Enter IT: “I wrote games for a calculator”

    We continue the rubric “Enter IT”! Today, our guest is a distinguished industry veteran and just a great person Konstantin Khaustov, Delivery Manager DataArt. Kostya will take us to the past for 30 years and talk about how the path to IT began for him.

    My "entry" into IT happened long before I heard the word "IT". Even the word “computer” was rarely used then. Usually they said “computer” or just “machine”. This corresponded to the appearance - a cabinet the size of a large refrigerator, in which some boards connected by cables, huge drives, power supplies and fans are inserted. All this flashed light bulbs and rattled like a tractor.

    In our school there were two such "cars", called "Electronics-60." As I later found out, it was a Soviet clone of the DEC PDP-11 computer, the same one on which the Unix operating system once appeared. But then, in 1985, it didn't matter what kind of computers it was. Having at least some computers at school was extremely cool and unusual. So unusual that no one really understood what to do with them. There was no computer science as a school subject, even calculators at school just appeared. Everything rested on an enthusiastic director, who himself became interested in this hard and software and sent interested mathematics teachers to courses. Teachers immediately opened circles to transmit knowledge to children until they forgot. It was rather a spoiled phone than training, but they gave us the most important thing - access to computers.

    Although there were only two computers, there were about fifteen workstations in the class: several terminals were connected to each computer and the Basic language interpreter was launched, supporting multi-user work. In general, it was possible to program only in BASIC, and only two hours a week. The rest of the time I had to be content with a programmable calculator. Compared to large computers, programming a calculator is writing a program not even in assembler, but immediately in machine codes. The occupation is very time-consuming, but then a lot of people were passionate about this, just like every geek is programming Raspberry now. Programs for calculators were discussed and published in popular science journals. There were even games for calculators, however, one had to rely heavily on their imagination.

    Games on "Electronics-60" were also, even with a more humane interface than on calculators, drawn with symbols on an alphanumeric display. It was there that I first played Tetris, in 1986, just a year after it was invented. But playing was not as interesting as programming. At that time, the feeling of the magic of programming had not yet lost its novelty, and most of my peers who had access to computers did not, first of all, sit on games, but on this flexibility and flexibility of the computer world, on the illusion of omnipotence. We did some tests and tutorials for the school and wrote games for ourselves. Due to iron limitations, illustrations in training programs and animations in games were made with the same standard symbols, not even pseudographics. Of course, we dreamed about a real schedule, and over time, in 1988, we got it. It was a whole class with BK-0010 computers, which had graphics, sound, a local area network — lots of new features. We began to do everything the same as before - training programs and games - but at a new level. Of my projects of that time, I recall a utility for printing graphics on a matrix printer, a 3D maze, which although it was drawn correctly, but worked very slowly, and a virus that ascribes itself to the boot sector of a diskette.

    Thanks to the activity of our director, various contests and olympiads constantly “stuck” to us. For example, one of my senior comrades went to the first All-Union Olympiad in Computer Science from Voronezh without any selection. Then, an invitation to an international competition from the Bulgarian town of Stara Zagora came to us magically. We completed the qualifying rounds, sent the printouts of the programs by mail (by usual, there was no electronic then), as a result, my senior friend and I went there. It was very cool. We participated in the entire competitive program, even in “computer linguistics”, which did not know anything, and had fun with everything that entertained us: we stood on the top of Shipka Mountain, walked around the Gabrovo village, went to Plovdiv with a delegation from Krasnoyarsk, went to rose museum and drank a bucket of tonic Schweppes, which was not for sale at that time. With linguistics, I didn’t do it very well, with better programming, I even got a bronze medal. A year later, I met with the same guys from Krasnoyarsk already at their home, at the first Russian Olympiad in computer science.

    Then all of a sudden my school years ended, but I didn’t regret it a bit, including because now I could really “get into IT”. After some throwing, I ended up at the Voronezh State University at the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Mathematics in the same group as those who had entered. Each had their own interesting history of entering IT, life in IT, and later some of them (Kostya Sulimina and Denis Tsyplakov) had their own story Enjoy IT.

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