Since some people were apparently offended that I "requested" Master certification, I have re-certified myself as "Journeyer". I suppose that's a better balance anyway. I believe my computer skills are strong enough in general to justify a "Master" designation, regarding that metric. However, my visible contributions to free software have been minimal as yet, as I noted as much in my first diary entry. By that scale, I might be an "Apprentice". So I guess "Journeyer" is a reasonable compromise. At any rate, I never requested anything.
I have been serious about programming for over 20 years, since at least sixth grade. (I had more casual exposure to computers and programming for several years prior to that as well.) Back then, I used BASIC as my primary programming language, since there were few other options available to me. (At that time, on a minicomputer at a nearby high school; I took a programming class that year for access to a computer, not to learn anything new.) By seventh or eighth grade, I was also working with Z-80 assembly language on the TRS-80's the school had.
In ninth grade, I also started using BASIC, Pascal and TECO on the RSTS/E system available at the high school, which was a PDP-11 (I think) that was owned by the town. I literally learned the Pascal language (including the use of structures and pointers) in one week by reading a textbook cover-to-cover in ninth grade. While I continued to use BASIC through the rest of high school (it was the most suitable language available for the platforms I was using), I much preferred the power and cleaner expressiveness of Pascal over BASIC.
TECO was a strange text editor and an even stranger programming language. It was psychotic but an interesting challenge in its own way. I've still got a printout of the most interesting TECO program I ever wrote, which renumbered BASIC programs (line numbers and references to them, including ON...GOTO and ON...GOSUB); it's about half a page of code printed, and it's dated May 1984 or so. One of these days, I'd like to scan in this TECO code and put the image on my homepage. I might even deconstruct it in an HTML page to show how it did what it did, but it would take a lot of analysis after so many years. Maybe when I find some time to waste on it...
Sometime early in high school, I got an Atari 800 and learned Atari BASIC and 6502 assembly language. My first exposure to the C language was "Lightspeed C" for the Atari 800, but it was a very limited environment. (I bought the K&R book around that time to learn what the real C language was like.) Although I didn't own an Apple ][, friends did, and later the school, so I did a fair bit of programming Apple BASIC also. I even had some exposure to QNX and Altos UNIX during high school, as well as dBase and the Clipper compiler. (I even played with LOGO at one point, which seemed useless but amusing.)
To give you an idea of the depth of my interest in computers, I purchased a copy of the "Dragon" book even before I graduated high school, because I was interested in learning about compiler design.
My computing life was completely overhauled in the fall of 1987 when I went to college at Rensselaer. That's when I got introduced to SunOS and the Internet. I immediately stopped programming in any dialect of BASIC and never looked back. C became my preferred programming language, and UNIX my preferred operating system. (BSD flavors such as SunOS 3/4 in particular.)
Unfortunately, I'm out of time at the moment, so I'll have to continue this story later...