned quite a bit about Linux, and I programmed in C to allow my rig to capture camera data. My main processing was in Matlab, and then I would run experiments using C and C++ on a distributed network.

I learned a large chunk of C++ at my first job where I had to write the production code for a few research projects I had done. When I left that job, I felt very confident in my C++ programming ability, but within a few months of not using C++, it disappeared from my brain. I also used a lot of Matlab for data analysis at my first job.

At Apple, I worked primarily in Matlab and then a few Python scripts. I did a little firmware coding, which was eye opening. The challenges of firmware were quite new to me, particularly having high quality standards because firmware failures are catastrophic.

After all of these years, I still love Matlab. To me, it is like a warm blanket, and I feel confident writing code. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that all coding languages are just languages rooted in math and functionality. By understanding one coding language, you could more easily learn another. This is also why I’ve stayed close to Matlab because it is the foundation of my coding adventure; Matlab has allowed me to program in other languages with relative ease.

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Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.