Today, I want to share my story about programming and how it changed my life. As a teenager, I knew I wanted to become a programmer. The idea of building something meaningful with code and sharing it with anyone felt magical to me. My cousin, who is five years older than me, was my first introduction to this fascinating world. I would sit next to him for hours on end, watching him write programs with Visual Basic for his college assignments and play computer games on his white Intel Pentium III computer, which was a rare commodity in Armenia back then.
Without a computer of my own, I eagerly visited my cousin almost every day, soaking up as much knowledge as I could. I remember his Microsoft XP operating system and how he patiently taught me how to install an operating system, format a computer, work with BIOS, and much more. It was an exciting and empowering experience for a young, curious mind.
During his programming homework sessions, his classmates often joined us, gathering around and sitting on chairs as they collaboratively solved problems together on a 15-inch rounded screen. Those moments are etched in my memory as they marked the beginning of my journey of becoming a "serious" programmer.
At 13 or 14, I asked my cousin to buy me a programming book that could teach me about algorithms. I had often heard him and his classmates discussing algorithms, so I wanted a book that could teach me about them too. I envisioned drawing diagrams on paper, explaining how programs worked. These diagrams usually consisted of start and finish blocks, accompanied by geometrically shaped statements that made up the program body (e.g., rectangles for "if" statements, squares for comparison operators, etc.). My cousin brought me my first programming book, purchased with the money I borrowed from my parents. Thankfully, they always willingly paid for books, even later in my college years when I would buy them, read 10-20 pages, and put them aside.
My first programming book that meant to teach me about algorithms and make me a programmer, was in Turbo Pascal. At that time, Pascal was the hottest programming language in Armenian universities in the late '90s and early 2000s. Since I knew almost nothing about programming, I thought this book would open the door to programming for me. Little did I know, the book was in Russian, and I wasn't fluent in Russian, making reading and understanding it harder. Unfortunately, there was no technical literature in Armenian, and most technical books were in Russian. My English was pretty bad, so sticking with Russian was my only choice.
My introduction to programming with Turbo Pascal didn't go well. The book was too difficult, and most of the terms were incomprehensible to a boy who had just started high school and never owned a computer. However, this didn't stop my love for programming. Instead, it fueled my curiosity and desire to explore the unknown world of code and creativity. It planted a dream within me to do whatever it took to become a "serious" programmer.
After seeing me visit my uncle's home every day for two years to watch my cousin program, my parents finally understood my passion for programming and decided to buy me a computer. Computers were expensive at the time, and none of my school friends had any, so it was a big deal for my family and me. I had to promise that it wouldn't interfere with my classes, that I would still do well in math and physics at school, and complete all my homework. In the early 2000s, there was no self-study guide to become a programmer, and the only way was through a college degree. To get a computer science degree in university, one had to pass math and physics tests with high scores to qualify.
The day we brought the computer home was a turning point in my life. I wasted no time setting it up, and with my cousin's help, installed Turbo Pascal on it. I was determined to learn programming, even if it meant struggling through the Russian text in my Turbo Pascal book.
Despite the language barrier, I persevered. I spent countless hours in front of the computer screen, trying to understand the code examples and experimenting with my own programs. I even picked up a Russian-English dictionary to help me make sense of the technical jargon. My passion for programming grew stronger as I began to see how it could be applied to solve real-world problems and make a difference in people's lives.
It wasn't long before I started exploring other programming languages like PHP, C++. I quickly realized that there was a whole world of programming knowledge beyond Turbo Pascal. I began to devour books on various programming languages and methodologies, and as my English improved, I gained access to a wealth of online resources and forums.
To keep my promise to my parents, I made sure to maintain my grades in school, and I continued to excel in math and physics. In the back of my mind, I knew that these subjects would be crucial for my future in computer science. As I approached the end of high school, I began preparing for the university entrance exams. I was determined to earn a spot in a prestigious computer science program and take the next step toward becoming a "serious" programmer.
My hard work paid off, and I was accepted into a good computer science program in Armenia. I couldn't believe it – my childhood dream was coming true! I eagerly embarked on this new chapter of my life, immersing myself in the challenging and rewarding world of computer science. In university, I was introduced to a diverse array of programming languages, tools, and frameworks. I was constantly challenged to learn new skills and apply them in creative ways. I was surrounded by people who were more smarter than me.
As the years passed, I never lost sight of my love for programming. I continued to be inspired by the endless possibilities and the power of code to change the world. Over time, I gained experience working on various projects, from small personal endeavors to complex, large-scale systems.
In retrospect, I can trace my love for programming back to those early days, sitting beside my cousin and marveling at the magic of code. My journey from a curious kid in Armenia to a successful programmer was shaped by my relentless passion and determination to learn. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had and the people who have supported me along the way.
Now, as I share my story, I hope to inspire others who are just starting their journey into the world of programming. No matter the obstacles, language barriers, or lack of resources, remember that with passion, dedication, and hard work, anything is possible. Just like the young me who once fell in love with programming, you too can chase your dreams and create a meaningful impact through code.