my origins in code

Most real geeks will scoff at you if you have HTML or CSS listed under programming languages on your résumé. Learn a real programming language, you simp. In all fairness, they're correct; HTML is really a markup language (along with things like XML and LaTeX). CSS is a "style sheet language", basically meaning that it is used to style and perfect the look of your HTML documents. I will have more on this distinction in later posts on this website.

Starting Out With HTML

For me, HTML was the first thing I had ever worked with that looked like code. Keep in mind, I never wrote a line of Java until my sophomore year of college. It didn't matter if I was actually writing actual computer instructions or algorithms with my HTML; I had no notion of what these things actually were. What mattered is that working with HTML made me feel like some sort of elite hacker 👨‍💻, or like I had transcended onto a higher plane of the internet 😇.

The first time I ever started using HTML was to add cool images and widgets to my MySpace page (circa 2007). There were websites that had lists of tacky gadgets, and you would just copy that code on to your page. So I would spend an hour tricking out my page with songs that I liked and cartoons that I enjoyed watching, and immediately send my 5th grade teacher a friend request.

Bulding My First Websites

Around the time I started high school, people I knew were building websites. I am a child of the age of the internet; as I grew, so did the web (I guess that's true for anyone in the last, like, 30 years). Friends of mine were building blogs and online communities (discussion forums and other sorts of pages) surrounding hobbies and activities that I enjoyed. This led me to start building websites of my own, and the beginnings of that were building blogs on WordPress or Blogger.

I used the wayback machine to find this blog I published in 2011 (I would've been 13 years old at the time of publishing). What I did is I took a pre-made blogger template that I found somewhere on the internet, and completely tricked it out. I did this many times for many different websites. Change the fonts, links, colors, styles, and locations of everything on the page. I'd continue tweaking it over weeks and months to get it exactly the way I wanted. Eventually, I would just end up deleting it and starting over, so no blog I ever made had more than a few posts.

Years later when I was a senior in high school (2014/2015), I was in an engineering specialty center. I wanted to be a mechanical or civil engineer. Senior year was rough, so I didn't actually end up getting the "seal" for finishing the program. The director of the program at the time took me on as a teacher's aide, and asked me if I would be interested in working on the website for the program. I said I would, and when I pulled it up, it was the worst looking website I had ever seen. Nobody there knew how to make a webpage, so I decided to build a new one from the ground up.
This was the website I had rolling after a month or so. Just a straight up, static, front-end only web page that was created solely with HTML and CSS. I used Adobe Dreamweaver to set up the basic layout, and did a lot of the formatting myself in the code.

Each day for that aide position, I would come in to the office and there would usually be a mound of papers for me to shred or file; after that, they would turn me loose to work on this website. I barely worked on it. Most of the time I spent in that office was procrastinating on homework by playing flash games and browsing the internet. Even so, people there were impressed by the website. A particularly difficult and stern teacher in that program told me right before graduation that I needed to do "Computers". Just "Computers". That was it.

This website is still used by that program as their official website. Exactly the same as the day I left. The only thing they changed is they updated the photos on the staff page for new teachers that have been hired since I left. It is still filled with embarrassing photos of my friends and I from sophomore and junior year of high school, and it continues to live on the internet as one of the first websites I ever built.

Rite of Passage

After starting in CS, I was never interested in being a web developer. I never found it interesting or compelling enough to be the direction I wanted to take my career in. A project I worked on last summer had me working with JavaScript, database tables, stored procedures, data persistence, browser cookies, networking, and a bunch of other web development tech. It was a true full-stack web application, and it helped me realize that web development is not about making those pretty word documents I was building in middle and high school. Web development is real, actual computer science.

So, this independent study will be like a rite of passage for me. It was building web pages that initially peaked my interest in learning how to program. People around me encouraged me to pursue CS after seeing web pages that I built. Even though I've been exposed to most of the topics I will cover in this class, I still have a lot to learn. There's something very satisfying about bringing my web development skills full circle as the last class I will ever take as a college undergraduate.


Popular posts from this blog

the moral machine - a walkthrough

What is Web Development? Important Points and Takeaways