How I started programming

My first experience programming was making webpages seventeen years ago at the age of ten. It was amazing: by just typing some words and strange markup into a text editor I could create exactly what anyone else could! A bunch of documents magically turned into websites.

I started viewing them locally, then finally discovered Geocities where I could upload them for free. For free! I could barely understand that I had to append a domain name to my email address, let alone secure a credit card to pay for hosting.

Eventually I moved to Hypermart and used server-side includes. I didn’t have to copy and paste the same code between files, I could just type in a special new tag and files were put together for me. Looking back, that’s probably when I really realized how powerful what I was typing could become. It took me a while to go beyond flat interwoven files.

To use CGI required figuring out real programs. I found and installed NewsPro, so lost to the annals of time that only the Internet Archive remembers it. At this time, blogs were known as e/n sites1, and typing into a form to create webpages was miraculous. NewsPro plugins were my first real introduction into writing my first real language, Perl.

Years later, I shifted to desktop development, which I have been doing since. I liked it a lot more than web development, if only because the toolkits at the time were really sub-par. Web apps are amazing today compared to just ten years ago.

So we return to the present: I’ve spent a few evenings converting this site from using Squarespace to Jekyll. Jekyll converts a well-organized set of files into a rendered website. I’ve uploaded the result to Dreamhost.2 This is my first time using a shared host in years.

My web experience has gone from static files, to a dabble of dynamic content, to full-blown, entirely-dynamic webpages, and all the way back to writing into a text editor generating static files. As said in the Sacred Scrolls, “All this has happened before. All this will happen again.”

  1. I recently revisited the writings of fourteen-year-old me. It’s transfixing to not remember thinking and writing those words. Apparently I had really strong opinions about mundane things. ↩︎

  2. I used Dreamhost from 2004 through 2006. Shared hosting appears to be a dying industry, but I don’t want to spend countless hours tweaking nginx or Apache. Reactivating an eight-year-dormant account was painless, but it made me realize how dependent I am on multi-factor auth these days. ↩︎