Our first new computer arrived via UPS. Four large brown boxes spread across our bright green lawn. The black spots on the Gateway boxes made them appear to be grazing cows. I excitedly opened the door, and carried each one to safety. The boxes weighed heavily in my arms, and the air conditioning brought relief from short tours in the summer sun. Leaning against the inside of the door, I was thankful that the battle was over.
I spent the next hour unpacking and wiring the computer together. I struggled to place the CRT monitor on our old desk. As I pushed it into place, the desk moaned under the weight that it was never meant to handle. The blue monitor cable fell across the wood veneer and clanged against the eggshell colored tower on the floor.
As I pressed the power button, the fan spun wildly, like a jet preparing for take off. The hard disk whined as it started for the first time. I stood awestruck as the Windows 98 logo appeared. The sky background and clouds etched themselves in my mind.
I spent hours in front of that machine. I enjoyed the reprieve from the heat, in between skateboarding sessions with my neighbors.
When fall arrived, I remember telling my friend of my family’s first computer. She sketched an image of a orange calico next to a computer monitor on my notebook. The cat shared a likeness with her pet — he was the main actor in many of her doodles.
Together we built a virtual bridge in a computer program that emulated suspension bridges. I remember wondering how the developers calculated that the truck weight could not be supported. As the truck reached the middle, we watched the bridge crumble into the water.
In the typing class that followed, I spoke to the teacher about my family’s computer.
“I teach Visual Basic at our high school,” she said.
A few weeks later I talked my uncle’s ear off about how expensive the developer kit was, so he gifted me a Visual Basic 6 (VB6) disc and a copy of a Microsoft Press book filled with tutorials. He was an engineer himself, and he saw my passion for it. I installed the editor within minutes of arriving home that evening.
My first program holds a special place in my heart. I recall selecting ‘Standard Exe’ from the New Project modal. The editor presented me with a empty grey window that it would display when my program ran. I dragged a label from the ToolBox and placed it on the window. I did the same for a Button. I changed their names in the properties view to lblMessage and btnSayHello. Lastly, I followed the final instruction to add a click handler to the button.
lblMessage.Text = "Hello World"
I slid to the edge of my seat as I hit the green play button — which runs the program. I watched as the window appeared on the screen. The resistance of the mouse against the mousepad as I clicked the button with “Say Hello” on it. As I released the mouse, it appeared in black text, “Hello World”.
Every new feature I write, fills me with joy in the same way that my first “hello world” did. That is why I keep writing software.
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