I’ve heard that every meteorologist has a storm, some fantastic show of Nature’s power that made the tiny child heart beat faster with excitement and say, “I want to be a weather man.” It seems that programming has a similar concept, a first time when a young geek hugs the computer after a few hours of intense work and says, “At least you understand me.” Even if you don’t have one of these experiences, you have to make one up for interviews, because no employer wants someone who answers that they just went into programming to meet chicks. Partly because that’s a stupid answer, but mostly because it is an obvious indication of poor decision-making skills.

My coworker Scott posted about his first programming experience, and he’s been regretting it ever since, as the bathrobe jokes at development meetings haven’t yet stopped. And according to Jeff Atwood, Scott is not alone in his experience. But I don’t get it. I never wrote my own version of Minesweeper, I never owned a TI 99/4A, I never copied a BASIC game from a book while dressed like Hugh Hefner. In 1981, I was still a couple months away from surprising my parents by existing at all. My older brother had these experiences, and I remember playing a game called SnakeBite that he wrote in college. I sure thought my brother was cool.

My first programming experience was on Windows 95, and I was fifteen. I did not want to become a computer programmer, because my mom really wanted me to be one, and I was good at rebelling for the sake of it. But I decided to build a personal web site. So I taught myself some HTML and made a Geocities site with lots of pictures of family and friends. There might have also been pictures of my dog. It was primitive and not interesting to anyone but me. However, I came to the highly irritating conclusion that I actually enjoyed programming, a fact that I would hide from my mother for another three years. I spent hours hacking away at that site. I’d look at the clock after finally figuring out hyperlinks to realize that it was 1 AM, and my eyes and shoulders kinda hurt. But what a small price to pay to have my very own web presence. I had discovered the joy of coding, of creating something that works. Behold, for I have brought this thing into being, and lo, it is good. Clicketh here to read about my basset hound, Scout.

What will the programmers ten years from now say was their first experience? My nine-year-old nephew has already written his first Java applet, a nifty little Sudoku solver. His dad, author of the illustrious SnakeBite, only helped a little. Years from now, maybe he’ll talk about this first experience nervously in a suit bought just for getting a job, causing the interviewers to begin reminiscing about BASIC or maybe even Geocities. At least he won’t have to say he just went into computer science for the chicks.