What was the first *real* program you've ever written?

@fribbledom You will need to define *real*...

The first one I got any money for? Or the first one that felt like it's a real professional operation?


Anything that's not just a "hello-world", but something you've sat down to achieve and (hopefully) were proud of.

Could be a small game, a website, a bash script. Whatever really. You tell me 😄

@fribbledom First thing I made pocket money with: I wrote my own version of Missile Command for the ZX Spectrum (early 1983?) and sold copies of it on cassette tape in the school yard. :)

First "professional" programming job:
I accidentally joined a team of Hungarian super-hackers writing a multitasking operating system for a 68030-based computer. Spent all summer (1990?) writing device drivers for the chipset in C and assembly. It was glorious and very well paid!

@fribbledom A game in BASIC: a maze on a cylindrical tower, where you need to reach the top to win.

A simple calculator (with interface), as a self imposed exercise.


Something in basic for the Sinclair ZX80, but I don't remember what it was for.


Anyway the first "serious" program was an interface to download data from the memory of a Wild Heerbrugg digital theodolite via serial port, converting them into a DXF file to feed a pirate copy of Autocad (2.11, IIRC).
And I made it with Turbo Pascal...

@fribbledom a newspaper motor route management program in BASIC to handle invoicing and ASCII delivery maps for our family's paper delivery person, circa 1982.

@Truck @fribbledom maybe I can dig it out on one of the 5 1/4 " disks. Actually I was 8 yrs old in that time :)

An XM module to csound score converter.

It was terrible.

@fribbledom Still have not written a real program, everything has been a proof of concept, demo, temporary solution, or ugly hack so far

@fribbledom I wrote a php "site" for the university bookstore. It was a training on buying e-textbooks with a quiz that would give you a coupon if you got 100%. It was terrible, terrible code, but it got me hired on as a full-time developer.

@fribbledom 'Student Clock' in Delphi. It just said 'Error' before 10AM.

@fribbledom I was so proud of my command line program which turned names like jiA MiNG to Jia Ming

@fribbledom Guess the Number was my first "actual program", but I was told what to do. I'm not sure when I graduated to making my own programs, from just adapting BASIC games.

Possibly my first original was MainMenu (later DeskSet, then Glitch, then MainMenu again), which had a bunch of little tools (die rollers, RPN calc, notepad, small games, etc) with a simple interface, and I rewrite longer versions every decade or so in new languages.

@fribbledom Does the BASIC quine I wrote while in a boring computing class in high school count? 😅


That sounds like quite the achievement. Still got the source?

@fribbledom It's quite possible that I *do* have it buried somewhere, in a zip file in a tar ball on an old RAID-1 disk mirror I still have the disks for somewhere...

@fribbledom A program to calculate and draw arbitrary conic sections, written in BASIC on a Lemon II computer, a clone of the Apple II.

@fribbledom A C# .NET application that polled images from an FTP server. The images in turn came from barcode cameras that triggered at certain events, so the application was basically a realtime dashboard monitoring about a dozen cameras.

@fribbledom Actually that might not have been my first real program, but it was the first real one for my job.

The first real program I remember making for myself was a morse code translator. It even had a mode to detect your "fist", or your style of inputting dits, dahs, and the spaces between them. It was fun to make. <3

@fribbledom What counts as real?

First that did something that I was really proud of: Some graphic toys (bouncing lines, procedural heightmaps, etc) as a kid in the late 80s.

First complex enough to still be interesting as an adult: MUD from scratch in the late 90s.

First for money: Testing tools for inline network packet scanning devices in the early 2000s.


I did a Visual C++ app growing up for MASH (mansion apartment shack house).

@craigmaloney @fribbledom Hey, the learning never ends.

And with every new piece of software there is always this feeling that it could probably be done faster/smaller/more elegant/more modern/etc.

40+ years here too, and yep, still working on getting better at this. :)

@fribbledom way back in high school, for a GCSE science project, i wrote a data collection and graphing package for the class's BBC Micro, taking advantage of its ADC

...and that is literally all i can remember about it :-/

@fribbledom A program called "onchange" in Golang which using the fsnotify library watched a directory for fs events and ran commands when stuff changed.

This was a few years ago when go itself was very new. I've long lost the sources (~90 lines of go). But a bunch of repos have appeared on github that are similar and named onchange. IDK if they use that code, tho.

It's real in that it did sth useful and had a complete, coherent (albeit tiny) user interface.

A D&D character generator in BASIC on a Commodore Pet in 79 or 80.

I remember it was 12 feet of printer paper long.

@fribbledom Wrote a bunch of qbasic choose your own adventure stories. GOTO for life

@fribbledom I wrote various games for 8 bit microcomputers in the 1980s, but nothing famous. The first program of any significant usefulness was probably one which was used in coal fired power stations to randomly sample the quality of coal arriving on trains. That was around about 1994 written in Borland C++ running on MS DOS.

@fribbledom oooof. Probably took me a long time to consider anything I wrote to be "real". To some extent, I still don't.

So I'll drop way back to the temping gig as a student where I was meant to be doing weeks of data entry and instead automated it in Excel using some string manipulation and lookup tables.

@fribbledom Integrating elliptic integrals in FORTRAN. Keypunched, of course. :)

@fribbledom Monte Carlo based Linear attenuation calculator for a type of x-ray experiment with a target in glass capillary.


I see... so basically just an advanced "Hello World"? 😂


@fribbledom The first one I was proud of (and probably the only one to this day) was an implementation of Don Knuth's Algorithm 3.1K from TAOCP Volume 2. I wrote it in Common Lisp and I still think it's a beautiful program, even though it is completely useless. It was *real* only in the sense that it was not trivial.

@fribbledom Who remembers the Buzzword Bingo popularised by an IBM ad?

In student times that ad inspired me to write a Java-based GUI-program, that would read XML-files containing word lists, generate a number of grids filled with a random subset of one list, and send the different grids to a printer. The size of the grids was configurable and the thing could be used as an applet.

It wasn't my first program, but I think the first project that was so multi-faceted and which I followed through.

@fribbledom an extremely short text adventure for DOS about a plane vanishing in the bermuda triangle. It even had PC speaker sound effects for the radio transmissions

@fribbledom I wrote a simple curses-based launcher menu in Python because I wanted a custom shortcut menu

@fribbledom Hello World doesn't count? I write blogs in all the new languages I learn. Before blogs were a thing, I would write journals, cause they do all the CRUD things you might want to do.

@fribbledom A birthday reminder for my Dad, a startup application on MacOS 7.

I had absolutely no clue, but it worked and had a terrible hand-crafted icon...

@fribbledom a command line wrapper for markovify, during lockdown this year. (found out abt markovify thx to fedibooks.) wanted to use it on my own text files for making poetry.

i did a minigolf game in basic for school back in the days. wait no, actually i only designed the map layout of each course and my friend did all the coding…

@fribbledom Would probably say the program for Opus-CBCS BBSes that let you pick a color scheme and then wrote it to a file. #TurboPascal

@fribbledom But it may have been for Maximus BBSes, as my memory has faded.

This does not count several unreleased games for the PET 4032.

@fribbledom My dad and I made a little K&R C program to display a robot that walked round the screen and used ANSI codes to flash the buttons when you pressed a key.

It was a digital version of the wooden robot he made for my older brother years before.

@fribbledom It was a few months after I turned six, so this would be 1981.

@fribbledom D&D character creator w/ a TUI in MS-DOS, circa 1985 or 1986. The menu and dialog system was more complicated than the program itself. I believe the look, shortcut keys, etc., were inspired by DESQview.

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