When I was 7, my mum enrolled my sister and me in a computer programming course (sister was 9 or had just turned 10). I was below the minimum age for the class, but I was also at that tag-along stage where I just go with my sister where she goes so mum has some hours to not be driving us somewhere, and can focus on her work, or having a summer (this was Lagos, where December is almost as hot as June, but work with me).
Well, so we learned a language called BASIC, Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. I loved counting in tens, which I had to do for each line of code, and I loved for statements and GO TO commands, and drawing flow diagrams, gosh did I love drawing flow diagrams! We had a class test and I remember scoring 7 or 7-and-a-half out of 10 and the teacher praising me to high heavens because everyone had assumed I had just come there to play Pacman and Prince of Persia and Space Invaders while I waited for my sister to learn stuff. Yet there I was, learning.
So that was my first experience with programming, well, besides playing around with some punch cards we had lying around the house for whatever reason. Fast forward to when I was 14 or 15, and we got an iMac G3 for the house. The mini living room at the top of the stairs suddenly became the place to be in our house — whether to watch my sisters be Ryu and E. Honda at a very early version of Street Fighter, or to try my hands at yet another web site design using FrontPage. Our internet connection was still choppy at best, you’d literally read two pages of a novel while waiting for one light page to load. But it was the late 1990s and there was this beautiful new world of motion and interactivity, and beyond Solitaire and Microsoft Word’s Marching Ants text effect, we were a real part of it.
Around this time, I remember there being a global webpage contest called ThinkQuest, and a girl from my high school being one of the finalists of this contest. How that expanded, in my mind, the possibilities that having internet access at home could bring, and how I started making educational websites on topics that interested me, like the history of jazz music.
First year of University, I moved countries. I was also learning assembly language, which was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. When I was 7, I had read in my sister’s France Afrique textbook, a short story of a girl who goes to Paris, and I had decided to myself then that I wanted to learn French, possibly with dreams of going to Paris. Learning a core computing language was like preparing to go to the Paris of computers; I just didn’t know then how long and fulfilling a journey I was embarking on.