Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Can Program A Computer and Didn't Know It

Many times we just take for granted that something is true. We believe it to be true even without evidence to back it up. We just have something inside us that tells us it is true. Many times it isn't true. Many times we are just dead wrong.

Our paradigms make us believe many things that are not true. Unfortunatley many go through their lives without learning to shift untrue paradigms. They live in a suffocating world of unnecessary false beliefs.

Below is the experince of a friend who had a major paradigm shift. He just held a belief in his mind that something just had to be a certain way. He was convinced it was that way. He held the false belief for years, even decades. Boy was he wrong. He has agreed to write down his experience for this blog.

It was 1984. I was 12 years old. It was Christmas. My grandparents had just given me my first computer, a Commodore 64.

I was in awe. To me a computer was the most magical thing in the world. There wasn't anything a computer couldn't do. To learn how to use a computer was to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

I loved the computer and the two games they bought me to go with the computer - Radar Rat Race and Monkey Math. Of course that was what they thought the computer was for, playing games. Hopefully some games like Monkey Math would be educational. I loved the games, but what caught my attention was a little book that came with the computer. A book entitled, BASIC Programming on the Commodore 64.

There it was! I grabbed the book. I now held in my hands the book which was going to allow me to unlock the mysteries of the universe. This book was going to show me how to make the computer do whatever I wanted it to do. Since there wasn't anything a computer couldn't do, once I learned the secrets in the book I would be able to make the computer give me anything I wanted.

I was determined to learn to program the Commodore 64. So I started reading the book. I didn't have a clue what it was telling me. I didn't know what a variable was. I didn't know what a string was. I didn't know what a function was. I didn't know what a statement was.

I could tell the book was trying to tell me but I couldn't quite get it. It was frustrating. But I didn't give up. I kept reading the same pages over and over again. Perphaps this time it would make sense.

Guess what?

One day it did make sense. I don't really understand it. Something just clicked on in my mind. I even remember what it was. The first thing I finally understood was a variable. I had read the section on variables over and over again in the past. The words might have well have been a jumbled mess of letters for all I was concerned. But then one day I completely understood the section on variables. This made the other sections clearer. Eventually everything began to build and I eventually had the foundation for programming BASIC programs on the Commodore 64.

I soon learned that maybe I hadn't actually found the secret of the entire universe. But I could do some pretty cool stuff with the Commodore 64. I made these awesome, or what I thought was awesome, computer games. Which I would send off to try and get some major software publisher to buy. Of course I always got the rejection letter. Give me a break I was only 12 or 13 years old.

Unfortuantely as the years went by and I entered High School my awe for the computer began to fade. Besides who wants to be the high school computer nerd anyway. My interests turned to other things like girls. Spending time with girls was a lot funner than sitting in the corner of some room typing in lines of code on a computer screen. My interest in computers almost came to a complete standstill. Plus it was the late eighties, no one really used home computers in their everyday lives yet.

But then came the nineties, and the internet. Computers started to play a major role in our lives. I was very adept at learning to use these new and more powerful computers. Setting up new computers, installing and working with all the new incredible software and hardware pretty much came naturally . But I never got back to my first love of programming the computer, making that computer do what I wanted it to do.

I just figured that by now with all the advances in computers, computer languages had to have become so difficult and time consuming to learn that the BASIC language I knew had to be obsolete. With everything computers could do I didn't even know if I would even be capable of learning the new languages.

Unfortuantely I just took that belief for granted. I didn't even bother to take a look at any of the current languages the programmers were using to run computers. That was a big mistake.

Flashforward to 2009.

I had just read a book on shifting your paradigms. Changing many of the false beliefs that you think are true but aren't.

Something in me clicked again. Something in me made me sit down at the computer and look up C++ on the internet. C++ is the language used to create many of the programs you use on the computer today.

I found a web page and I saw this...

int main
int x;
int y;

using namespace std;
cout << "Enter a number: ";
cin >> x;

cout << "Enter another number: ";
cin >> y;

cout << "The sum is: " << x + y << endl;

I was in shock!

I understood most of what I was seeing. Yes this is a very basic program which just has its operator enter two numbers then tells them the sum of the two numbers. What shocked me the most was the coding was still very similar to the BASIC lanugage I had learned years ago. Take a look at the same program in BASIC. You do not need to be a programmer to see similarities.

PRINT "Enter a number ";
PRINT "Enter another number";
PRINT "The sum is: "; x+y

I started looking at other programs written in C++. Again I had never looked at a program since I was in my teens. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. Many of the same commands were still there. There were of course variations, but the basic concepts, the same logic needed, was still there.

This was a paradigm shattering, earth shaking moment for me. I still knew how and was capable of programming a computer. Twenty plus years had passed and I thought I had fallen so behind on an ability as to have to spend years and years of training to recover.


After seeing the similarities of the two languages, I found a FREE site on the internet which had well over 100 lessons teaching you how to program in C++.

I actually went through the first 30 lessons in just ONE day. It was all review. I already knew everything I was reading. I can't count how many times I just paused to contemplate what was happening.

In less than one month I was back up to speed with C++ programming and I am happy to say I am once again making my own programs with the same enthusiasm of my old 13 year old self. It feels good.

All those years I had just assumed and was convinced of something that was untrue. I believed a lie. A lie that I was telling to myself.

If that is not a paradigm shift then I don't know what is.

Paradigm Shift

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