Today, I had a discussion with my 8 years old son about my first steps with computers and programming. I had VERY good math teachers both in the elementary and high schools who supported me towards my profession today, and who let me in the the schools’ computer rooms. This was the age when we had no Internet yet. My elementary school’s computer room had Commodore +4s, where I spent a lot of hours, writing my very first codes in Basic — and got my first red eyes because these computers had no real screens yet, we used them with TVs…The high school was the “next level”: we had “real” PCs there, connected via a Novel network, but still: no Internet.
I was let in the computer room from my very first day in the high school, and usually we hung there with two boys who were one year older than me. (Yes, it was a very cool thing!!) One of our first application was a chat program, to communicate with each other via the school’s network… All in Turbo Pascal, of course… Good old times!
But on the other hand, I also had another classes in the school, of course. One of these was German language — we had a beautiful, young teacher, who was REALLY amazing, one of my best teachers, ever. But still, I hated to look up words in the dictionary. (Don’t forget, dictionaries were on paper that time, still no Internet!)
The solution? — I decided to write a German-Hungarian Dictionary software!! It’s obvious, isn’t it? 😉
As I really wanted to make this program (app?) happen, I entered the FULL(!!) German-Hungarian dictionary to TXT files, plus I added every word and expression from my German books and notes. The result was an extended dictionary, all in TXTs. You can still check these files here. — Yes, this was my “database” that time… 😉
As a next step, I needed “something” that I could use to search this “database”. This was my first “big” application. It’s functionality was to search in the dictionary in both ways: from German to Hungarian as well as from Hungarian to German. Yes, the first way was easy (or at least, easier than the other) as I had the words and expressions ordered by the German alphabet, so I just needed to decide the first letter, open the proper files and do an alphabetic search there. (Each letter had two TXT files, for example A01.txt and A02.txt, as I bumped into some file size overflow issues(!!) for some “popular” letters when I tried to store them in one TXT per letter.)
But the other way, Hungarian to German was really tricky (and slower, of course). But I managed to solve this, too! Wohoo! It was ready to get used!
Why I raise this up now? — Because I had to realize today, while talking to my son, that this was my very first SEARCH application! At the age of 17!
Ps. The future of this program is very funny, too. (And I’m really proud of it!)
I submitted this program to a national student competition, and won a 3rd place. This was a VERY big thing that time! Nationwide 3rd place! In programming! We still had no computer at home! We still had no Internet! I still had not even a single book on programming or computers at all!
This competition had several sponsors, of course. One of them turned to be my very first employer two years later.
One other sponsor was a Hungarian computer magazine, called “Uj Alaplap” (~”New Motherboard”). They gave me an offer to publish this dictionary program on their February issue in 1997. Yes, it was published on a 1.44″ floppy!!! 🙂
And I’ve got my very first honorarium for it!
But the story still continued, my dictionary got a new life, a kind of “independent” from me. As the new invention, Internet got more and more popular, in Hungary too, someone decided to create online dictionaries. You know, English-Hungarian, German-Hungarian, etc. A kind of early “google/bing translate”. And they decided to use my application and “database” as the very basics. And my name is still on their “Credits” page:
When I told this story to my son today, he was REALLY excited! And I am SO glad I still can show him this page, with my name on, from my high-school years. It’s a long-time history for him — and nice memories for me. And actually, one verz important steps towards who I am today.
Ps2. I was in my last year of my high-school studies when the school finally got Internet connection. It was available for teachers only that time, and they were the only ones who was allowed to get e-mail addresses, too. Well, somehow, all of a sudden, my name got to the approved teachers’ list, therefore I could get my very first e-mail address and Internet access.
Ps3. I was able to buy my very first computer book the same year. It was a big, red book on MS-DOS 6.22 and costed a fortune (for me!), 600 HUF (~2.7 USD on today’s rates).