From user to hacker

by Suw on June 28, 2004

I've always felt that not being able to program was one of my biggest failings. I learnt Basic when I was 9, on the ZX80 and then the ZX81. By the time we got a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, I'd peaked and it was pretty much all downhill from there.
There was a brief resurgence in 1990 when I was at Uni and we had a compulsory programming module, (which I aced), but after that I was reduced to fiddling ineffectually with things like ActionScript in Flash or mangling the odd bit of Perl or ASP. I used to say I ‘coded’ HTML, but let’s face it, HTML isn’t really proper programming, no more so than coding up an old WordStar document was programming.
Since going to NotCon04, and since getting SuwBot, my desire to learn to program has returned, and so I’ve started learning Python, the language that SuwBot was built in.
Having made this decision last week, I was lucky enough to meet online Lion Kimbro, a guy who has what I can only describe as an amazingly contagious enthusiasm for Python and a preternatural ability to get you to do stuff you didn’t think you could do before you even have time to think to yourself that you can’t do it.
My friend Sean has also been helping me by helping me hack SuwBot’s code, by guiding me through what I had to do and why. Sean is also a very patient tutor, able to explain stuff clearly and concisely. It’s a pity he’s so busy – I’d happily monopolise his time in order to get my head round Python more quickly. (Then again, maybe it’s a good thing he’s so busy – otherwise I’d never get any work done!)
Whilst I will admit that I am Mistress of the Failed Project, I view this not so much as a project, not so much as something that has an end or which must be completed, but as an ongoing process that may come and go, but which now started will never fizzle out.
But then, languages are like that, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from learning Welsh, it’s that the key to learning any language is to have fluent people who are willing to hold your hand as you take those baby steps, who will encourage you and pick you up when you fall over, and heap praise upon you when you do something right.
Thankfully, I am surrounded by people like that.
Today Sean and I hacked about in SuwBot, and got her to kiss as well as hug. She can also cope with long commands, such as ‘Hug sbp until he gasps for breath’, and the shorter, more succinct ‘Hug me’. I also managed to load SuwBot into another channel all by myself. (Aren’t I clever?!)
All that is, of course, totally useless, but it’s fun to play with. Hopefully, before long, I will be able to get her to do more complicated things.
Watch this space.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 29, 2004 at 1:10 pm

The day SuwBot can bake and deliver to my door an italian sausage pizza will be the day I am impressed.
Oh, and could she get me some beers too? Some nice bottles of ale would be good.

Anonymous June 30, 2004 at 6:53 am

Having something useful to do with it is key I've found. The problem I'm running into now, is that I know enough languages, that as I try to learn a new one I compare it to the ones I already know, and if it doesn't offer some clear advantage, I tend to lose interest.
woolstar

Anonymous June 30, 2004 at 7:22 pm

Well, i'm focused on being able to do stuff with SuwBot, which might be a pointless end, but it's proving to be fun and thus good motivation. I'm not doing it in order to get a job, though, which is also nice. It's just to satisfy myself and my inner geek, really.

Anonymous August 30, 2005 at 8:39 pm

The article has been discussed a few days ago at msn, and many people noticed, that this sounded like a biased information.
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Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 11:33 pm

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