Simon Willison’s Weblog

How did Simon Willison learn programming?

My answer to How did Simon Willison learn programming? on Quora

My dad taught me to program at first on a Commodore 64 when I was about 7. I only found out many years later that he’d had the “how to program” manual on his left hand side, me sat on his right hand side and was only ever a couple of pages ahead of me in the book!

I experimented with QBASIC on DOS, but then we upgraded to Windows and there weren’t any development tools included. My parents bought me a copy of Borland C++ but the learning curve was basically impossible. That put me off programming for a few years until I discovered that JavaScript was built in to IE and Netscape and started tinkering with that (and learning HTML and so on).

As a teenager, I got heavily in to online gaming. I ran a clan, news site and eventually a league for the Half-Life Team Fortress Classic mod, and had to pick up just enough Perl to customise some shareware scripts (like newspro—sadly no longer available). Through that I got my first tech job working for http://gameplay.com—a classic 1998-2001 dot com boom company. I learnt more Perl, then PHP and MySQL there (my official job was “downloads editor” for the website but I ended up tinkering with plenty of other things as well).

When gameplay laid everyone off, I went off to university and did a computer science degree (and taught myself Python, C and various other languages).