A long time ago in a city far, far away… I was in grade three when our school got their first computers: a couple Apple ][e machines. It wasn’t my first introduction to computers, though. They always seemed to be there in small, exciting ways. There were the arcade machines at the local convenience store. There was visiting my mom at work and seeing the orange and black screens with the 8” floppy disks. I had a friend who had his own Apple computer with a container of 5¼” floppies full of software.
I understood the simple concepts: feed the computer a bunch of stuff and it would, in return, spit something back in return.
I can’t remember how old I was, exactly, when I got my own computer for the first time. I do remember, though, buying copies of Nibble magazine and copying the byte code or BASIC programs by hand from the printed pages, praying not to make a single typo.
I understood the simple concepts: feed the computer a bunch of stuff and it would, in return, spit something back in return. I’d make simple Question & Answer games for my friends to play.
Throughout my school aged years, I had different computers—an Apple //e clone, an Apple //c, and a 386sx.
Oddly, in retrospect, I never saw a career directly in computers. Computers were tools that allowed people to do other jobs better and easier. My mom was evidence of that. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I considered becoming an accountant. If only because I got an A+ in that class.
We had at least half a dozen phone lines running into our humble townhouse.
After I graduated from high school in 1993, I went to continue my ‘career’ in retail. Okay, it wasn’t a career; it was something to barely pay the bills until I figured out what I really wanted to do. (Not that I spent much time actually trying to figure it out.)
The computer continued to be my favourite hobby. I was heavy into the BBS scene, hacking my copy of Telegard, and being one of the first in the city to get a 16.8k HST U.S. Robotics modem. I even had DSL service wired up for that blistering fast 64kbps service. My first set of roommates were people I had met through BBSs and who also ran their own boards. We had at least half a dozen phone lines running into our humble townhouse.
The web, of course, became “a thing” in the mid-90s. I built my own homepage. I had a site for inline skating with links to roller hockey teams, equipment companies, and other resources. I learned Fireworks and Dreamweaver and a host of other tools. I remember being excited when Netscape 2 came out because it had this new thing called frames.
I sent the link to what I had built to a friend and his reply was, “and?” I guess looking at a simple HTML table of data wasn’t that exciting.
I got a job in a computer store selling software and hardware. One day, I brought home a CD-ROM on Active Server Pages. I learned how to get a database running. I learned how to pull data from the database and display it in HTML.
I was so excited!
I sent the link to what I had built to a friend and his reply was, “and?” I guess looking at a simple HTML table of data wasn’t that exciting. I was excited because of how that table came to be!
It wasn’t until 1998 when I realized that I could actually have a career doing this. There were other people making a living from this, why can’t I?
I ended up giving notice on a Friday that I was going to take a week off work at the computer store. I used that week to work a contract at a web agency. It was exciting! And to think, all I was doing was creating HTML pages with content from a Word document.
After that week, I went back to my life at the computer store—back to working retail.
A couple weeks later, that agency called me back. They were impressed with my work enough to hire me on full time. It was there that my career as a web developer began.
It’s a wonderful feeling to have a career doing something you love.