hello, world: Chapter 1 of 3

August 29, 2015

Traditionally, when you're learning a new programming language, hello, world is the phrase that will be asked of you to print out on your first program. I won't be talking about my first program however. Instead, I'll talk about college, my career and TV shows I have recently watched. Fun!

I will try to keep this in layman's terms as much as I can. For your reference, I will be talking a lot of computer-speak, mostly in the context of programming. Programmer will sometimes be interchanged with developer. Also, I am bedridden and on painkillers as I'm typing all these so please bear with my babbling. I will try to edit out some of the babble in the next coming days when I'm well. I REALLY REALLY hope it's not appendicitis.

That's Len beside me. I know, I will get flak from her for posting this photo, but look at me! And yes, that is me in the lavender hoodie. As my bestfriend now, who shall not be named. said "Mukha kang payat-mahirap dati.

Almost a decade ago, me and my college best friend Len entered a programming competition during the University Fair. Let me rephrase that. Almost a decade ago, I forced Len to pair up with me and sign up to a programming competition during the University Fair. Because why not! We had nothing to lose. We were girls anyway.

Okay, okay. That sounded really bad. We attended college at a male-dominated computer university. And yes, gender stereotyping was evident. At the time, that was my best sell so Len would agree to pair up and enter the competition with me. 

We entered the computer laboratory where the contest was to be held. And surprise, surprise! Yes, we were the only girls. We took two computer terminals at the back, because no matter how I hyped it up to my best friend, that moment still sent me the shivers to my spine. Imagine this. EVERYONE WAS LOOKING AT US AS WE ENTERED THE ROOM. We were a sore thumb next to all the greats of that school when it comes to programming.

1. We were given 20 (difficult) machine problems that we needed to code.
2. How we split the tasks between the pair was up to us.
3. We can either use C language or Java, and I think Assembly too
4. There was a time limit of 3 hours, or was it 4 hours? Bahh I can't recall, but it was a long time.
5. The programs will be judged based on cleanliness, efficiency and timeliness.

Now, I suck at remembering life moments, unless they were really big and invoked all sorts of emotions in me. That moment was a good example. At the last hour, we hit a road block. We literally stopped coding our half of the list of machine problems. We said out loud, "Is this it? Are we going home?"

I thought, "We already went this far. We can't lose to this." Then, I had a light bulb moment. I started debugging Len's programs on double time. I took over her station, and asked her to do the same to my programs. I remember this exact moment because everyone in the room got up from their screens to look at us switch seats. It was like carnival show to them. We couldn't tell if they were amused or horrified for us. Some even cheered.

We did all we could do, but it was not a TV show. We were not the female protagonists that had your sympathy for the underdogs. We were not also ridiculously hot like the ones we see on TV. (Refer to the photo above.) We were not bound to win at the end. You know what we DID get out of all that? That we coded at a standard so familiar with each other, we were able to figure out what went wrong with the programs and how to fix them, all in a matter of minutes. (I'm talking about your incorrect nesting, Len! Haha!) Talk to any developer, and you will always hear it is much harder to fix something another developer did.

Oh, and we actually did place. We won 2nd Runner Up, could you believe that? Nevertheless, to us, it was just icing on the cake. It also solidified our choice to get each other as thesis-mates.  

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