I wrote my first computer program at school in the language CESIL 'Computer Education in Schools Instructional Language' back in 1972. Then a local government office in Carmarthen (south Wales) let us send to them (via parcel post) Basic language programs written on coding sheets which they typed onto standard 80 character punch cards and then ran them on their computer system, printed the output and posted the output back to the school. We usually found that either we, or they, had typed somthing wrong so they whole thing had to be redone on a minimum of one week turn around. The good old days!
The headmaster (Mr J. Hill) and the deputy head (Mr W. Davies) were both mathematics teachers. Although Mr Davies was close to retirement he was very up-to-date. He acquired a Sharp desktop calculator (I think it had 18 Nixie display tubes) and had a magnetic card slot that could hold 127 commands, our very own programmable device. Algorithms to calculate pi and automated numerical analysis were suddenly within my reach.
Whilst at Bristol university studying mathematics and physics I did virtually no computing except for a short course on Algol-W using the obligatory punched cards. When I finished university in 1977 I decided to join the Royal Navy as an instructor officer. In all of my interviews I emphasised my wish to focus on electronics. This pleased all of the interviewers since the Navy was having problems getting enough electronics instructors. Then, whilst completing my 13 week officer training in the Royal Navy officer training college in Dartmouth, I think it was on the 5th Dec 1977, their Lordships in the form of the Instructor Officer appointer sent me a communication informing me that I was to proceed to HMS Caledonia at Rosyth, east Scotland 14 miles north of Edinburgh and to teach marine engineering topics such as ship design and gas turbine theory. No electronics!
I subsequently found out that the appointer had decided that the vacancy at HMS Caledonia was best filled by an officer who had no dependant family since it was so far away, and that since I was “unattached” I would do nicely! When I contacted the appointer about the electronics “issue” he said “sorry” but may be I could move when the assignment at HMS Caledonia was over i.e. in 2 years time. So I put on the dark blue suit with its two golden rings on each sleeve and went in the first week of 1978 “north” to Rosyth. Within 3 months I handed in my resignation and had to work 6 months notice.
On leaving Her Majesty’s stone ship in Rosyth I managed to get a Science Research Council grant to study telecommunications on a M.Sc. at the University of Aston in Birmingham. At last I was back to electronics (sort of), with some computing (Texas 9900 procesors).
After finishing the course, but without the project needed for the M.Sc. I was head hunted by Plessey and ended-up at Edge lane, Liverpool as a System-X hardware design engineer. And just about everything that had to be done there, was done with processors (initially Intel i8080, then i8085 and then the i80x86). Happiness descended.
Since then I have spent about half of my working life involved in computing in one form or another, but always in a telecommunications environment.
Most of my current programming activities are centered around the home computer, typically running one of Microsoft’s Window operating systems.