Sunday 26 October 2008

Programming in Strange Places!

Earlier this month I spent a week in Cornwall without access to a computer. In the true spirit of recreational programmers everywhere, this didn't curtail my programming activity. I managed to discover a number of solutions to the Semaphore Problem in Redcode while watching the waves!

However, programming on the beach, public transport, restaurants and even a theme park appear pretty normal alongside the place where I wrote Koch Curve for the Sinclair Spectrum.

One October night 14 years ago I took shelter from the wind and rain in Victoria Cave.  After setting up for the night and studying the map, I eventually tried to code an idea I'd had a few days earlier.

Working by candlelight on scraps of paper I programmed, optimized and hand assembled Koch Curve for the Speccy's Z80. Perhaps the surroundings explain the strange names I used for labels!

What's the strangest place you've written a program? I'd love to know.

Victoria Cave, near SettleKoch Curve on the Sinclair Spectrum


  1. it may be strange place but I think its more serene than hearing the busy streets in the City while programming

  2. The most productive place to program (for me at least) is in the garden on a summer day.

    Providing there's nothing to distract me...

    John :-)

  3. you are a true blue programmer. You dont even need your computer? How about debugging some of my code?

  4. Elementary school, 5th grade, 1982, Penmanship class. I was working on a side-scrolling routine in assembler for video game (Apple ][+). I had just 'discovered' the technique of rendering a set of complex tiles offscreen and based on a lookup map, blit those to the display page as required. This was gonna be FAST. I had drawn everything out on graph paper, written out my memory map and was busy "coding" it in 6502 assembler on my notepad (pencil and paper) when my teacher (Mrs. Fuller) snatched the papers from my desk, glanced at it and derisively sneered "Let's see what you're working on so intensely" (obviously expecting to find a note to a friend, or a picture or something). She demanded "What is this nonsense?"

    "It's a drawing routine using tile lookups for a video game I'm writing." NOT exactly the answer she was expecting. (Cue laughter from the other students.)

    "Okay, funny guy" she said. "Off to the principal's office with you. You can explain to him why you're goofing off instead of working."

    The Principal's son was a compsci major and he took a look at what I was doing, asked me to explain it to him and realized it was for real. He got me an Apple ][ from the school library, put it in the corner of his office and let me spend the rest of the week working on my game instead of practicing manuscript.

    I've been in the industry almost 25 years, now, but nothing since has matched the sheer joy of programming and the sense of wonder and limitlessness since those early days with the Apple ][.

  5. A desert in Texas. My company was demoing a robot who relied on vision, and the terrain had much more vegetation than we anticipated. We ended up needing to tweak a bunch of values / algorithms to get it to work smoothly.

    Nothing compares to the surreal feeling of hitting compile, wiping the sweat from your forehead, batting away some of the huge black flies, and thinking "damn, I think I just heard a rattlesnake."

  6. On a couple of occasions I have been coding in the side wings of a theater stage during a performance.

  7. This is not exactly exotic, but I've done a fair bit of coding on trains. For some reason they seem to be a great place for me to concentrate. And sleep, but in that case there is not much coding. I tend to ride at off-peak times in half-empty trains, if my schedule allows.

  8. The toilet is by far my favorite place to flush out a new idea (hehe). In fact, it's proven so effective that I've dubbed my bathroom the All Holy Productivity Chamber.

  9. A very very remote hospital in the Ugandan countryside.

  10. An office. That was really weird, and the people? Uhg... they talked shit all the time and ponced about like being there was the greatest experience of their lives. Totally fucking bizarre.

  11. at a party, surrounded with ten or so metalheads. i was high, coding a trippy 3d demo.


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