If you ask a child that classic question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you’ll get a variety of answers: firefighter, astronaut, football player…but you’ll rarely hear “professional software developer.” It seems to us here at Builder.com, that while, to a certain extent, developers are born and not made, something specific happens to every developer that sets him or her on the path of slinging code for a living.

For the 20- and 30-somethings out there, it could have been as simple as having childhood access to an early personal computer. The slightly more wizened members could have been the “accidental programmers” who, as the only computer-literate person in the office, was handed a dBase programming book and asked to “put the inventory on the computer.” Perhaps you majored in mathematics and started out programming your HP-35 calculator.

Wow! Look, it’s got TWO disk drives…
For me, I can trace everything back to one event: the TRS-80 Model 4 computer my dad brought home from Radio Shack one Christmas when I was a kid of no more than nine. With a whopping 64 K of memory, a BASIC interpreter, an integrated green-and-black monitor, and featuring dual single-density disk drives, this was a fledgling geek’s dream come true.

Figure A
This writer’s first computer…ah, the memories…

Boldly going where no one has gone before…
However, that by itself wasn’t exactly enough to get me going. Included in the box was a seminal work of early spiral-bound programming books called 1001 BASIC Games. Included in the pages of this book was the source code to the first program I ever hacked: the famous Super Star Trek.

You see, like any kid growing up at that time, I was into Star Trek in a big way. Naturally, then, when I discovered the code listing for Super Star Trek, I ran to the keyboard so fast, I must have left skid marks. I can’t remember for sure, but I think the first change I made to the code was to make it impossible for the game’s Klingon marauders to hit the USS Enterprise. What can I say; I didn’t like losing.

If you are interested, you can see the original HP2000 BASIC code for Super Star Trek here.