I got my first introduction to the concepts of computing in third grade (1968) thanks to "CardIAC", the CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation from Bell Labs (CARDIAC).
In sixth grade I began learning my first "real" programming language (Fortran IV) by sending card decks through the school mail to the L.A. City Schools "M.I.S.S." (Mathematics Instruction Support System).
It wasn't until high school that I had my first chance to work with an interactive terminal (a teletypewriter connected via dial-up modem at a whopping 110 baud). This was also where I learned my first version of BASIC.
In college (first at California State University Northridge and then at L.A. Valley Community College), I worked with CDC, PDP, IBM, Xerox and Prime systems. I picked up a few versions of Basic, Fortran, COBOL, PL/1 plus CDC Macro Assembler (Compass) and IBM 370 Assembler.
In 1980 I decided to see if I could make some money in the computing field so I took a part time job as a night operator. Within a few months, the company started me on programming assignments. I now have over 35 years making my living with computers.
On a somewhat separate track, I bought my first home PC in 1991. It had an Intel 486-DX 33 MHz processor with 4 MB of RAM and a 212 MB hard disk. It came with Windows 3.0. Over the next few months I learned a lot about the reasons why that particular system was a poor choice.
Since that time I have bought parts and built most of my desktop and tower systems. A few years ago, I found Magic Micro. They can build systems with the parts that I want and for a cost that I cannot match:Magic Micro
Over the years, I have built, upgraded or fixed PC's for various family and friends. Several of my systems have been handed down and have ended up giving more years of service than I would have imagined when I built them. The record holder was a 14-year old system that was successfully running 32-bit Windows 7 Pro when it was finally retired.
There is a pretty standard joke in the software business:
Q: How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. It's a hardware problem.
Some would contend that by crossing over to the "dark side" (i.e. building systems) I'm not really "just" a programmer. I don't think I'm "just" pretty much anything. Feel free to judge for yourself.