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Interview with Ben Mickle
Posted by Michael on 9 March 2006, 15:43 GMT

Our third interview in the series is with Ben Mickle, author of the famous Super Mario 86. Read on for the interview.

Interview with Ben Mickle
MichaelHow old are you currently and what education have you had?
BenI'm 21 years old. I'm a senior at Duke University, majoring in (not surprisingly) Computer Science and Math.
MichaelHave you done any other programming since you left the TI community?
BenYes. I haven't done any big projects on my own, but I've written tons of short programs, mostly just to gain more experience with C++ and algorithms.
MichaelWhat else have you been doing in general? Jobs? Hobbies? Travelling?
BenI've done a couple internships at Microsoft (which is a target for a fair amount of animosity, but it turns out they have some great internship opportunities). Last summer, I worked on a new feature for Windows Vista. In fact, I recently decided to work at Microsoft full-time after I graduate. I also traveled to Shanghai last spring for the ACM contest. Outside of programming, I like to follow sports (we have a pretty good basketball team at Duke), watch movies, sleep in, listen to music, and procrastinate on homework assignments.
MichaelThe project that made you famous was Super Mario 86. Is there anything you'd like to share about your motivation for starting that?
BenI was just starting to become comfortable writing assembly, and I wanted to do something big and challenging to apply my new skills. There was some skepticism about the Z80 being fast enough to handle a grayscale side-scrolling game, so I thought that would be a good project. Since I was more interested in writing code than designing a game story and graphics, I decided to make Super Mario.
MichaelDo you think the community has changed since you were active? If so, how and has it gotten better or worse?
BenThe active people in the community have changed quite a bit. A lot of the old personal websites are gone, or haven't been updated in years. Nonetheless, it still seems bigger now than it was when I found it in '97. I actually liked it better when it was small, because it was easier to feel like everyone knew each other. One of the big differences is that there are so many programs available now, which is good for users, but not so exciting for programmers.
MichaelWhat's the best thing you remember about the TI community? Worst thing?
BenOne of the best things I remember was the A86 mailing list. There was a lot of great collaboration, and I think the archives are still the best place to learn about the internals of the TI-86. The worst thing about the TI community was the presence of a few deliberately obnoxious people on the comment boards.
MichaelHave you ever met any other community members in real life?
BenYes, I've met Jonah Cohen a couple times. I've seen Ben Mardell. Sam Heald is a friend of mine in real life since he also went to Duke.
MichaelDo you have any advice for programmers who are just getting started?
BenThe first thing you should do is read some introductory material, such as a book or tutorial. Once you know the basics of a language such as Java, C++, or Basic, I recommend doing two things: write a lot of code and read a lot of code. If you don't know what to write, you can find tons of stuff at sites like http://acm.uva.es/problemset/ or TopCoder. TopCoder is also a great place to read some really clever and short code by some of the best programmers. Most importantly, work on things that interest you so that you don't give up after an hour.
MichaelWhat do you think of TI's newer calculators?
BenThe 86 has always been my favorite. I would have liked to see an 87, but I must admit the USB port on the newer models is a cool feature.
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Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Michael Vincent  Account Info
(Web Page)

If someone writes a comment that contains "first post", there is no sense replying as it will be deleted :)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 18:07 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

:S I guess that your post will be deleted then. ;)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 20:16 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Tyler C  Account Info
(Web Page)

Its true Michael, your post contains the forbidden two words :D

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 20:43 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Travis Evans Account Info

Well, I'll just waste my time and reply to this comment anyway. ;-)

Reply to this comment    14 March 2006, 00:45 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
CajunLuke  Account Info
(Web Page)

What if it's not true?

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 22:58 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Snave2000  Account Info

Ouch! I guess I just learned my lesson... (still always wanted to say those forbidden words, though; now I have...)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 23:10 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Snave2000  Account Info

Yeah, it was my post that was deleted, in case anyone couldn't guess...

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 23:11 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

And my response too. :/

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 13:28 GMT


Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
soundman1024  Account Info

I didn't know there was a Ti-87. Was there really one?

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 03:48 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
calkfreak83  Account Info
(Web Page)

No.

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 04:45 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Jonathan Pezzino  Account Info
(Web Page)

"I would have liked to see an 87"

Not sure how you thought that meant there's an 87.

Reply to this comment    11 March 2006, 21:22 GMT

Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
tifreak8x  Account Info
(Web Page)

Quite an interesting read. :) It is cool that some of the older members can still be found so interviews with them can happen. :)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 19:05 GMT


Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

It's also fascinating to see what happens with some of the old members when they mvoe on from calculators, and presumably get a glimpse of what we will end up with. :)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 20:16 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
something1990 Account Info

Yeah I suppose once you go programmer, you can't go back-er (bad joke) . I plan on studying astrophysics, and astrophysicists design software to interface with their instruments, so I will kind of become a professional programmer. It'll still be one of my hobbies.

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 21:03 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Radical-Pi Account Info

If I ever find the effort I would like to be a Theoretical Physicist. I think that might require some advanced programming skills (and math, science, calculus,...). Has anything new happened to F-Theory, or did they decide on 11 spacetime dimensions?

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 21:11 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Snave2000  Account Info

Yeah, it's true: once a programmer, always a programmer! (I'm looking at possibly a career in astrophysics as well, by the way...)

Reply to this comment    9 March 2006, 23:13 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

I'm doing EE, not CS, but all us EEs are tech nerds anyway. :)

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 13:29 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Paul Bellar  Account Info
(Web Page)

Computer Engineering is a nice blend of the two.

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 19:16 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

Very true. I decided to go into EE instead of CE because I wanted to be able to do something other than just tack on more programming languages to my long and growing list; why relearn something I already know?

Reply to this comment    10 March 2006, 19:53 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
elfprince13 Account Info
(Web Page)

and personally, Im interested in optical computing ^-^ w00t w00t.....check out the link;

Reply to this comment    11 March 2006, 03:22 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

Niiiiiice. :)

Reply to this comment    13 March 2006, 17:21 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Ben Mickle
Chaomerl Account Info

Computer forensics. I like working with computers, as well as being a big fan of mystery books.

Reply to this comment    14 April 2006, 18:42 GMT

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