I just passed the 23rd anniversary of creating my first website, which I would eventually name Midnight on a Wednesday. For my 16th birthday, my mom let me register my first domain name, kjcoop.com.
I was exposed to computers late relative to other people of my generation. I thought it was amazing that I could read the writings of people all over the world – there were no boundaries on the internet. This was before WordPress and Facebook and even Friendster. if you wanted a website, you had to learn HTML.
Before kjcoop.com, my website lived at http://geocities.com/athens/agora/4213. Geocities allowed you to FTP files or edit the HTML in a textarea. I tweaked the contents of the placeholder page in the textarea and figured out HTML as I went. Frames were a big deal in those days – it was how a non-programmer got the same content on each page without having to duplicate a bunch of content on each file. My browser couldn’t display frames.
The thing about the front-end is that you have to know what the visitor’s browser will support, and every version of every browser is a little different. This was the tail end of the browser wars. I will forever carry a grudge against IE 5.
My interest in the front-end tapered off around 2010. I tried to pick up some CSS 3 recently but these days it’s all dark magic to me. CSS is now Turing complete.
I taught myself a little PHP. In 2002 I took a class in Java, I want to say we used 1.2. The compiler came on a CD in the back of the book. I didn’t get enough background to build anything cool with it – not that I didn’t try.
In 2003 I went to Humboldt State and took some Computer Science classes wherein I learned C++. It gave me enough background to make progress as a PHP developer. In 2004 or 2005, I got a job at Humboldt’s help desk. Though help desk and programmer are different career tracks, my time at the Help Desk was a foundational step in becoming a well-rounded nerd.
Early Computer Science courses, at least then and there, are about how computers are engineered. Programming is taught as a tool to study larger computer science concepts. I didn’t want to engineer hardware, I wanted to program.
Around the time I dropped out in 2006, Ruby on Rails was the new hotness. I watched a video on it and was exposed to Active Record for the first time. It inspired me to being working on my own framework. In retrospect, I can appreciate that it was a hot mess.
They say you can’t forget where you come from. In a lot of respects, I was born twenty-three years ago in a textarea.
I’ve always thought a tombstone that describes me as beloved spouse and parent is about worst-case scenario. I don’t want my whole life to be boiled down to just having been somebody’s relation. I decided a few years ago, I’d be happy with “Beloved spouse, parent and programmer”. Then, at the very bottom, “</textarea>”.