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Friday, October 15, 2010

How great customer service made me a programmer


My roots of being an entrepreneurial programmer date back to when I was about 12 and received a Commodore Vic-20 as a gift from my parents.  I'm pretty sure neither they nor I knew why I needed this device, but I think the thinking is that if you had a computer at that time, it would help you do better in school.  Although I don't think I really ever understood what PEEK and POKE did at the time, I became a pretty proficient BASIC programmer, mostly by programming text adventure games, with the occasional dabble into the Space Invader like games that were barely possible at that time.

However, I think the thing that pushed me over the edge was after taking one course of Pascal in college I remembered how much I liked programming and wanted to take more.  Up until that point, I had entered college thinking I was going to be an Orthodontist, so I was mainly taking pre-med classes.

At any rate, I was learning C and but kept reading up on C++ and "Object Oriented Languages" and decided I wanted to be on the bleeding edge.  So I wrote Borland a letter explaining to them that I really did want to learn C++, but I couldn't afford their compilers (I couldn't) - so if they could please make academic editions available.   A few days later I got a personal letter back from Philipe Kahn, who was CEO and founder of Borland at the time, along with a huge box of their most expensive C++ and Assember compilers at the time.  

From then on, I dove into programming with both feet.   My first class after that was Computer Graphics and although we were supposed to code in C, I asked the professor if I could code it in C++, as I wanted to use my new compilers.  To his knowledge, I was the first student to use C++ at Northwestern.

So I've kept the license card around from Borland, because I became fiercely loyal to them up until the point Philipe was pushed out and probably beyond, and it serves as a reminder of how important customer service is.

Is that a nerdy story or what?
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