My early programming days

In the late seventies, every teenager in Switzerland had two dreams (that is in addition to getting a girlfriend). The first one was to own a 49cc motorcycle. The second one was to own a Sony walkman.

At age 12 my parents had decided that I was old enough to start making my own money and they told me that they would pay half of any thing that I would want to buy, but that I had to make the remaining fifty percent myself. In order to earn some money I helped my father at his office and I also worked at a pharmacy, delivering prescriptions on my bike. Since riding a motorcycle required to be 14 years of age, my plan was to save the money in advance, to make sure I could buy the coveted Enduro moped on my birthday. However, business was much better than expected and I was able to save the money I needed, well in advance. In fact, I had enough money to buy my second dream, the Walkman.

The Sony Walkman that was not meant to be mine

So, I went on my trusted bike, that I had received on my tenth birthday, to the Grand Passage store, with the clear intent to buy the (at the time) hot music device.

That never happened. In order to reach the music section where the product was sold, I had to pass through the office supplies section where calculators were on display. I had seen the TI-58 before and the large number of buttons and capabilities it offered had intrigued me, but it was way too expensive for my limited budget. However, for some reason, on that day it was 50% off. I still see that moment as a pivotal moment in my life. Who knows what would have happened if I had followed my original plan. I bought the calculator and never looked back. I eventually bought an iPod at launch, but that happened way, way later.

The Apple II

I was 16 and we were about to move to Madrid. I loved my moped but in Spain you have to be 18 in order to ride a motorcycle, so I decided to sell it and use the cash to buy an Apple II because it was the only computer that included tools that made it easy to develop in assembly language, which was the only way to write fast, efficient code. After writing a couple of simple games and a BASIC code editor, I finally started my professional career writing an educational authoring application called Teacher's Wizard for the Apple II platform. The Mac had just been launched (it was 1984) and I was dazzled by it's graphical user interface and the new possibilities it opened, specially in the education market. Since I had no way to buy a Mac I started working on writing my own courseware authoring platform using a GUI that I developed specifically for this application.

I implemented the GUI in assembly language using a joystick to control the cursor (although I later supported mouse input when it was released for the Apple II platform). Believe me, it took me a lot of time to do that! However, it was a great project that allowed me to learn a lot and I was able to complete the project and sell it to a company in Spain and later to Britannica Software in the U.S.

Early Days