My first coding was done on a teletype machine in my 8th grade science class. Our teacher Mr Miller (I still remember him) had a connection to an IBM 360 main frame with a phone modem. Our programs were saved on paper punch tape. There was a line of holes down the middle of the tape for the feed sprocket. On either side of the tape there were up to 4 holes. Those 4 holes on each side (8 total) represented one byte. You could literally see the bytes of your program visually represented on the paper tape.
That was in 1971. 41 years ago. Now I really feel old.
In 1977 we had a computer lab at high school. It was also attached to an IBM 360 mainframe. That mainframe cost $250,000 at the time and right now, your iPad is more powerful. We also had the first Apple computers come out at that time. The Apple 1 was a kit. The Apple ][ was a complete system with 8k of RAM. That's right, not 8 Meg, but 8K. If you wanted another 8k you needed to buy a $200 circuit board with about 40 chips on it. We programmed in BASIC and saved our code to cassette tapes.
Then I got a TI 994A with a whopping 16k of RAM. By the time you plugged in the extended BASIC cartridge you only had a bit over 13k left. Back then in the golden age of computer programming as a hobby there were magazines and books you could buy which had the source code for very basic games. You would type in the code and save it on a cassette and you'd have a game. I learned a lot about how to write code, use subroutines, branching and looping by copying that source code. Of course, you'd rarely type every single character in properly so you'd have to debug it. It was a fun way to learn to write code. I miss those kinds of books today. I think a lot of people would enjoy them.
Then I went through a series of dead end jobs. I decided to go back to school in my 20's to get my college degree at night school. I had to work full time during the day to pay for my car and rent and food so I could only go to night school. That limited me to only 2 or 3 classes per semester. After far too many years I completed an Associate of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. I started working in the QA department of Software Products International and eventually ended up running the QA department with a team of 4 QA testers under me.
I then moved to Software Sorcery where I was promised a job as a programmer but instead was put into phone support. SS made games like Jutland; Aegis, Guardian of the Fleet, Conqueror 1086, and Party at Crawdad Creek. It was my first exposure to a real game company.
I then moved into business computing where I worked originally in QA and eventually as a programmer for National Decision Systems (Now Equifax) and then for a series of small software companies. I eventually moved to Union Bank of California where I helped build a major part of their online banking system in a team of about 40 people. They still use the interest rate code I wrote over 10 years ago.
I then moved to Northern California to take a break from the stress of software development. For about a year I taught music and had over 40 private music students. I teach jazz and rock guitar, fingerstyle guitar, mandolin and banjo. But the economy collapsed and I couldn't make enough money to pay my mortgage so I went back to software.
My first job back was at Vision Service Plan (VSP) where we wrote software where optometrist could bill VSP (which is an insurance company). I then moved to Lexis Nexis where I've been ever since. At LN we write the software which clients and law firms use to track their legal matters and bill invoices. Our client list in confidential. But we are allowed to say "I can't tell you who our clients are, but you've seen many of their commercials on the Super Bowl." A lot of them are major insurance companies and food product companies.
I've been coding in Java since version 1.1.3 which would put it at about 1997. Even though I use to code in C++ and MFC for Windows Applications I've never gone back once I started using Java. For large scale web applications like Amazon, Ebay, and ours, Java is the way to go. The "Write once run anywhere" ability lets us code on our desktops on Windows 7, transfer the code to Linux boxes for testing, Then to IBM AIX boxes for server use or Sun boxes for the servers. Most of the time, it just works as long as you have all the right database drivers.
So that's the long answer to "how long have you been coding?' A long freakin time