A light went on somewhere…

After each section of the name, there is a colon, which is actually considered part of the name itself and then a parameter. The type of the parameter is given in parentheses, followed by the parameter name. After reading this short section, seriously I felt a light switch on in my brain. I’ve seriously started … Continue reading “A light went on somewhere…”

After each section of the name, there is a colon, which is actually considered part of the name itself and then a parameter. The type of the parameter is given in parentheses, followed by the parameter name.

After reading this short section, seriously I felt a light switch on in my brain.

I’ve seriously started reading about programming on the Mac and like in previous centuries I’ve had issues with trying to jump in and do things because I don’t know head from tail.

It’s like being instructed how to extract DNA
from a tissue sample by being told:
“Here’s a tissue sample, extract the DNA”

My experience with writing code started in about 1982 when I got a Sinclair ZX Spectrum for Christmas. I didn’t know anyone else with a computer and struggled along with Sinclair BASIC in isolation for about a year until I decided (at the tender age of 11 or so) that computers were crap and it would be a few years until they got “good”. (Even then I was prescient). The Spectrums had issues with dust or heat or something and the recommendation we got from Sinclair was to blow a hairdryer on ‘cool’ in the port at the back to prevent the . It didn’t help that half of the sample code examples were printed incorrectly (in manuals and magazines) and I had insufficient understanding of what was going on to even guess what might be wrong with the code I’d painstakingly typed in (and with no persistent storage, turning off the machine meant starting again). It brought many tears to my eyes at the time and even playing The Hobbit ‘adventure’ game didn’t help because I’d not read the book and had no idea what to do when I met the trolls other than get eaten. I let computers pass me by for a few years, dallying only with playing a few head-to-head games of Falcon at a friends house (two friends, one had an Amiga, the other an Atari ST and using a cable you could hook them up for dogfights). I knew then that multiplayer games were a hundred times more fun than playing solo and a million times better than being constantly eaten by trolls. But there wasn’t a medium for ‘playing’ over at the time and I was soon working towards my A-levels planning for a career in Biology and, for the most part, forgetting all about computers.

Back when CD-ROM was an acronym used
with “inverted commas” when speaking.

Mac Plus SE from the Psychology Department. We would sit up playing with stuff like fonts, games and clip-art until dawn broke, fueled by coffee and we’d grab a couple of hours sleep before I had to go to grueling 9 am – 5 pm lectures and lab practicals. Throughout university I had no exposure to Windows – just UNIX and Macintosh. And I didn’t think for a second about writing any code to take better advantage of them. I was more interested in talking using a computer, even just sending text between machines.

After graduation, the market for genetic engineers was pretty poor and though I had a placement guaranteed in the City Hospital labs (I’m not just a pretty face), I gave it up for a lesser job which paid better and would give me time to go back to college to study something about computers.

What the hell is this crap?

At the University of Ulster, we were introduced to Modula-2 and, to be honest, I foundered. I couldn’t see anything exciting about it and we were interacting with it using Windows, which interfaced with the VAX using some sort of terminal application. I am not kidding that when presented with Windows and VAX/VMS after coming from UNIX and Macintosh, I was less than enthralled. I did my best with Modula-2 and even stayed up all night one evening i the labs trying to get the main assignment to compile. I’d have gone mad if the guy next to me hadn’t left a copy of Lemmings running. I passed that course but I hated it. And because I didn’t seem to be a star in Modula-2, I didn’t get onto the C-course in the second semester and instead had to learn all about COBOL. Needless to say, code didn’t seem very attractive. Mainly because I was apparently shit at it.

Code is sexy. So are boobs

It did help cement my interest in networked environments and through a series of trials and tribulations I managed to wangle myself onto another course (AVTIT), which allowed me to piss about with ethernet and TCP/IP. This actual ‘practical’ knowledge of TCP/IP served me well, as did my Mac background, in getting me a placement with Nortel which really served as my introduction to I.T. as a career. My job was mostly looking after the Mac people there so I devoured a copy of the Mac Bible and learned quickly (and eventually didn’t need to call my girlfriend as often to Mac advice). From there I went on to just networking as a career and to be honest have not looked back. I did have to touch C code once while there – and that was because we used an in-house ‘clocking’ system called flexi which had been hardcoded with s 250 person limit. As NITEC grew, we hit 250 and the system fell over. Changing the limit to 499 worked but required me trawling through the code, figuring out what needed changed and then getting a student to help me compile it and get it running. I developed a little crush on her it has to be said (well, she was smart, good-looking and had a great rack…)

Liars, thieves and businessmen

After that it was more networking work, then headhunted to run the technical side of Macinni by their Commercial Director (Gerry) and when that failed due to horrendous mismanagement of the sales/retail side. A startup losing half a million pounds in six months is something unheard of these days – but what can I say – Caveat Emptor. It was a humbling experience being made redundant by a couple of crooks but I came out of the experience with some new friends, my savings and a lot of righteous anger about how a Apple Authorised Service Provider should be run. And decided to do it myself, pulling in every favour I could ever have made and dragging the technical guys from Macinni with me (I kinda figured the Admin and Sales guys could fend for themselves). We applied to Apple and it took a long phone call to the UK MD to get them to give us a chance as an AASP considering the disaster that was Macinni.

I will learn to code.
If it kills me

This year Mac-Sys is five years old (it seems like ten) and it has had ups and downs to be honest. People come and people go. And I still can’t write more than a few lines of code because, frankly, it was never the day job. I’m trying to change that and maybe at the same start to bring some value other than my boyish good looks (which have long faded) and charm (which I never had). Writing Cocoa code is hard but realistically no harder than PHP or any other code I’ve touched and not been able to get the hang of.

To this end I’ve started working though a book of code which is getting me started. Philip and Aidan have pledged some time to help me through some examples and I’m trying to get some guys in $BIG_COMPANY who are interested in Mac/iPhone development to come out at lunchtime to NISP and talk Cocoa for a bit. We also mooted the idea of reviving Cocoaheads but I’m not sure how this would pan out considering I’m out in the evenings a lot as it is (with gaming once a week and OpenCoffee and NiMUG once a month. Add in Cocoaheads….)

I’ll keep y’all informed.

0 thoughts on “A light went on somewhere…”

  1. Interesting stuff (and doubly so for me as it sort of runs parallel to my own life, except where you found coding a pain I loved it). My first computer was 1984, Amstrad CPC464 – with tape deck so I could, at least, save stuff. Coding from magazines was great and I especially loved bugs! Adding my own bugs by accident helped me learn to code (‘hmmm… forgetting “+1” seems to do this instead of that… I wonder what happens if I make that “+2″‘ was the basis of learning everything else)

    How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, that’s a hardware problem.

    Also: for my money, php is a much simpler language than Objective C++


  2. It’s just Objective-C, lose the ++ And I don’t want to do PHP. I want to create Mac/iPhone apps that I want to use.

    I’ve had >1 emails/IMs about this posting. All the rest wanted to know who had the rack…

  3. D’oh – ++ slipped in by accident. Well yes if you want to code for Mac/iPhone obviously you’d use ObjC rather than php – but php is still the simpler language (not as simple as BASIC…)

    Racks … mmm…..


  4. Most people find anything hard the first time they do it. Think of learning to program like learning to ride a bike or to swim. Seems impossible at first but when you get it then it just feels natural from then on. The hard bit is realising that it’s all just basic logic. I spent years not really understanding how to program because I didn’t really see the logic behind it. Eventually it clicked and now I’m selling my own software. Just work slowly and don’t give up. And remember, unlike learning to ride a bike or to swim, there’s no chance of you hurting yourself 😉

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, Martin. Good to see a Mac software company in Blighty!

    I’m going to be doing more Cocoa tonight after the day job in $BIG_COMPANY and doing this every night (unless ordered not to by her indoors) until it sticks in my head…

  6. I’m also really interested in picking up enough Cocoa and Objective-C to be useful (professionally, ideally). I’d love to find a group of coders to get together with to hack’n’learn with. Was this the idea behind Cocoaheads?

  7. This was the plan, aye. I’m working on spending an hour a day on Cocoa stuff, even just reading about it. And determined that (while I’m still in WSH), I’m going to take my MacBook and Cocoa book to the 1st Floor west coffee area every lunchtime for an hour of learning.

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