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Hi everyone :) At 36 years of age and with no related qualifications, am I too old to get into programming as a new career? Brief background: taught myself basic on Commodore vic20 when I was about 12, loved it and spent 2 - 3 years writing games etc but couldn't afford to keep up with technology (how I wished for a Commodore 64 lol). I got back into computers about 8 years ago and taught myself Pascal as part of a correspondence course in C++. Sadly, I never completed the course due to my 'discovery' of the internet & online gaming! (pretty sure I have got over that addiction now...) I am just starting to teach myself C++ (currently working my way through "Beginning C++ Game Programming" by Michael Dawson. I then plan to start working through "Beginning Game Programming" by Michael Morrison. I would like to do a Computer Science degree (once I feel comfortable with C++ as a starting point at least) but I've got a family now plus I've already used up my higher education funding 12 years ago on an unrelated degree course so I will probably have to settle for some kind of correspondence course along the lines of The Open University etc. I realise I am probably way too old to join the games industry but I would love to get into any sort of coding as a profession. What are my chances at this stage of my life and what would any of you suggest? Could I expect to be earning a reasonable salary by the age of 45 if I get my ass in gear now? Would employers prefer some young whizzkid? Should I just stick to plan B and enjoy coding as a hobby instead? (Plan B is to become a plasterer or something lol) Any thoughts & views would be most welcome.

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You have a fair amount of catching up to do, from the sounds of it, but I doubt that you're too old. First of all, it isn't hard making a good living as a programmer if you're at least half-way competent. I don't know how your age would affect your likelyhood of being hired (although, technically, its illegal to discriminate based on age in the US). However, if I were hiring a programmer, I would look for people who, among other things, taught themselves to program for the fun of it. That tells me that the person loves what they're doing, and aren't just in it for the money. Usually, those people will be more motivated and knowledgeable, although not all employers would necessarily see that.

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You're never too old to change careers! So long as you're willing to learn and focus I see no reason why you couldn't do it.

It seems you have done a bit of work in programming before, which is good. Obvisouly changes have been made since the Commodore vic20, but you shouldn't have to worry too much I would think.

Best of luck!

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"Some of the most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the MOST interesting 40 year olds I know still don't"

-Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)

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I would actually say that your better off. If you were able to learn programming "back in the day" when resources were limited, then the information out here on the internet in todays world will overwhelm you with information.

No, your never too old. I mean _never_. Sure, there is a brief learning curve and it may take you just a LITTLE longer depending on your memory/learning style, but who doesn't experience that? ;)

It's all about motivation and the dedication to do the things that you really like doing. If you find it in your heart that programming is great and you end up really liking it, you should have no problems at all. When you really like something, you tend to put a lot more effort into what your doing.

Stay Motivated, you'll make it. Good Luck!

-Dave

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Great, thanks for the encouraging replies :D

I'm halfway through writing a text based mini dungeons & dragons game in C++ at the moment. It only began as a brief experiment to see if I could use a multidimensional array to represent a map (always wanted to do one of those games back in the old commodore days but simply didn't know how to). It's going surprisingly well too which is good. I can see I'm going to have to brush up on my maths though. It's already getting confusing enough and I'm only working with simple stuff like odds dependant on shields, weapons & monster strength etc.

Is there anyone out there who has had experience with Open University (or similar) computing courses? I feel I ought to try to do a part time degree at least if I'm going to make a serious go of this as a career.

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Your original post reminds me of that part of Million Dollar Baby, where Maggie is losing a fight:

Maggie: She's tough, I can't go inside, I can't get close enough to hit her.
Frankie: You know why that is?
Maggie: Why?
Frankie: Cause she's a better fighter than you are, that's why. She's younger, she's stronger, and she's more experienced. Now, what are you gonna do about it?

Go for it, if it is what you really want.

Now, on the practical side, most business and game development firms require entry level people to put in extra time, sort of like an apprentice in the old days. That can be tough with a family. So, make sure that you're ready to make that tradeoff.

If you get stuck on technical problems, post 'em here! There are a lot of great people who seem more than willing to help out. And Good Luck!

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Quote:
Original post by Vod
Great, thanks for the encouraging replies :D

I'm halfway through writing a text based mini dungeons & dragons game in C++ at the moment. It only began as a brief experiment to see if I could use a multidimensional array to represent a map (always wanted to do one of those games back in the old commodore days but simply didn't know how to). It's going surprisingly well too which is good. I can see I'm going to have to brush up on my maths though. It's already getting confusing enough and I'm only working with simple stuff like odds dependant on shields, weapons & monster strength etc.

Is there anyone out there who has had experience with Open University (or similar) computing courses? I feel I ought to try to do a part time degree at least if I'm going to make a serious go of this as a career.


You're farther than 95% of the people who post in this forum if you have actual source code typed in that compiles along with an idea of where you're going. Seriously.

Maths: there are plenty of books available to help with the math. I ended at Algebra II in school due to medical problems; check out the Books section here at GameDev.

The only experience I have with online courses is that they were too expensive for me. I can't spare the time on a regular basis to attend classes, so I forego that particular dream.

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If you don't have any qualifications or programming experience you are going to have to come up with one hell of a portfolio to get employed. You'll be competing with graduates for fewer jobs then recent years because of the off-shoring trend for entry level jobs, and jobs in general. Several people with good level degrees from my class never got in to development despite trying. Some were forced to leave IT. I personally know 4 IT people whom were made redundant from their jobs. Heck my dental hygienist retrained at about 35 to become a dental hygienist because he couldn't find enough work to get by.

Saying that I'm a firm believer of anyone being able to learn almost anything given enough time and dedication. May be you can turn a hobby in to a career.

Something that you might be able to do though is teach it. Here in the UK there is a shortage of teachers in IT related courses, and under some circumstances they even pay you to get qualified.

I would be interested to know if anyone actually got anything out of those stupid computeach people I see advertised on TV. Those adverts really irritate me.

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Quote:
Original post by OldGuy
Now, on the practical side, most business and game development firms require entry level people to put in extra time, sort of like an apprentice in the old days. That can be tough with a family. So, make sure that you're ready to make that tradeoff.


*cough* entry level. Yeah. I see them hangin' around too. If only I saw the family on my real farm half as much as I see the entry level kids around the cube farm. I've got 20 years experience in the software industry and I still put in months of 80-plus hour weeks at crunch time.

On the other hand, I get to play with computers all day.

Just follow your calling. There's always a price to be paid.

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Quote:

I would be interested to know if anyone actually got anything out of those stupid computeach people I see advertised on TV. Those adverts really irritate me.


There are plenty of opinions on Computeach on the net. Many of them bad but perhaps not all are totally justified. I have had 1st hand experience of them (that's where I learnt Pascal from) and while I am the first to admit that I didn't put in the required effort at that time of my life, I would say that in my opinion they are very badly organised and to take what they say with a pinch of salt. They are a business and they exist for only one reason -to sell their courses.


Well I reckon the only way forward for me is to do a degree in computer science. I shall have to do that via a correspondence/distant learning course. I like the look of the Open University degrees as they are modular and from what I have read on their site it looks like you can fund it on a module by module basis (each module seems to cost approx £300 from memory).

It also appears that I won't get anywhere unless I can get my foot in the door and sooner rather than later. Would a job on an IT helpdesk be one way to achieve this? That's if I can find a company willing to hire me with no qualifications yet. I suspect I would need something like A+ to land a job in technical support.

Keep the replies coming people, it is very much appreciated -especially from those of you involved in the hiring side of IT.

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I think you could get interviews and probably work on an IT help desk of some kind. You need to demostrate people skills and basic tech knowledge. Heck if you knew how to consistantly ask the customer for version information of applications and operating systems you would be doing one better then the people who work at helpdesk for the company I work for. [sigh]

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I'm going to throw my 2 cents here.

I think 36 is too old for this line of work. I think one needs to start early so that certain brain structures can be molded into a "programming" sort of thinking.

If you start above 30, then you're starting at an age where you have to fight yourself, your "thinking-methodology". Also I'll be 28 this year, been programming since I was 13/14, and I'm starting to feel a slight decrease in my mental acuity.

Truth be told it isn't the programming that "kills" you, but the fact that it can be a terribly stressful job, and for most people, when one gets stressed up the first thing to go is mental clarity, so you lose the thing that would help you the most in geting you out of a deadline.

Knowing that I won't be able to program all my life I already put in motion a plan to start my own company, which I hope will be all up and running before I hit 30.

I would advise you to look at your own past, see where you had not only fun doing something, but try to determine if you would be good at doing that particular thing on a professional basis.

Whatever you decide to persue next, I wish you all the best. [wink]

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I'm 31 and getting my CS degree after all these years. I have an associates' degree in electronic engineering technology to fall back on if I need to. I learned to program in Assembly on the C64 and later on the Amiga 1200. What I'm going try to get into is SPE programming for the CELL processor. It probably won't be game programming since I stink at vector math but I won't rule out being a programmer as a whole.

It sounds to me like you didn't get very deep into programming your Vic 20 or anything deeper with Pascal. According to the Wiki on DevMaster.net Pascal is a dead language (not suitable for writing games). After having an Amiga for many years I'm familiar with the way graphics acceleration works although I'm thankful that OpenGL does all the 3D stuff for me.

What's going to kill you is trying to figure out object-oriented programming after having been into structured and imperitive programming all these years. The question isn't whether or not you can do it. The question is WILL you do it after sitting idle all these years. Game programming is hard work and it is more competitive than regular programming.

If I were you, I'd get familiar with object-oriented programming before you pass judgement on yourself as a programmer. Don't get hung up on how long it has taken you. Just don't give up your day job in the process. And don't rule out regular programming for a profession just becuase you like games.

If you want to work with C++ go ahead and work with it. Assuming you got really familiar with linked structures under Pascal (trees, lists, etc.) you should be able to get into it without too much hassle. Watch for memory leaks if you use the standard template library (and you'll definitely want to use it for the amount of work it saves you).

As for the CS degree. Don't waste money on correspondance courses. If you can go part time to get a degree than do that. Maybe you can get some of your general education credits to transfer in the process of applying. See if your college has a club for nontraditional students since they'll be able to help you with some of the transitions from being out of the loop for so long.

As for PaulCoyote's comments about offshore jobs, some of them are coming back on-shore due to programmers writing poorly documented code that couldn't be easily maintained. Learning to program so it works is one thing. Learning to program so that somebody else can make it work and improve on it is another.

Game writing isn't for the one-man team anymore. Game companies have at least 5 and probably more like 20-50 people working on each game.

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There are infinite amount of resources on the internet regarding C++.
There are many tutorials available for free at
www.codeproject.com

Also, you might want to learn object oriented programming.
It is definately useful.
I have been doing structural programming for 2 months last year,
and looking back at my code last year i was disgusted,
I couldn't maintain it any longer.

oop opens up a new way to look at programming. ( I'm not all that great it in, but I'm already seeing the benefits of maintaining the code )
Here's a fabulous link on oop http://developer.apple.com/documentation/Cocoa/Conceptual/ObjectiveC/ObjC.pdf#search='The ObjectiveC Programming Language pdf'

Definately look through this. It is better than any oop book that I have skimmed through. ( though it's not c++ it drills in the concepts of oop, i only read the first 30 pages, but i now thoroughly understand what an interface is, and why encapsulation is so important.

edit: and it's never too old.
my father is a retired electrian and he taught himself how to html / dynamic javascript / flash / photoshop himself.
he's older than you and more than 90% of the people on this forum, way older.. so let's spend more time on learning rather wasting time on if we're too old or not before my dad catches up!

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If you start above 30, then you're starting at an age where you have to fight yourself, your "thinking-methodology". Also I'll be 28 this year, been programming since I was 13/14, and I'm starting to feel a slight decrease in my mental acuity.
While there's some truth in this statement (beeing 30 myself, I feel the same sometimes) I think it's not of that much importance. You can always learn. I got back to university two years ago for a CS degree and while I noticed that I didn't pick up the maths as quickly as I used to, I sure was a lot more motivated and got the highest grade on all exams.

One thing to remember is that social and comunication skills is very important. A super-smart coding wiz-kid that barely dares to speak to people is more likely to get rejected by the software industry than a mediocre programmer that has a good way with people. At least this is true for non-game related industry. I know this for a fact since I've worked as a software consultant in over 6 years and have been involved in evaluating job candidates.

However, I really recomend you go for a CS (or related) degree. That will increase your chanses tenfold. And good luck:)

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Like everything in life you need only two things to succeed: The desire, and the proper tools. Bottom line is I'm 29 years old, I'm a highschool drop out, father of 4 kids, and dead broke. You know what? I'm going to be a professional game developer. I can use any of the things I've mentioned as an excuse as to why I'll never make it, or I can throw that stuff out the window and make it happen.

There are stories everyday about people that are 30-40 years older than both of us doing amazing things. While I may never climb rushmoore, or run a marathon, I WILL program games and get paid for it. This is something that nobody can answer for you, it's not something that can be told. You just have to know you're going to do it, then put every fiber of your being into it.

If this is something you want, get off your ass and stop asking permission. I mean that in the absolute most supportive way possible. Best of luck to you, and I hope to see you down the road!

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Some great responses here people. Thanks :D

I definitely want to do this programming thing and turn it into a career so I will give it my best shot. If it doesn't happen then at least I will have a great hobby, but I shall give it a proper go and see what happens. I shall try to get onto a degree level course no matter what happens, although I doubt very much I will be able to do one part time -let alone fulltime. It will have to be a modular distance learning degree. In the meantime I shall continue working my way through C++ books & tutorials as I would want to have as a reasonable foundation in at least one programming language before undertaking any coursework. I'd hate to feel I was at the bottom of the class as well as being twice the age of my fellow students!


Quote:

chSkiz: You aren't old until you replace your dreams with regrets

hehe I've been doing plenty of the regret thing lately (wish I'd stuck with the programming all those years ago, wish I'd not done my 1st degree with no goal in mind other than to get drunk in the students union etc) but I think that's to be expected when life's doors start to close on you...

Anyway thanks again people, you have given me some cause for optimism plus some useful home truths/reality to consider as well.



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So some of you are saying I should quit as I'm 40... 41 now and am just startig to work on creating/devloping games. I don't buy it but hey what do I know..

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
hehe I've been doing plenty of the regret thing lately (wish I'd stuck with the programming all those years ago, wish I'd not done my 1st degree with no goal in mind


I did the exact same thing, got a degree I didn't care about, never got a job using it, then went into the military. Then I did make the transition into programming at the age of 31. I look at the kids and older people I work with now who've always done programming. They have zero life experience, all they've done is sit in a cube and take a few nice vacations now and then. I don't know if interesting memories are worth the lost years of earning potential, but man my co workers are BORING.

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I wish I'd done the military thing while I still had the chance -sadly I was just outside the upper age limit when I began to think seriously about joining up. That's got to be a good advantage to have on your CV. Employers seem to like to hire ex-forces personnel presumably because of self-discipline etc.
When you went into programming were you 31 when you started studying or when you landed your first job? The earliest I could possibly graduate would be 40 I reckon. I like to think my life experiences/maturity would give me some kind of edge in the selection process but then again, I suppose it would depend a lot on the age groups of the rest of the team.
I think my age would be more of a problem for games programming but I shall just have to suck it & see...


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Guest Anonymous Poster
I was 31 when I went back to school and 32 when I was hired into a training program at a large airline/travel software company; I hadn't completed the computer science degree. They put us thru a 5 month program to learn 'high level assembler' ie old ibm mainframe stuff to support their legacy system. The hiring process consisted of a logic test, a phone interview, and a in person interview. Many of my classmates where in their 40's. This company subsequently stopped offering this program because they couldn't find enough candidates to pass the logic test. It was dead easy for anyone with an attention span longer than 5 seconds, in my opinion.

So from that, I'd advice check with banks, insurance companies, phone companies, municipal governments etc... No body teaches those old systems and their still widely used. And the kids today won't condescend to take such a job. At least that's my understanding.

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There's a student here at my school's Computer Science department. He's old enough to be my grandfather. He was in the same lab as me for one of my classes. You know what? He actually has a firm grasp of programming and was doing just as well if not better than most of the students in the lab. If someone that old can get into programming, I don't see why you can't.

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That is awsome advice Anonymous Poster, thanks. I was actually thinking about looking into some old/unfashionable languages for that same reason -ie the young 'uns wouldn't want to do it. That would certainly be a foot in the door if not a decent career in itself.
Can you give me more information on the sort of high level/mainframe stuff should I look into? Does that company have offices in the UK? You certainly got my attention now...

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