Growing up, I was always surrounded by computers. My dad studied electronics at a tech school in the ’80s and was always fascinated by it. Along the way, he began tinkering with computers and systems administration. I remember the “servers” in our spare bedroom, serving a Bulletin Board System.
In retrospect, his BBS was a precursor to a lot of the social networks we see today. There was a strong sense of community in its users; I remember a BBS putt-putt golf meet-up one year. My dad had online friends before online friends became the norm. I was only 6 or 7 at the time, far too young to have any serious involvement in the BBS world. Without a doubt though, the strong sense of community planted a seed. That seed would soon grow the thriving root system that is my career.
Fast forward a few years to circa 2001. It was late in the school year, approaching the end of 8th grade. We were in an old computer lab filled with well-used (read: beat to hell) PCs running Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 4. Having finished our work early, my group did what any group of 8th graders in a computer lab would do- we screwed around. At that time, the internet was still developing. It was text-heavy and cumbersome. It wasn’t a lot of fun. Instead of killing time on Yahoo, we opted to draw stupid pictures in MS Paint. Yes, you read that correctly…
Lo and behold, a magical thing happened that afternoon. Upon completion of a (likely juvenile) “painting”, a classmate whipped together some HTML and proudly displayed my masterpiece in a web browser. I was blown away by the simplicity of HTML, the relative ease with which he showcased my art. I was in awe. I had to learn HTML.
That summer, I learned HTML. Following tutorials, I whipped together masterpieces
of my own. I was no longer beholden to WYSIWYG editors and Drag and Drop. I was a
“webmaster”! I scoffed at Geocities. This was an era before
div and CSS were widely
supported. There was no flexbox, no CSS grid.
iframe structured my
content. It was unmaintainable and hacky and awful, and I loved every minute of it.
The summer of 2001 saw the start of the “The Fast and the Furious” media franchise. Enamored by the tuner car subculture as glorified in The Fast and the Furious, I began reading about the scene, as well as the mechanics of cars in general. I learned how they work, how components interact, and how aftermarket modifications improve performance. This is going somewhere, I promise.
I am very much a hands-on learner. I retain information best when I can apply the concepts I’ve learned on a real world project. In the summer of 2001, I applied my HTML knowledge and newfound love of cars by building a (highly subjective) website ranking super cars. I had no guidelines for rankings, no real rules or criteria. I had some pictures and magazine performance numbers. I picked the car arbitrarily. I couldn’t justify my selections. I didn’t have to justify my selections. Building the website was far more important to me than developing real metrics for rankings.
While making a subjective ranking site may sound childish and naive (rightfully so), it was the catlyst to my career. Without it, I may not be who I am and where I am today. Beyond learning syntax and structure that summer, I also learned I was passionate about making things. I found my calling that summer.