38 years ago in June, I wrote my first computer program. It solved quadratic equations using the Quadratic formula. It was written in Fortran, and I wrote the code on coding sheets, which were sent to Chester City Council’s Data Processing department, where a punch card operative punched the code onto cards. The cards were fed into the mainframe computer, and the compiler found the errors in my code, and the printout and cards were returned to the polytechnic in Ellesmere Port. Three weeks later, all the corrections had been entered, and I finally got the results to one single test run I included with the programming forms.
It all seemed a bit pointless at the time, even without pocket or desk calculators, I could still do the same job on a piece of paper in 10 mins or so,using my trusty book of logarithms and square root tables. Something must have stuck in my mind, because 4 years later I was back in another college studying for my HND in Computer Studies.
What’s this go to do with anything? Well, last week I wrote my latest program. It solves Sudoku puzzles. It is written in PHP and is published for all to use on my website. It took about two hours to write, but two or three days on and off to get it working (recursive code is a bitch).
And you know something, it was just as much fun, just as pointless, and what I like to do to keep the brain active (as well as cryptic crosswords). A couple of years ago I wrote a program that used the Sieve of Eratosthenes to generate prime numbers, it goes up to 10 billion on a machine with a reasonable amount of memory, and 10 to 15 years ago, I wrote a series of programs that read in a vectorised topographical map, added values to the contour lines, and displayed the map in 3d. Very cool, but well… pointless!