The knack for programming has not changed since your FORTRAN days,
they just added 42 new buzz words, and switched from top-down
design to bottom-up (object oriented) design. However, that knack
has always been the equivalent of solving Algebra word problems.

Since the Algebra training is so boring they make you go all the way
through Calculus word problems, not because you need Calculus, but
because Calculus is just algebra with the variables changing all the
time. Thus the knack for solving Calculus word problems is the same
knack as solving Algebra word problems. And going all the way through
Calculus repeats those same skills with 4 different instructors, one
of whom is suppposed to actually transmit to you the skill of solving
word problems.

If you can already solve Algebra word problems, you can skip college
and start programming immediately, either for fun or for a career.

Go for it. Of course you will be helped, especially in the beginning,
by using languages such as Ada with very strong typing, which
specialize at catching some of the most common bugs (overflows,
memory leakages, hanging pointers, mismatched types, mismatched
parameters, etc.). Simply do not use pointers and do not turn off
compiler checking.

The main thing to avoid is listenting to others who try to force their
opinions on you. That goes for professionals who want to do things
a certain way, schools who tell you you need prerequisites, and
employers who at first glance seem to tell you that you need a degree.
The truth is that at most schools you can test out of the prerequisites,
most of the stuff people tell you is needed for good style is actually
not needed at all, and most employers in the current market are more
interested in how quickly you can get the job done and not what degrees
you have.

Mike