Posts Tagged ‘safety nets’

Programming Without Fear: Embracing Risk and Innovation

March 21, 2023

As a child, I was introduced to programming on a Commodore 64, a machine that had a reputation for being nearly indestructible. The Programmers Reference Guide even noted that software alone couldn’t break the machine–it might freeze up or require a reboot, but it would always bounce back. This knowledge had a significant impact on my approach to programming, instilling in me a sense of bravery and a willingness to experiment. Although modern computers are far more vulnerable to software-based damage, I find that the lessons I learned as a young programmer continue to inform my coding habits. Programming on the Commodore 64 helped shape my fearless approach to coding.

In the early to mid-eighties, when I began my programming journey, the fear of breaking a computer with software was not a common concern. I learned to program on the Commodore 64, a computer that was nearly impossible to break with software. This allowed me to approach programming with a sense of curiosity and bravery. I was not afraid to experiment and push the boundaries of what I could do with code.

However, it’s important to note that computers today are much more fragile and prone to breaking with software than the Commodore 64 was. It is very possible to brick a computer, making it worthless, just through software and commands. Additionally, as a programmer or user of a modern computer, it is possible to break the law, intentionally or unintentionally, through actions such as hacking, data theft, or the spread of malware. Therefore, it is important to approach programming and computer use today with caution and to take steps to protect yourself and your computer from harm.

The introduction of test-driven development (TDD) further reinforced my confidence in programming. By writing tests first and then developing code to meet those tests, I knew that I had a safety net to catch any mistakes or errors. This allowed me to continue experimenting and trying new things with the knowledge that I could always revert to a working version of my code.

While I have broken my operating system and caused software bugs in my career, I have found that my childhood experience has helped me to approach these challenges with a sense of calm and confidence. I know that mistakes will happen, but I also know that they can be fixed. Additionally, I have learned that it is important to take responsibility for any mistakes and work to prevent them from happening again in the future.

Learning to program on a Commodore 64 without fear of breaking the computer with software had a profound impact on my approach to programming. Today, I continue to experiment and push the boundaries of what I can do with code, confident in my abilities and my safety nets. While computers today are more fragile and prone to breaking with software, I believe that my childhood experience has helped me to be a more courageous and responsible programmer. By taking precautions and approaching programming with care and responsibility, we can all strive to be confident and brave programmers in the modern age.

By Ron Ziroby Romero with assistance from ChatGPT