Lessons in Coding, Pt 1. I Found Terminal, but Where is Morpheus?

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This is what Morpheus would tell me, if I ever found him on Terminal. But I’m too old to be taken from the Matrix. And he’s a work of fictionl.

Two weeks ago I told the entire world that I was going to teach myself to code. Then I disappeared. I went down to Florida to eat gumbo and pepper pot, and find out how fat I was. There were gifts to be given. Eggs to be nogged.

My routines were firebombed. Yeah, once, a long time ago I was a responsible and relatively disciplined citizen of the Earth. Then we put some lights on a tree and I turned into Caligula, but with less debauchery and more food.

But now I’m back. I found, “Learn Ruby The Hard Way” (RTHW). It’s free online. Free is great! And I love to do things the hard way. Just ask my parents, or guidence councelors, or past girlfriends or my wife. Life just isn’t worth living unless I am throwing hurdles in my own way.

Let me caution you about this book. Its title is “Learn Ruby the Hard Way”. Do you understand? This isn’t hype. It’s not a marketing ploy. The authors, Zed Shaw and Rob Sobers, are the kind of people that enjoy seeing the vein in the center of your forhead throb with frustration.

Before Christmas ruined me, I was skipping through the online Ruby tutorials. They give little badges when you complete your exercises. If you stick at it for more than a couple of days in a row, they give you a virtual medal. It’s like a gold star for grownups.

Sound like a cheap ploy? You obviously don’t remember how cool it was to get gold stars when you were a kid. I loved them. I loved the look of them, and even the smell of them. Gold, silver, blue and red stars are the only things that stopped me from dropping out of Glenwood Elementary School in the Third grade. That, and the thorough ass whupping that my father would have unleashed upon me if I had even whispered something so stupid.

RTHW doesn’t give stickers. They don’t reward you for just showing up and shoving buttons around for a few minutes a day. The kids on their little league team don’t get trophies at the end of the season, either. They get pep talks that devolve into foam mouthed rants about how their little asses need to start hustling if they ever want to be taken seriously in the little league.

Since I began RTHW I downloaded Terminal and TextWrangler on my Mac Mini. I discovered that Ruby is already on it. Who knew?! And then I spent about two hours poking around the dark hole that is Terminal. No Ruby. Not yet. The Hard Way guys don’t think I’m ready. After doing their “Hello World” exercise, I think they’re right.

What is Terminal? Well, if you’re as old as I am, you remember how computers used to be. The wierd letters on a screen as black as the cosmos. Back then, computers didn’t do anything on their own. You had to coax them. Beg them. Or say fuck it, and spend about 20 minutes uploading a video game using a cassette recorder. My favorite was Hunt the Wumpus. Anybody remember that one? Anybody? 

If your younger, and a lot of you are, then Terminal is like the screen shots on the Matrix, but without any hope of rescue from Morpheus or Trinity.

If your operating system is a TV set, then Terminal is back stage. It’s got all of the stuff that you need, but don’t know what to do with. And it’s boring as hell. Computer purgatory. And I’m stuck there until I figure out why the stuff that I put into my first Ruby tutorial don’t show up on my Terminal screen. Could be days. Weeks.

I’ve never been a detail oriented person. After all, the devil is in the details, and the devil is bad, right? The RTHW guys don’t got time for that sugar honey ice tea (SHIT. I’m trying not to curse.) Coding and “not detail oriented” are two mutually exclusive things, so even though I really only wanted to learn Ruby, I now have to figure out how to pay attention to boring things, like the Terminal. Yuck.

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That, minus everything interesting equals the Terminal. Enjoy, future coders.