By Andi Smith - Friday, October 21 2011
If you’re reading this, you’ve reached the first post of my blog.
Depending on whether I’ve written a few or many blog posts at this point, this may be an achievement that you’ve reached this post, or it may have been a simple slide of the finger. Regardless - congratulations, here is your prize.
So as a lame secondary reward, I thought I’d give you some back story as to how I became a web developer.
As a kid I was obsessed with making lists. Lists of anything and everything. Our house didn’t get our first PC until I was 15 (1997) and at that point people in my neighbourhood weren’t on the Internet.
After attending a introduction to further education at Brighton University, I discovered that the CD ROM which contained all our reading materials also included this program called Netscape which could be used to display all the reading material. I liked the idea of being able to produce documents with more freewill than Microsoft Word and as the reading material code was open source (thank you web!), I could peak in and figure out how to build these HTML pages myself. And therefore I learnt HTML in my spare time by creating both a simple college site for my friends and a Red Dwarf fan site (space background, the usual). Not that I had the Internet, so it could never go live.
It wasn’t until a year or two later where I actually got the Internet and was able to post my first web page online. Some months later I was online and started my own website using the trusty HTML table layout I’d learnt all by myself to distribute some crappy games I’d made.
Then in 2000 I met Theo Chakkapark.
Without Theo, who knows where I’d be. I was frustrated and uninspired by having to learn Java at university thanks to C++ being removed from the syllabus after I enrolled. And the university were trying to suggest Java applets were the future of the web which felt wrong against everything I had taught myself.
“Why not try using Server Side Includes?” asked Theo. “They’ll let you include common content on every page without having to repeat it in your code.”
I was confused. “But I can use frames, and they are better! Look, I can scroll the sidebar independently of the main site!”
Thank goodness Theo stuck with me. Not only did he convince me Server Side Includes were better than frames, but he encouraged me to switch to ASP giving me a simple blogging system which I could learn from. I did learn from it, and suddenly got very ambitious. So Theo gave me an opportunity to run my site on his network, where it eventually became an incredibly popular community with over 10,000 registered users. His introduction to a basic feature of classic ASP led on to me producing a indie games community site, with dynamic updates, commenting, membership, forums and skins. Unfortunately, the site got so popular I was eventually asked to move to my own server as I was eating bandwidth – but my hunger for learning thereafter never stopped.
I went on to build an e-commerce site for my dissertation; then started work learnt ASP.NET; and then CSS and so forth. Theo helped me get a step on the ladder by taking the time to teach me how to improve on something I was interested in.
Thanks Theo, wherever you are. I don’t think he realises quite what an impact he made…
Andi Smith is a web developer from London, United Kingdom. He likes to build highly performant websites which innovate with genuine value.