Code and comments

Practical and theoretical aspects of software development

Hello, world!

public class Hello {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, world!");

I executed that program about 30 months ago. For me, it was a moment of optimism, now that Java was installed and working, I could focus on learning how to program. For my wife, it was depressing. Seeing the plain white text on the black console window highlighted how much I had yet to learn.

I was 36 years old, the father of four children ages five and under. I had recently learned that I would be losing my tenure-track faculty position due to financial difficulties of the college. Due to the abysmal academic job market and a weariness from moving my family from state to state, I had decided to change careers. As a pure mathematician, I had no directly useful skills.

After considering statistics, actuarial science (my undergrad major, quite outdated), and other vague ‘mathematician’ options, I decided that programming would be the most employable, most enjoyable, and most accessible option. This despite no contact with programming since my last FORTRAN 77 class in my undergrad days, not the slightest inkling of HTTP, SQL, Unix/Linux, servers, CSS, OOP, and almost no knowledge of HTML.

So I started with the code above, understanding very little of it, and less of how God would provide for my family over the coming months.

With all that I had to learn, and with moving to Ohio, and with the birth of my fifth child, there hasn’t been much opportunity for recording what I’ve learned. I’m planning on making that a habit now, as I’m learning more interesting things, and more often learning things that others may want to know.


Written by Eric Wilson

August 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Posted in personal

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Very inspiring post. I am going through the same phase myself, I am learning how to program, you are definitely an example for me. Best wishes. Winston Frias PhD student.


    January 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm

  2. […] special meaning to me, because of the essential role it played in my vocational change. When I was starting from zero at age 36 my only source of programmer culture was the Internet, and Stack Overflow was the most essential […]

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