Daniel Schmackpfeffer
Beyond the Code

Beyond the Code

In the beginning

Haven't I seen you before

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Daniel Schmackpfeffer
·Mar 12, 2021·

3 min read

When I was a child, I had difficulty writing. I mean physically writing. My handwriting was terrible, and I went to PT and OT for years. Because of this, I had increased access to that wonderful new device, the personal computer.

At this time, my school did not have computers in the classroom, but it did have a computer lab. My memories from this time are sketchy, but my earliest memories are of systems running DOS and using those systems for three things:

  1. Playing SIM City
  2. Using the logo turtle
  3. Writing essays in Microsoft Works or Word

It appears Logo may have been my first experience with coding, although I never thought of it this way until I saw it listed as a programming language recently.

More importantly to my story is the word processor. I know that seems unlikely for a programming blog, but it leads to my first insight upon reflection.

When we got a computer at home, it was what my dad called a portable computer and looked something like this:

A big box with a tiny monochrome screen

I learned DOS by experimentation, and one of the earliest things I discovered was QBasic. When I first opened it, I saw the user interface and said, "I know how to use this."

QBasic opening screen

The menubar, scrollbars, and editor area had reminded me of the word processor I had spent so much time with. Hence, my first lesson:

A consistent and common user interface is key. It can make users feel comfortable and make the software easier to use and learn.
 
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