Programmer's Hostility Towards Beginners

Joseph Bento joseph at
Sun Jul 6 21:49:54 CDT 2008

I think I'd better include the text of the email I sent to an  
individual on the PIC list:

Hello ******,

We have corresponded from time to time in the PIC Microcontroller list.

I came across your web page quite by accident while searching for some  
material.  I'll plan on bookmarking your pages and spending some more  

I am still very much a beginner in programming.  I am a professional  
electronics technician by trade, but that has involved mostly building  
engineering prototypes or servicing equipment.  I'm currently  
attempting to learn C as well as assembly via a few books and online  
materials.   I'll need to concentrate on a particular chip to do my  
experimenting.  Right now, I have a few different PICS courtesy of  
Microchip's samples program.  I chose chips for my samples that were  
used in projects I wish to build.  I do surface mount assembly under a  
magnifier, and I hope to add some programming to my skills.

One of the primary things I want to build is clocks, particularly  
Nixie tube clocks.  I've seen so many neat examples online, and many  
include their code with the schematics.  I want to understand that  
code, be it in assembler or C and learn to modify and add my own  
functionality to the circuit.

My primary computer is a MacBook, and you've likely seen my posts in  
the list about configuring the free Hi-Tech compiler, etc.  Perhaps  
I'm getting ahead of myself, as I'm not certain I'm ready for these  
tools yet.  Of course if necessary, I can boot into Windows XP and use  

Thanks for your informative web pages.  If you can offer any  
suggestion for learning the programming, please do.  I'm essentially  
at ground zero as far as programming is concerned.  :-)



The reply I received wasn't terribly friendly, and upset me a bit -  
which led to my post here on AMRAD. I thought I had written a friendly  
note.  The individual did have a full PIC tutorial on his website, so  
I didn't think my note out of line.  I'm very careful about what I  
post to a list, precisely because of the newbie factor.  The PIC list  
does have a searchable archive, so I do search prior to asking a  
question.  However, the response I received from the above email  
wasn't the first incident.  Admittedly, there are plenty of friendly  
folk out there as well.

I'm not certain I want to start over with a new platform.  We use  
Microchip's PICs at work.  I program them through MPLAB with the  
provided hex file or even compile with PIC18 through MPLAB with the  
provided C source from our engineers.  I want to learn enough to  
understand the code that I'm burning into the chips.  Also, since I'm  
also a ham and electronics hobbyist, I'd like to develop my own apps.   
Perhaps someday code the equivalent  of the old Curtis keyer chip on a  
PIC.  The engineers at work are somewhat helpful, but work is not the  
time or place to pursue a hobby interest in programming.

All the tools I currently have for the PIC were free, including a  
couple different C compilers that only are limited by the size of the  
program.  Some are even reasonably priced if I learn enough to advance  
beyond the 2k limitation.

I'll certainly look into the other links provided.  Good tools and  
tutorials are always a good thing.

Joe, N6DGY
Pleasant Grove, UT

On Jul 6, 2008, at 8:09 PM, Robert E. Seastrom wrote:

> What mo said, particularly with the links that include connections to
> the Arduino and other AVR stuff; Atmel got it right by making their
> development environments open and giving them away for free, and the
> Arduino stuff is just a ball - in less than 30 minutes you'll be up
> and running and making LEDs blink and everything, without the PITA
> factor of trying to figure out fuse settings and all that other "fun"
> stuff.
> That said, as someone who's on the other end of this on a semi-regular
> basis in the IP network engineering arena, be sure you choose
> carefully where you're going to ask known newbie questions.  There are
> appropriate fora (LadyAda hosts some) for asking super simple
> questions, but some random software developer's in-box is not the
> right place, and it's awfully easy to get a little snippy if you are
> getting emailed out-of-scope questions on a regular basis.  I'm not
> defending the curt replies, just suggesting that if you're looking for
> maximum satisfaction, try to avoid doing the equivalent of posting
> "how do I wire up my CB radio and can I use this here coat hanger as
> an antenna?" questions to a ham radio group.  You'll be happier with
> the results.
> -r

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