How I Began Web Dev

The room was dark in the cold morning before everyone was up. Dad was in the cozy cloth swivel chair, while I stood beside him asking question after question about the code I saw in front of me. Dad explained how the code we saw on the screen was not the same code which the computer would execute - to do this, he explained binary language and machine language. I was six years old.

Dad was a security researcher by day. With a degree in engineering and a career in computer science, he had a lot to teach me. Dad also did web development on the side, a profession he'd fallen into nearly by accident. While driving through town one day, my self-sufficiency-minded father saw a sawmill in a factory lot and stopped to inquire about it. After talking with the business owner, Dad convinced him to loan him the the sawmill in exchange for a new website.

At some point in the early 00's, Dad showed us kids an HTML tutorial website and explained the basics of editors and browsers. I can't tell you how many hours we spent writing our own HTML pages. We mostly made web pages to share "club secrets" with our cousins. My brother made a hunting website. My sister's website contained jokes and pictographs. But mine, well - if you ask me, mine excelled them all.

For whatever reason, building websites really stuck with me. I didn't copy and paste Javascript from a freebie site just for some cool effect. (Now? Ha, nice try. Don't ask.) Nope, I built websites to educate me and educate others. My very first one had a decription and photo of every tool in our workshop. I explained what a bandsaw was, how a tablesaw worked, and what on earth an orbital sander was good for. But I quickly decided it was ugly and decided to start from scratch on a new subject.

My second website was my crown achievement. I took my passion for marine biology and began building a website all about fish, from the sharks (which are indeed fish!) to the Angler fish (so dramatically showcased on Finding Nemo). I remember struggling with table layout (ever seen what happens when you insert a div as a direct descendant of a <tr> element?) and discovering odd attributes like bgcolor by trial and error. Regrettably, the entire project was lost during some freak FTP accident years ago.

After a few years of this messing around, I got serious. I began taking college courses centered around Computer Science, and quickly decided I wanted to start my own web design company. I took a business course and somehow acquired the name Webango. All my programming play at that point was centered around either my business or potential clients.

Then, I got my first real client in 2010. Dad's entrepreneur skills came through again to bring me a website project, and he led discussions with the customer to root out their needs and desires. I was ecstatic, and nervous, to be working with an actual company to build an actual website. It was an odd feeling to be in somebody's showroom with thousands of dollars worth of material and products and realize that my code was going to help drive their sales. It was then that I finally felt like a real developer - a professional.

My career has been a whirlwind since that first client in 2010, but I always look back with fond nostalgia at my very early designs. Who knows what sort of avant-garde website designer I could have been!

Jul 03, 2022