I’m not a long-term planner. I’ve never made a “5 year plan” or thought about where I want to be 10 years from now. I simply look at what my options are and make a decision about what to do next.
I only learned to code because my dad needed a problem solved. He ran a consulting business where he needed to perform regular equipment maintenance. It was 1996 and the web was new. It seemed like it might be possible to track schedules and log maintenance activities via the World Wide Web.
I was young and foolish, so I started right away. I knew very little about programming having only built very simple programs in basic on my commodore 64 roughly 10 years earlier. I picked Perl because it was available with my college computer lab account which was the right price (free). I could also expose the script to the web, score!
Looking back, I was a pretty awful programmer at that time. I had about 5 tricks in my bag and writing a function was not one of them. The Perl script became one long if statement with print statements to emit HTML. Around 800 lines of code with no functions. Wow, does this seem backwards to me now. To top it off, I wrote a rudimentary serialization process to save my in-memory HashTable to a text file.
To be fair, I did not know the word “serialization” at the time. I just knew that I needed to save some data and have it available on the next web request. I happily wrote some code at the end of my script to store the text file after each request was rendered and some code at the top to read the file. Done.
I was absolutely intoxicated by the process of coding my first web application. I literally could not get enough. I worked on the script with every sliver of free time that I had and when I wasn’t working on it, I was thinking about it or dreaming about it.
How could I get this element to render? How could I get the code to run faster? What do I do with this data? Can I build a calendar?
I was great. I probably learned more in those 6 weeks than at any other time in my career. But more than that, it forged my desire to be a programmer. I am still chasing the high that I felt over 15 years ago on the first project. There is nothing like having an idea, building it and watching it grow into something valuable.
That little application that I built went on to run a substantial part of my dad’s business for a few years until I replaced it with a new version that was more professional. It was great to see it work for so long but the larger net effect was that I was hooked on coding. I haven’t looked back once.