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National Coding Week 2016 – Our Technical Directors story

By Shane Spencer | 20th September 2016

As part of National Coding Week our developers across Bytron and Keyzo have been sharing their story on how they started as a developer. This post comes from our Technical Director at Bytron, Simon Clayton.

My first introduction to computing was at the end of the 70’s when my cousin bought a computer in kit form from the United States.  He built the machine from the pieces he received in the post and put them all in a wooden box.  The output was through a TV aerial onto a black and white portable TV.  Being around 11 at the time I was fascinated by how he wrote some ‘code’ and made the computer do what he wanted.  I think the initial program he showed me was a simple calculator and from that point forward I was hooked!

My first computer was a ZX81, I vividly recall typing up code from the computer magazine ZX Computing for about 8 hours, only for the 16K RAM packs Velcro strips to fail and for all code to be lost!  Still the same story these days … always make a backup!

Hunchback and Manic Miner on the Commodore 64 were next on the list and the frenetic joystick bashing that was Daley Thompson’s decathlon, I’m fairly sure that’s when RSI first came to the fore https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v60nDH8Twk.  The C64 opened up a whole new world of computing, including colour graphics (no laughing please!) and sprites that allowed me to play with parallax scrolling and sprite collisions.  It would have been great to write the next  successful game such as Attack of the Mutant Camels (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_of_the_Mutant_Camels) but it wasn’t to be.

At school, when typewriters were still all the rage, I was the proud owner of 60 words a minute. I was the only boy in a class full of girls … computer nerds are not so daft after all!

College flew by and by the end of it I was the IT technician for the computing department. I later on came across a coding job at Bytron.  I applied for the developer role and amazingly got the job.  Those early days in Bytron, 1989, laid the foundations for my whole career.  I was surrounded by older, wiser coders who taught me the black art of C programming, where Kernighan and Ritchie were held aloft as kings. Telex and fax machines were the closest things to integrated systems that money could buy.  Back in those days, people were amazed that you could plug a wire into a telex machine, decode the 5-bit ASCII code and display the detail on a computer monitor.  This was the humble beginnings of our flagship product skybook.

Since then computer languages, frameworks, devices, the Internet and peoples understanding of technology as a whole have expanded, to a point where anything is possible.

What an exciting time we live in!

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