Makes ya wanna think.

Margaret is a 3rd-generation Computer Game Developer

The first computer game I ever played was written by my Dad, Jack Sharp. In the early 60’s he was a meteorologist in the Air Force and was learning to program. I was in 5th grade. His group held an open house for all the families to come ooh and ahh at the blinking lights of the massive mainframes.

He had written a game, a simple reaction-speed game. A line of people formed to try their reflexes against the big metal brains.

The game was to look at a row of lights and when they lit up to press any key on the teletype machine as fast as you could. Between lights on and keypress the computer would count supahfast. The computer would then print out “I COUNTED TO 13,047. FASTEST CONTESTANT’S SCORE: 11,012”, or if you were the fastest so far “CONGRATULATION!!! I ONLY COUNTED TO 10,711. A NEW RECORD!!!”

We, of course, were dazzled by the machines counting speed. I was determined to set a new record.

I was filled with adrenaline when it was my turn to play. My reflexes were over-primed. I saw a flicker and TAP – lightning fast keystroke. The computer printed “CONGRATULATIONS!!! I ONLY COUNTED TO 0. A NEW RECORD!!!” I had jumped the gun, hit the key before the lights went off, and I was devestated. I felt like crawling into a hole.

My Dad was embarassed. He said he was sure he’d put a check for jumping the gun into his program. But there was no was to reset my “record score” of zero without rebooting the whole shebang, which was for some reason not possible.

So the first time I played a computer game I found a bug. In my Dad’s program. In front of all his colleague’s families. Luckily Dad had a wonderful sense of humor.

Dad went on to have a great career in meteorological computing. He wound up heading the massive Automated Weather Network – a worldwide network of weather observation gathering and forecasting computers which was an early-70’s precursor of the Internet. He was proud that some of the low-level network code he wrote survived in the system for many years.

Too bad I’m such a godlike coder that Margaret will never have the thrill of finding a bug in any of my games.

2 responses

  1. Wonderful storyof the pioneerining days and of your Dad, Doug 🙂 Thanks for that one!


    February 2, 2007 at 2:17 pm

  2. He was an excellent programmer and a great person.

    February 2, 2007 at 3:16 pm

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