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I learned computers the hard way. Out on the streets. Hanging around with other computer nerds in the late 70s who never went to college either. I was known as a Bit Wit. My first real computer was an IMSAI kit. Actually, it wasn't all IMSAI, it was a combination of several kits where no two boards came from the same supplier. It was in an IMSAI box, so I called it an IMSAI.
It was all supposed to work together the salesman told me the day before they went out of business. And it all did after some redesigning. I was tired of fixing CB radios for a living and decided that computers were here to stay and that I was going to learn about them.
With that in mind, everything that went wrong became an opportunity for growth. Not that I looked forward to things not working. I programmed the thing from scratch, loading binary codes into memory from an array of switches on the front panel.
The first program I developed ran the EPROM burner, which was the only storage device I had. After I saved this program on a chip, I used it to load the second program onto the chip.
Eventually I wrote enough software to talk to the screen and keyboard. Now I could type hex codes on the screen and save them to a chip. Eventually I wrote a tape driver and could save stuff on tape. Later, I traded for a North Star disk drive and had a disk system. One 90k floppy. I thought I was in heaven.
I was intimately familiar with my computer. All my programs were in object code with no documentation whatsoever. At that point, a friend of mine, Rufus, turned me on to a language called FORTH.
Being an interesting language and very powerful, I typed in the whole compiler in hex and adapted it to work on my system. Once I got Forth up, I wrote a line editor in it. Then I used the line editor to write a screen editor. With the screen editor, I rewrote Forth in Forth. The language compiled itself.
From working with Forth (which is as much a religion as a programming language) I learned both good and bad habits. Forth is a write-only language and is almost impossible to read even with the best of documentation. On the other hand, it is as close to the machine as you can get in a high level language.
After opening up a computer store in 1984, it became time to make the jump from CP/M to the DOS world. Turbo Pascal offered an interesting solution. They had both a CP/M and DOS compiler. This meant that programs I wrote would run on both machines. The thing that struck me about Pascal was that I could read it better than Forth, and didn't even know the language. Not only that, but I could follow the programs that other people wrote and incorporate their code into my code.
The more programs I wrote, the more I came to appreciate a language that was reader friendly. I could manage my programs much easier without having to remember so much. Other people could follow what I was doing easier.
The important thing I learned was that readability is very important in a program. The more complex the program, the more important readability becomes.
One of the main design factors in the MarxMenu language is readability. I could have used short names for the commands and it's not like I like to type. I'm still on just two fingers here. It's just that descriptive names are so much more meaningful when putting simple processes together to create complex processes.
The point (finally) is, when creating variable names, or procedure names, use long meaningful names. It may take more typing, but it takes a lot less thinking and remembering later on. Consider the following example in choosing variable names.
Var KlingonsDestroyedInBattle Var KIn the above example, it is obvious which one tells you more about what information is stored in the variable.
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