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From Stick Figures to the Mainframe

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Note from the editor: Alex is back and at it again. From his first introduction to his desk at Intel, to the ThinkTank he started with other interns, to the ideas that he thinks up of on the MAX*, he's had a great summer so far and is back to impart some of his thoughts with you. Today he touches upon the path he took to get where he is, from a coding newbie to a coding jedi, he'll make a computer language seem less intimidating. Who knows, maybe you'll be inspired to learn one yourself!

I really hope at least one of you raised your hand I really hope at least one of you raised your hand

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used Facebook*. Now raise your hand if you’ve ever played Angry Birds*. Next raise your hand if you’ve ever listened to music on Pandora*. Finally, raise your hand if you’re awkwardly raising your hand while reading this article and the other people around you are wondering why you’re doing that.

Those ideas are big ideas that have made an impact on modern society and there are thousands of people who have the chance to be a part of them, even you; you just don’t know it. The one thing I want to do with this blog is to break down any barriers you have about going into a computing field just because coding is too “hard” or too “confusing.”

Sanskreek Sanskreek

I promise that if I gave you a book written in a combination of Sanskrit and Ancient Greek and told you to read it, you’d think I was crazy (banking on the fact that none of my readers are fluent in my made up language of Sanskreek…). Many people experience a similar feeling with code. “It looks so confusing!” and “I don’t get what this code is doing?!” are phrases I hear all too often because people expect a learning curve of immediately. Nothing worth having or doing can be had or done on your first try.

I took my first class in computing when I was 14 at my high school. (I didn't know or even think that I'd be working at Intel at the age of 19, a mere five years later.) The class was taught using the programming language Java. On my first day I raised my hand in front of the entire class and asked, “Excuse me, but where do we actually type the code?” Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, the teacher had to walk over to my desk in the back of the class, right click on the software and click “Edit Code.” I turned red and was too afraid to ask another question for days. It was humble beginnings for me, too. I didn’t just know Java right from the start, nor did I expect to write a newer better version of Google in my first few months. I set small goals for myself and made sure they were attainable before my hopes were dashed.

My first line of code, and I’m sure I’m about to bring up a lot of fun memories for all the programmers out there, was:

System.out.println(“Hello, World!”);

Can any of you guess what that line of code does? All it does is show the text “Hello, World!” on the screen. A few minutes later I typed this in:

Int x = 1;

while (x < 11) {

System.out.println( x + “ “ );

x = x + 1;


This code is a little bit trickier, but it starts with “x” being equal to 1, and while it’s less than 11, prints it out and then adds 1 to it, so I end up getting the computer to count from 1 to 10!

Oh the memories! We had some great times together. Oh the memories! We had some great times together.

My first programs weren’t thousands of lines long, nor were they written with crazy symbols and wild things going on the screen. I wasn’t staring at my screen, sweat beading down my neck, typing furiously for hours in a dark room while I "hacked the mainframe” as so many movies uniquely state. Instead, I spent minutes to hours carefully planning my code on paper, running into errors where I forgot a semi-colon or a bracket. I pushed my way through every line. Every program was difficult for me to write, but as time went on and I learned more and became more fluent in the way of thinking and the languages, the programs I wrote in the first few weeks and even years became second nature.

Even I had to practice my stick figure drawing to make it the disfunctional figure it is today. Even I had to practice my stick figure drawing to make it the disfunctional figure it is today.

Never believe for a second that anyone just understood from moment one. Never believe that people could sit down and be the best on their first try. Never believe that you can’t be the best just because it was rough and slow beginnings. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I had believed any of those things. Have confidence in yourself that once you push past that first bump, a world of opportunities and future will be right in front of you.

A rocket scientist doesn’t just look at calculus and understand. An Olympic athlete doesn’t win a gold medal without training for years. And a painter doesn’t create a masterpiece on their first attempt. No, they start with stick figures and work their way up.

Until next week,

Your summer intern,