Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

The Value of Typing

In the dark and distant past of personal computers, before widespread use of networks and data carriers (for a personal computer your choice was cassette tape or, if you were really really rich a floppy disk but no distribution net existed), if you wanted the latest game, here is how it went:

You took your money to the local newspaper stand to pick up a copy of one of those glossy games magazines, took it home and you TYPED in the code that made up the program.

Needsless to say, this was tedious. Most of the time these games were in ‘BASIC’, with a smattering of data statements for graphics and possibly a bit of inline assembly (if you were lucky) or pages full of hex codes (if you were unlucky). A good sized game might take you anywhere from a few hours to a few days to type in. And of course you’d make mistakes so hours of painful debugging were sure to be in your future. And if you messed up badly or if you forgot to ‘save’ before you typed ‘run’ then your game might crash your computer and you’d lose it and have to start all over again. That’s a lesson that you learned pdq!

At the time it seemed like the worst job you could possibly have in the world. But looking back, I’ve come to realize that this character-by-character exposure to all that code and data has given me something invaluable. It gave me my first in depth contact with programming languages, the tedious work being rewarded by playing some computer game, and a lot of knowledge about languages and data structures that sort of hitch-hiked along. Simply typing in the code was like building a lego castle brick-by-brick, it gave you a very detailed look inside the program before you got to run it, and sometimes you’d catch a bit or two of what the game would do when you’d run it.

Now, when my son goes to download some game of the net or plays a flash game on a site somewhere, the gratification is instant, there is no learning or debugging to get the game to run once typed in.

Definitely that old 10 page long listing and the hours spent on typing it in had something going for it!