Computer Wizard

This site is mostly about my programming projects.

Background

1k RAM

I began programming age 8 on a Sinclair ZX81. My late uncle taught me the basics of programming by teaching me to write a game where you had to land a series of ‘A’ onto a pad of ‘*********’ by pressing space at the right time.  If the ‘A’ missed, ot crashed.  If it landed safely, you had to land another, this time with the added difficulty of having to avoid hitting the A already there.  From

I remember getting frustrated the first time my program got too long for its 1k of memory. It just froze helplessly! My entire program was lost. Then all was saved when we got a 16k RAM expansion.  Still I lacked the ability to save my programs other than by asking my mum to write out the code for me in a notebook. (My writing wasn’t good enough at that age).  Thanks Mum!.

32k RAM

Then we got a BBC Model B. I remember being upset at first because all my friends had Sinclair Spectrum’s and the Beeb at school seemed bulky and rubbish in comparison.  Plus my uncle had a Commodore 64, and I really looked up to him as my role model.  Perhaps still burned by my ‘running out of RAM’ experience of the zx81, I mistakenly thought that the Spectrum and Commodore were superior on account of having more RAM.  Things are rarely that straight forward and looking back, my programming the Beeb was a big boon in my development as a programmer.  No longer content with moving ascii characters around the screen, I could now do VDU graphics and later used a sprite generator to great effect!

16 bit

These were dark days for me as a programmer.  First a family Atari STfm, and later my very own Atari STe, paid for from the hard earned wages of a summer job after my GCSEs.  I did try, really I did.  I had a copy of STOS basic.  I played around a little with some code.  But mostly I just created large collections of sprites that I never got around to programming to actually do anything.  The reason?  The games were just too good.

PC

Then I went to the University of East Anglia to do a degree in ‘Applied Computing’.  I realised my faithful old Atari was no longer going to cut it.  In my first year I just used university computing labs to do my work, but before the start of my second year, I got myself a 486.  To tell the truth, I never really programmed much on it.  I learned DOS scripting on it.  I messed about with Borland C++ on Windows 3.11, but mostly I still did my uni programming in uni labs on uni computers.  Especially since half of it had to be on Unix workstations and all the graphical programming was done on Macs.  Still it came in very useful for typing up my essays to hand in.  And of course games.

Web

Towards the end of my time at Uni, I discovered the Web.  This was around 1994/5, and it was in its infancy.  But somehow I just knew it was going to be a big thing, and so I decided to do my final year project as a web based project.  My task, to connect a website to database so users can search for books by Author, Title or ISBN and see which shops stock said book.

Work

Specialising in this web thing didn’t really pay off at first.  You’d think coming out of Uni with a project like that just before the dot com boom would have been gold dust, but no, not for me. I managed to do some volunteer work for charity websites, but my programming career didn’t actually start until after the bubble had burst.  I was picked up by a firm making ASP websites using Access as the database back ends.  I didn’t care.  It was a job.  Then after six months, I’d had enough of that and moved to a college where I still programmed ASP, but had an Oracle database as the back end.    Then I left Norwich and went to work for a college in Plymouth where Oracle was still the back end, only on Linux servers, but this time I could program in PHP.  Then finally, I moved to Bristol where I got a job using only LAMP.  And what is more, after a while I got to work from home.  And now I even live in the Scottish highlands working from home all the time.  Happy times… :)

Hobby Projects

So I also have a few hobby programming projects on the go.

  • I develop a few plugins for WordPress.
  • I have an active sourceforge project called EnigMagick.  A toy for messing around with words and numbers.
  • I participate on Stack Overflow.  Maybe not a lot, but enough to have a small score there.
  • I would have had more of a score on WordPress Answers, but I spent some of it on a bounty… ;)