Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production


Hey there! This article was written in 2014.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

In the beginning

Posted 5 October 2014 in life, nostalgia, programming, and qbasic

My first programming language was some variant of BASIC on a VTech Precomputer 2000. Then one day I discovered that a copy of QBasic was included with DOS and began using it to program. I wrote software to add and subtract arbitrarily long strings of integers (I don't think I added support for floating point), software that would perform long division of polynomials, and software that would graph my math homework. One day while a friend and I were goofing around with some code, his dad happened to look over our shoulders and said "You know, you should put that block of code in a subroutine." We didn't know what that was but after a few minutes saw its utility as our code became more modular.

When we were 16, that same friend and I decided to create software with a brand: Freesoft. Our slogan was "Freesoft for the common man". My friend used a font editor to identify the horizontal lines for the letter 'f' in a fancy font and programmed that as a rasterized image that would display at the start of our software...even playing a tune he created! My software usually involved algorithms and math while his software was usually games, including a multiplayer version of Nibbles (or Snake, as it's usually called) and a simple two-player Scorched Earth-style ballistics/physics game. We also created a website to host our software using Xoom web hosting and created multiple email pseudonyms for ourselves using the free Juno email service. We thought we were pretty cool.

Now, 14 years later, my mom was gearing up for a garage sale and I found an old 3.5" floppy disk. It's labeled in my finest handwriting with the following list:

  • Fontmaker
  • Iconmaker
  • Freesoft programs
  • FirstBASIC

QBASIC ruined my brain for several years, creating patterns of thinking that were difficult to change when I tried to learn other programming languages. Thank goodness I did or I would still be spinning my wheels trying to use Envelop Basic, XBasic, and RapidQ.

Even so, I'm going to try recovering that old software. I want to see what my code looked like back then.

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