I have a family friend who has been dabbling with development for a few years now and is considering starting to pursue it as a career after quite some time in the hospitality business. The conversation turned interesting when we started discussing the inspiration for some of the personal projects that we had worked on.

What we came to determine in talking to each other, our first "serious" applications where things that were related to hobbies or interests. While we both had thrown things together and hacked around, we also both considered our first serious application to be closer to the time that we were thinking about how it would apply to a career related to development. His was an application to easily index his sports memorabilia collection. Mine was a 3D landscape generator/editor.

Do any of you have a story to share about what your first "serious" application was, if it was something that you were motivated to do because of another passion, and do you still have that same drive in your gullet today?

I already answered the first two parts, and as for the last part, I actually think I am more motivated today than I was before I started doing this for a living.

Edit: One time edit. I have loved the answers so far, and hoping to get a few more.

+1  A: 

In college, I developed a forum application in C that was used on the student computer. Several people used my code for their own topic-oriented forums, hosted in their own account. This was in the 1980's before the web existed, so people accessed each others' applications in a command-line environment on a shared UNIX server.

That project was educational in a few ways. I had to make the code configurable so people could customize some of its features. I had to document installation, configuration, troubleshooting, etc. I had to respond to feature requests and bug reports. I kept track of which version each person was using, and rolled out new versions as needed.

It was a good project, because it showed me how to do some non-coding work necessary when developing a software project.

Bill Karwin
+3  A: 

My first several programs were games I wrote on my calculator to entertain myself.

The very first was a simple dice game on some kind of casio programmable calculator. I was at a really boring event and just kind of figured out programming.

I've been quite addicted since then.

+1  A: 

To output the word "Hello World" in a console window.

Followed by many more example programs, then onto Web Development, don't think I've ever made a proper application..

Are you saying that there are no such things as proper or serious web applications? :-)
It may be that he was part of a team that made a web application. I've never made a complete and nontrivial web application, but I could if I must. Rather, I've been part of a team that has split the development duties for the different sections of the web application.
Right you are MetroidFan!
+2  A: 

First 'serious' app was an ATM simulator written with FoxBase for DOS in high school.

Ariel Arjona
+2  A: 

My first application was for a juice delivery company. The company was run by a family friend looking to save some dollars, and I was in the second year of my IT degree at uni.

They needed an application where they could enter in the details of the juice required for the next week for all their customers, and it would automatically round the numbers up to whole cartons and produce a plan for the pallets of juice to be shipped from the factory. Based on what was actually shipped, it would then allocate the juice to the customers according to their orders (sometimes they missed out since some juice wasn't shipped from the factory) and then generate appropriate invoices.

I wrote the whole thing in VBA using Access97. It actually worked really well, though obviously as my first app there were a few WTFs in there and a lot of spaghetti code. I realised years later that the app never deleted any data from the DB, so the longer they used it the slower it would get as the databse file got bigger and bigger. Still, they used it for about 4 years with no major issues, and I call that a success.

When they sold the business to someone else they listed that software as part of the business assets, and that made me quite proud. :-)

Stewart Johnson
Interesting. A lot of my early freelance work was done for family and/or family friends. Congrats on the recognition, too. I was promised inclusion on a patent for a product that I developed at one point. Unfortunately, changes in management ultimately left my name off of it. Very deflating.
+1  A: 

My first, non-academic program was a device driver for a thermal plotter in one of our Engineering computing labs. Probably written in Fortran for a Prime 750 super-minicomputer. This would have been as a work-study student, probably during my junior year of college. Before that they would all have been class projects in Fortran, PLC, or Basic.

Actually I'm probably more interested in programming today than I was then.

+3  A: 

A few months ago I wrote a minesweeper clone done entirely in HTML/CSS/Javascript. There weren't even any images!

Of course it relied heavily on the canvas tag so as of right now there are no released browsers the can run it. (Although Safari 3 with the WebKit nightly builds -or- Firefox 3.1 beta do work.)

+2  A: 

My first program was written to create a KWIC index of articles in the local newspaper. It replaced the clipping files maintained by the University library where I worked at the time. Looking back, I'm astonished that I thought I could do it since I had no programming experience beforehand. It inspired me to enroll in a Masters program in computer engineering and led to my 30 year career as a programmer (so far).

+1  A: 

The first app at my first real job (circa 84) was a "database" app to manage a 9-track magnetic tape library. If you are young, see It was written in FORTRAN & JCL, and made use a Merge-Sort API. The platform was a 24-bit Harris mini computer.

+1  A: 

an application in AppleSoft BASIC to track the name, address, model, and serial number of firearm purchases for Federal arms dealers. The application generated a report for the state and federal governments.

I was 16 at the time.

Steven A. Lowe
+1  A: 

Hmm.. 'serious application'. The first one was just a ecommerce site for UNICEF selling their christmas cards using ASP classic.

Thorpe Obazee
+1  A: 

My first real program was a system to "parse" reports from a mainframe line printer and load them into a database that could then be pulled on the screen at will from any machine in the network.

My inspiration? I was a computer operator at the time, and delivering reports every 15 minutes to someone who might or might not need it was something I knew I could fix. It ended up launching my career of now 20+ years of programming. I found I enjoyed sitting and typing more than I enjoyed walking around the campus delivering reports.

+1  A: 

A 'game' where a picture bounces around a form and you get points for clicking on it (score appears in title bar). Good old Visual Basic...

The first serious application was a C++ SDL game engine and the accompanying VB map editor.

Firas Assaad
+3  A: 

Program to monitor oil/gas flow for excess pressure and to release excess gas - burning it off with a massive flare - so that $400M worth of oil rig didn't blow up and sink to the bottom of the sea.

That was the very first application you developed? Ever? Or the first one you ever did for money? Just curious. =)
I did a few coding exercises - bubble sort etc - as part of a programming course but not anything you would call an application. Back then - before microcomputers and home computers were invented - it wasn't unusual to be taken on as a trainee programmer without any experience at all.
+1  A: 

My first application was a Quadratic equation solver written in Delphi, which I wrote for a friend. It had a skin even, which looked like a metallic floor panel, with 4 screws in the corners. I also added a little easter egg, if entered my friends' birthday in the values of a, b, and c, and clicked on the top-left screw, his picture would pop out.

Very cool. Easter eggs and skinning in one project. Ah, the memories!
+4  A: 

My first serious application (as opposed to toy programs or little things I wrote to exercise hardware) was called the Central Locator Service. Its purpose was to track the locations of the successors to the President. The customer was FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), which, somewhere in deeply disturbed bureaucratic unconscious, had conceived the oddest fear: that a natural disaster or war would kill not only the President and the Vice President, but the Speaker of the House and the other high-profile cabinet members and it would fall to FEMA to find and transport to Washington some obscure functionary, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, say, whom the vicissitudes of death and of constitutional law had elevated to leader of whatever remained of the Free World. My task was to write a program to keep track of where, at any given moment, each of these successors, these potential-Presidents, actually was.

Writing Central Locator Service actually ended up quite challenging. Parsing the addresses was a problem (if "Calif" means "California", did "India" mean "Indiana?"); writing graphic routines in Fortran was, mmmm, strenuous. The first problem was the most memorable: I had the program working perfectly in the debugger. From the command line, it did absolutely nothing. Well, not nothing, but nearly nothing. My first job out of school, the guy from the White House -- the White House for crying out loud! -- would be there in an hour to see how things were going, and I couldn't get the program to run, at all. I was despairing. I was trying to figure out if I could just rig the demo, run the program from the debugger when no one was looking, when the obvious finally occurred to me.

The program was called "Central Locator Service" and of course, I had just used the initials for the executable file. After most of an excruciatingly frustrating hour, I realized, to DOS, "cls" is command to clear the screen.

+1  A: 

My first serious programming project invloved reading telemetry data from an on-board computer in a Top-Fuel motorcycle, and displaying it graphically on a PC screen for analysis. It displayed all kinds of measurements in a graph, like engine RPM, exhaust temperature and fuel pressure. It could save the data, and simpultaniously display multiple graphs of 2 different runs to be able to compare the bike's setup.

I did this project together with a good friend and classmate, who also "happened to be" the chief mechanic on the bike.

It's very motivating to have a "customer" with a clear definition of a solvable problem. Seeing people use your software and benefit from it is really cool. (Even cooler if it is a professional dragrace team).

+1  A: 

My first application was a C# Winforms Client Tracking Application for a local charity. Its structure makes me cringe to this day, and every so often I open it back up just to go 'Oh My God'. I also developed a reporting system for an Army Unit I was stationed with, effectively extending their VBA/Access driven application. Currently I work on a team that develops and maintains Web applications for a start-up.

George Stocker
+1  A: 

An app that would eat up memory until there was only 30MB free on the server.

We had servers that were monitored by this application that used to email us whenever any of them had less than 50MB remaining. We had one server that only had 256MB of ram, and no control over the monitoring application. This particular server would CONSTANTLY go over and back under the 50MB threshold and generate an email to us in each condition. We asked that the admins stop the email or change the threshold for this machine and they wouldn't, so I made an app that would check the available memory, and pack it until the machine had 30MB free.


My first true app was for a Fashion retailer, they wanted to summarize their national sales figures and segregate them in various ways for different levels of managment within the organization. I was given Excel as the format. It sucked big time as a DB app would have done a better job. However I setup their sales software to create various files on a daily basis, theses files were then opened by excel and then the report generation began, I did this mostly using macros with a touch of vba here and there. Very amateurish when I look back, but they were truly impressed. It took almost an hour to run, but when complete there were seven or so reports that summarized the data in various ways, and all without a single person doing anything. I must say that I too was impressed, it took me on the order of three months (while working on other things) to get it right. But it was a beast of an app with killer reports. If I recall correctly I saved the company on the order of & man hours per day.

Craig G

My first was a text-based adventure game when I was about 12, in QBasic.

After a few weeks, I found out (the hard way) that there's a hard limit in the physical size of a single .bas file that QBasic will allow, which eventually forced me into learning PASCAL (and from there, "proper" procedural programming like using functions and subroutines).

So I blame my non-Object Oriented programming upbringing on video games of course. ;)


That's almost 30 years ago in a high school BASIC class and I don't remember the very first program. The only program I remember was a dice game.

However, the first program I wrote as a professional collected data about accidents that occurred at a construction company. Since the purposes were to detect and remedy trends and to help employees get into the Worker's Compensation system when appropriate, it made me feel relatively good (vs. the bean counting programs I maintained most of the rest of my time there).