How I became a software engineer

In this post I would like to look back to the origin of my PC affinity, which later influenced my professional career.

It started quite early, in my childhood. Even at a young age, I was strongly excited and attracted by everything technical, electronic. Walking with my parents through the department store, left and right pretty clothes, all kinds of household utensils but I was driven to the game consoles: Here you could try out for myself and dive into strange worlds. Given my age, of course, I didn’t know a bit about how exactly this magic worked. It was like a medium from another planet for a 10 year old child, but I wish I had my own console for home.

But also remote-controlled toy cars or the Walkman created in me an urge for modern, for a piece of unprecedented quality of life. So I like to read technology books for children because I was interested in how things work.

One Christmas in the early 90s, my parents gave me a learning computer. It was equipped with a number of programs and came very close to a laptop. You could expand it with (by today’s standards) bulky modules to add more programs. It had a rather poorly resolved black and white screen. Later, a SNES (with Super GameBoy) was added which brought amazing interactivity into our living room for many years (I didn’t have my own TV in the children’s room at the beginning).

We owned only a few games: Super Mario World (which came with the SNES), and a few GameBoy games. Whenever my parents allowed it, I would set up the console in the living room, play for a while, and take everything down again. So I can still remember that only 2 years later I finished Super Mario World. At Christmas or my birthday I got a new game.

It wasn’t until 1996, when I was in 5th grade, that my family bought a real computer (a Fujitsu Siemens with a 110 MHz Pentium and I think 64 MB of RAM). In addition, a rather clunky 15 inch CRT monitor.

There was a time when few people had a computer. It was also much more difficult to set up a PC. Everything was still in its infancy. My class teacher had a PC and used it to create worksheets for class. No one else in our family had one. But we did and we didn’t know how to use it at first.

My mother used the PC exclusively for word processing. I tried out a lot. Of course, there were situations where the PC no longer starts and we had to consult a specialist. But mistakes were important for me to understand the complex matter. I got my knowledge from PC magazines (“PC go”, “PC Magazin”, “Chip”), PC books, as well as TV programs (“Neues” on 3sat, “WDR Computer Club”, “Click” on VOX or computer science courses on “BR alpha”).

old computer monitor
My workplace in the dormitory (year ~2005).
second desktop tower
My second computer. Unfortunately I have not found any photos of the first one.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the software offerings and the resulting functions: It was like a miracle that you could create something yourself, then print it out and physically share it that way.

I read a lot of classic PC magazines (but hardly any gaming magazines) and gradually taught myself the basics of a computer. At the end of the 90s I found a whole directory of HTML files on a magazine CD, which were supposed to make some menus and advertising content accessible offline. I got into the source code and soon understood how to use the syntax to make commands like bold, italic and underline.

In 1999 I put a small static website online. I created it with the program Microsoft Frontpage .

At that time, we still used a 56k modem (from Elsa) to access the Internet. Quite classically via the telephone line. This was to the benefit of my parents, because every minute costs a lot of money.

Through an article in a PC magazine, I brewed my first Q-Basic script and realized that it could also run on my sister’s Vtech educational computer. My enthusiasm grew exponentially: such a marvel of technology and you could write your own programs for it. I invested my pocket money in some dubious editors to build my own games (but quickly realized that the possibilities were very limited).

During my Abitur (German university entrance qualification) I came into contact with a bit of computer science for the first time. So what was called computer science at school at that time was more like an adult education course in computer operation basics.

But our new teacher was young and more motivated than all the others and taught us Turbo Pascal. Which got me excited pretty quickly. I built small programs to solve math homework and by chance a PC Welt issue came out that had a free version of Borland Delphi 6 , which was widely compatible with the Turbo Pascal I had learned.

This paved my way: I wanted to do something like that professionally: create software. I thought: With software you can break less and have almost unlimited possibilities. It’s different with hardware development, where you have to patiently test everything one by one and a small short circuit can destroy components.

2004, after the Abitur I started an apprenticeship at the “Sozial Software GmbH” in Prenzlau. Here I learned Visual Basic 6 and something very big, which has helped me a lot here and there in my life: Improvise!

I was almost thrown in at the deep end there, but I was also able to develop a lot of their product independently (at just 19 years old). One thing is certain: you only learn programming through a lot of practice. I deepened and professionalized my knowledge during my studies of computer science: Here I switched from Java to C#. My experience from previous projects was very helpful, because certain problems from the past now seemed more solvable. So you always learn something new. Especially if you live for IT.