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Thursday, July 18, 2019
CEBU

Ng: Programming

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BACK in 1982 when I graduated from high school, I really did not want to take up management.

I was fascinated with computers, and after having my fill of science fiction, I thought I really want to program one.

During summer time, I checked the classified ads for computer programming classes and noted that there was a company in Colon St. that was offering them. So I went to visit them to see if I could take summer classes.

They welcomed me, and said that they would teach. I wanted to see the computer I was going to use, but to my disappointment, they didn’t have any. They would teach us programming in a keypunch machine, and after we wrote the program, they said it would be sent to Manila to their machine to run, and if it passed, we would get the certificate.

Disappointed, I did not proceed with this and continued in business management for my college course.

Luckily, my school, University of Philippines, invested in two Radio Shack TRS80 units so that we could learn programming in one of our subjects. I went in with fascination. It was an 8-bit computer, and had only 8k of memory. It had a basic interpreter in read-only memory, and that was it. We could type in our basic program and run it. That was all it could do. When you were done, you turned off your machine, and your program was gone. The next time you needed to run the program again, you turned on the machine, and typed your code all over again. It wasn’t much use. Our code was mostly only a page long, and was just something to add a few numbers together, or get the average.

In 1984, I bought an IBM PC, and this time, it had 256k of memory and a disk drive. I learned with fascination, and I would say that by the end of 1989, I not only finished a degree in programming, but had worked in Taiwan and the US as a programmer. If what Malcom Gladwell said is true—that you need 10,000 hours to master something—I think I had clocked over 10,000 hours already by that time by working and programming the computer.

The languages I used then is not used now. These were Visual Basic, dBase III, Clipper, Turbo Pascal and Microsoft C.

I have been mostly managing a tech company in the last 25 years and I have not done heavy programming since. But programming is a skill that I encourage most people to learn, though programing nowadays is very different from what we did before.

But programming does have a tendency to force you to be logical, and to evaluate alternatives and options. And while the programming languages I learned are useless now, I would say that the logic it forced upon me has stayed with me ever since. I believe a very systematic brain trained to see cause and effect has served me good in relationships and business.

In the early 2000s, I had some practice doing some PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) programming for my blog, but that was about it. So last month, I thought I would give myself a new assignment—to try to design our company website.

Today, there are now many options, and you can go to sites like Wix or Squarespace, and can have a cool website without even writing code. It was just mostly point and click, or drag and drop. I tried most, but decided I would still go with Wordpress. Wordpress got its name because it was the most popular blogging platform over a dozen years ago, but it has since matured to also be a cool tool to making websites. It is estimated that over a quarter of websites all over the world is done using Wordpress.

It has been a challenge, and after 25 years of almost no programming work, you are welcome to visit www.ngkhai.com to see my efforts.

The site was designed by dragging and dropping, and copying and pasting. It shows how technology has matured. I would say that 25 years ago, I would have spent a few months instead of just a few days, and I would be nowhere near what I could do now, even with thousands of hours of programming background.


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